Buenos Aires‘ Juan Pablo Zaramella has been drawing since he was a child and, by the time that he was sixteen years old, he was already a working cartoonist. He studied to become an animation director at Instituto de Arte Cinematografico de Avellaneda and, after graduation, he began making his own films. This independent work, in turn, brought him enough recognition to result in getting advertising animation work and in directing commercials for high profile international clients. From the late 1990s to mid-2000s, Zaramella even held a position as an illustrator/graphist for the most widely distributed magazine in Argentina, Clarín, for which his work garnered several international awards from Society of News Design. Still, as new positions, responsibilities, and accolades continued to roll in, he has never ceased work on his own personal projects. In fact, Juan Pablo‘s film shorts have, arguably, become his greatest accomplishments, collectively yielding over 100 awards in their own right, worldwide. Among these achievements, Zaramella was selected for a 2008 Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase in Cannes and, in 2010, Annecy International Animation Festival presented a special program, showcasing all of his works. His most recent animated short, Luminaris, however, may be his most impressive yet.
The 6-minute and 15-second film was created using digital photography and an approach known as “pixilation“, which is essentially a stop-motion technique that uses frame-by-frame shots of live actors to create surrealistic hybrid of animation. Luminaris officially premiered in February of 2011, but the production actually began all the way back in 2008. Two and a half years might seem like an incredibly long time to produce a film this short, and it is, but the process involved in creating something like this is time consuming as all get out. Aside from the typical unpredictability of weather conditions that would impact any typical film shoot, every minor change in sun position could damage the consistency of a pixilation film by shifting the position of shadows in one frame from the next. Director of photography, Sergio Piñeyro, has stated that the sunlight’s shifts in speed and intensity during takes, forced constant adjustments with both the time-lapse frequency and the exposure of the photographs they were using. While the dedication and attention to detail is evident throughout the piece, it is only so in the most effective sense; never drawing attention to the stressful conditions that they must have endured, but rather suspending the whole film effortlessly in the meticulously crafted world that those efforts made possible.
Here is the finished product. Enjoy LUMINARIS:
“In a world controlled and timed by light, an ordinary man has a plan that could change the natural order of things.”
I could list the number of awards that Luminaris has received throughout the world up until now, but that alone would rival the length of the introduction above. What I find to be much more interesting is the inspiration behind the feature. Here’s what Zaramella has stated regarding the backstory (via the press release):
The film was inspired by an instrumental tango piece called “Lluvia de Estrellas” (Star Rain) composed by Osmar Maderna in the forties. Director Juan Pablo Zaramella explains, “I first became acquainted with this piece of music as a child, because my elders used to listen to it. I had always liked this piece but, as an adult, it gradually dawned on me that this music could be like a score of a film that had never been made. In 2008 I was granted a creativity residency by Abbaye de Fontevraud, in France. I decided to take this opportunity to develop this project.” “Orginally, I approached the project as a puppet animation story, but doing some pixilation tests in the gardens of Fontevraud, just for fun, the seed of the present short appeared: the idea of sunlight as a magnetic force”.
As mentioned before, Juan Pablo Zaramella has created quite a few more equally imaginative and remarkable short films; all of which are definitely worth seeing. To view more of his work and experience first hand why his work continues to rake in one prestigious award after the other, please check out Zaramella‘s official website and watch the videos on his VIMEO account.