A Toon of Love and Fury

Rio 2096, Brazil’s en­try in the Best An­i­mated Fea­ture Os­car race, ex­plores the coun­try’s his­tory and the tran­scen­dence of love through an­i­ma­tion. by Mercedes Mil­li­gan

Animation Magazine - - Content -

Rio 2096, Brazil’s en­try in the Best An­i­mated Fea­ture Os­car race, ex­plores the coun­try’s his­tory and the tran­scen­dence of love through an­i­ma­tion. by Mercedes Mil­li­gan

Singing an­i­mals and mag­i­cal princesses need not ap­ply: this year, Academy mem­bers will get to con­sider the charms of a unique an­i­mated tale, thanks to Brazil­ian co-producers Bu­riti Films and Gul­lane. The di­rec­to­rial de­but of ac­claimed screen­writer Luiz Bolog­nesi ( The Best Things in the World, Bird­watch­ers), Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury is a pow­er­ful, 2D an­i­mated film which delves into dif­fi­cult themes while de­light­ing in the free­dom of fan­tasy al­lowed by the medium.

The film, also writ­ten by Bolog­nesi, is cen­tered on the love be­tween Janaina and a na­tive In­dian war­rior who, upon dy­ing, takes the form of a bird. Over the next six cen­turies, their story per­sists, pass­ing through four phases of Brazil’s his­tory: 16th cen­tury col­o­niza­tion, 19th cen­tury slav­ery, the height of the mil­i­tary regime in the 1970s and the year 2096, when a war over wa­ter re­sources rages in Rio de Janiero. Through­out time, the lovers strug­gle against op­pres­sion.

“I love graphic nov­els and an­i­ma­tion,” Bolog­nesi says through an e-mail in­ter­view. “It was a dream to me to write for an an­i­ma­tion film be­cause we have no lim­its. I stud­ied an­thro­pol­ogy in univer­sity and I love Amer­i­can mythol­ogy.” The fresh­man di­rec­tor’s first foray into fea­ture an­i­ma­tion has been a breath of fresh air on the fes­ti­val cir­cuit, earn­ing best film hon­ors at the An­necy, BraPeq Brazil and Le Nuit de Mag­iques events, among oth­ers.

Part of what has made such an im­pact on au­di­ences, crit­ics and awards ju­ries is the nov­elty of an an­i­mated film delv­ing into such dif­fi­cult sub­ject mat­ter. While au­di­ences, es­pe­cially in the States, may ex­pect the genre to of­fer up fam­ily fare ex­clu­sively, Bolog­nesi sees the medium as a use­ful ve­hi­cle for bold sto­ry­telling. “I tell the story I think is nec­es­sary to be told,” the di­rec­tor ex­plains. “In this case, we talk about the holo­caust of Amer­i­can civ­i­liza­tion that be­gan in the 16th cen­tury— and isn’t over yet. And it is also [the United State’s] story, not only South Amer­ica’s. If there are peo­ple who pre­fer not to men­tion it, I am not one of them.”

This point of view is also re­flected in one of the films that im­pressed on the young Bolog­nesi— Dis­ney’s

Bambi. “It is the most vi­o­lent film I have ever seen,” he notes. “I didn’t know that my par­ents would die be­fore watch­ing the film, nor that hu­man be­ings could be so cruel.” He says other im­por­tant toons for him were Tekkonkinkreet, Ghost in the Shell and Toy Story.

Draw­ing from His­tory

“I tell the story I think is nec­es­sary to be told. In this case, we talk about the holo­caust of Amer­i­can civ­i­liza­tion that be­gan in the 16th cen­tury and isn’t over

yet. And it is also [the United State’s] story, not only South Amer­ica’s. If there are peo­ple who pre­fer not to

men­tion it, I am not one of them.”

Rio 2096 blends bold yet tra­di­tional char­ac­ter de­sign with dig­i­tally en­hanced back­grounds to bring the var­i­ous worlds and times to life. Bolog­nesi be­gan work­ing on his an­i­mated opus back in 2001, draw­ing in­flu­ence from graphic novel artists like Moe­bius, Enki Bi­lal, Milo Ma­nara and Frank Miller. The ini­tial an­i­ma­tion was pro­duced at Light­star Stu­dio in San­tos, a port city

-Writer/di­rec­tor Luiz Bolog­nesi

south­east of the mas­sive me­trop­o­lis of Sao Paulo, where Bu­riti com­pleted the film.

Bolog­nesi and the an­i­ma­tion team de­cided early on to cre­ate the film in hand-drawn, pen­cil on pa­per an­i­ma­tion. Later, com­puter graph­ics were used for com­po­si­tion and to add the fin­ish- ing touches to back­grounds. The di­rec­tor says he loves the fin­ished look of hand-drawn an­i­ma­tion, which he says is not only beau­ti­ful but also of­fers the an­i­ma­tors a dif­fer­ent level of cre­ative free­dom and the chance to make their per­sonal artis­tic in­put show in the fi­nal re­sult.

The film in­dus­try vet­eran—who says he ad­mires Hayao Miyazaki’s films, French an­i­ma­tion’s artistry and Pixar’s sto­ry­telling skills—is also en­thu­si­as­tic about the broader state of the an­i­mated fea­ture land­scape in Brazil and through­out South Amer­ica, which has seen an in­crease in op­por­tu­ni­ties. (Last year, Span­ish-Ar­gen­tine co-pro­duc­tion Foos­ball be­came the most ex­pen- sive an­i­mated film ever pro­duced on the con­ti­nent). Bolog­nesi be­lieves the state of the in­dus­try there is ex­cel­lent, with a wealth of up-and-com­ing tal­ent ea­ger to tackle new kinds of projects and a grow­ing mar­ket for Brazil­ian cin­ema.

As for the wider world of the­ater-tour­ing toons of the past year or so, Bolog­nesi re­in­forces his love of French pro­duc­tions by nam­ing Zarafa and My Mommy Is in Amer­ica and She Met Buf­falo Bill as his top picks, while ad­mit­ting an ad­mi­ra­tion for DreamWorks’ in­ven­tive CG cave­man ad­ven­ture The Croods. “[2013] was a great year, but not typ­i­cal,” he notes.

While Rio 2096 con­tin­ues to carry its mes­sage of his­tory’s crimes and the strug­gles of the hu­man spirit across the globe, Bolog­nesi says he is al­ready work­ing on a new an­i­ma­tion en­deavor. The project, called Trav­el­ers, will center on the ex­pe­ri­ence of childhood in the big city and how chil­dren must rely on their imag­i­na­tions to re­lieve the bleak­ness of their sur­round­ings and empty free time.

De­spite the con­tin­u­ance of us­ing heavy sub­jects in his hand-crafted sto­ries, Bolog­nesi’s tip to other as­pir­ing an­i­ma­tion au­teurs is far from bleak. “Be­lieve in the im­pos­si­ble more than the pos­si­ble,” he ad­vises. We hope this mes­sage in­spires more chal­lenges to the stan­dard toon sto­ry­telling trope in 2014 and be­yond. Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury is one of 19 films vy­ing for a Best An­i­mated Fea­ture Os­car nom­i­na­tion. Nom­i­nees will be an­nounced Jan. 16. Visit www.umahis­to­ri­adeamore­fu­ria.com.br/en for more info.

Time­less Ro­mance: The an­i­ma­tors blended tra­di­tional char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion with so­phis­ti­cated CG back­ground ef­fects to cre­ate the film, which takes au­di­ences to dif­fer­ent points in Brazil’s past and fu­ture.

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