Drawn to Re­al­ity

Span­ish direc­tor Sal­vador Simó puts an an­i­mated spin on a spe­cial chap­ter in Luis Buñuel’s life and ca­reer. By Michael Mal­lory

Animation Magazine - - Features -

Imag­ine a movie that pro­poses to ex­plore, through some­times dis­turb­ing im­agery, the trou­bled psy­che of a world-fa­mous film­maker who is seek­ing to ex­pose the de­plorable liv­ing con­di­tions of a tiny Span­ish ham­let, where the peo­ple are un­der­nour­ished, il­lit­er­ate, in­bred and lack­ing the knowhow even to make bread.

Now imag­ine do­ing it through hand-drawn an­i­ma­tion.

That was the task set out for Span­ish direc­tor Sal­vador Simó in cre­at­ing Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Tur­tles, os­ten­si­bly about the mak­ing of sur­re­al­ist Luis Buñuel’s now-leg­endary, once-banned 1933 doc­u­men­tary Las Hur­des: Tierra Sin Pan ( Land With­out Bread). Buñuel (1900-1983) was drawn to the para­dox of how a com­mu­nity lo­cated only a day’s drive away from Spain’s cap­i­tal of Madrid could ex­ist in such dire poverty and ig­no­rance. Footage from the orig­i­nal doc­u­men­tary is in­ter­cut with the an­i­ma­tion to demon­strate how the film­maker, who be­came per­son­ally torn by the de­sire to present both the real and the sur­real, some­times height­ened re­al­ity for dra- matic ef­fect, de­spite the con­se­quences.

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Tur­tles is not de­signed to be a biopic, how­ever; rather, it is a drama­ti­za­tion of a tran­si­tional mo­ment in his life. And it is cer­tainly not de­signed to be a car­toon. “We look at this film not as an an­i­mated film, we look at is as a film,” says Simó, whose cred­its in­clude work in Amer­ica with Bill Me­len­dez Pro­duc­tions, a stint with Dis­ney’s Paris stu­dio, vis­ual ef­fects work at MPC Lon­don, and the Span­ish an­i­mated movies El Cid: The Le­gend and Mid­sum­mer Dream. “Ani- ma­tion gives a dif­fer­ent way to ap­proach a film.” This ap­proach fit per­fectly with the film’s world pre­miere venue, the An­i­ma­tion Is Film fes­ti­val in Los An­ge­les last Oc­to­ber, where it re­ceived the Spe­cial Jury Prize.

Tri­umphant 2D

Us­ing tra­di­tional rather than dig­i­tal an­i­ma­tion also al­lowed Simó — who co-wrote the script with Eli­gio R. Mon­tero in ad­di­tion to di­rect­ing — and pro­ducer Manuel Cristóbal to make the ab­so­lute most out of a $2.1 mil­lion bud­get. “2D an­i­ma­tion now is more eco­nom­i­cal and easy to do, be­cause 3D in­volves so much, and it also gives more plas­tic­ity,” he says.

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Tur­tles (the ti­tle, in­ci­den­tally, is not meant to be sur­real; it

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