Short animation goes a long way

Bezalel students are winning awards worldwide for their creative endeavors.

By INBAL AHARONI
July 22, 2011 16:47
4 minute read.
The Miracle Lady

The Miracle Lady 521. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The country’s leading arts school, the Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design Jerusalem, is known for nurturing talented students who forge successful careers both at home and abroad.

Now animation graduates from Bezalel’s Screen Based Arts Department bring the school a new round of awards and recognition, won at a number of notable film festivals worldwide.

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Three of the most recent include the animated shorts On My Doorstep by Anat Costi; The Good Knight Story by Shoham Blau, Amos Naim and Or Kantor; and The Miracle Lady by Michal Abulafia and Moran Somer.

2010 Bezalel graduate Costi says she is most interested in places where characters find themselves alone. Her graduation film, On My Doorstep, was one of 16 student shorts (from among live action and animation) chosen by Cinefondation – an organization devoted to the search for emerging talent – and shown at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

Films were selected out of 1,580 submissions.

Costi’s film tells the story of a young woman and her struggle to keep the stimuli of the outside world to a minimum. When leaving her house, she wears a sort of dog cone collar in an attempt to hide herself from the world and the world from her.

“When I was planning the character, the first thing that came through in my in my sketches was that she was wearing that thing, and I was curious as to why she would wear it,” Costi explains. “I wanted to see where this might lead.”



Currently working as an animator for an Israeli postproduction studio, Costi says she plans to continue making movies.

“I still don’t know how to define my style, but I’m drawn to different things. I know that my next film will be different than this one.”

In the 3D film The Good Knight Story, a dragon is slain and good conquers evil – but the hero knight realizes that his lofty ideals are not necessarily to be rewarded. The film won the Mimosa d’Or award for Best Short Film at the 2011 Israeli Film Festival in Nice. The comedic short was chosen from among six films, each representing one of the cinema schools in Israel.

“All three of us are people that help others,” explains Naim. “In the end we help so much, we forget to help ourselves.” This realization led the three to create the story of the brave knight who is so led astray by his noble intentions that his role as savior of the princess-in-distress is put at risk.

Mimosa d’Or aside, Blau says thetrue reward for all the hard work put into their graduate project is audience appreciation. “What we feel when people watch the movie, when they laugh – that’s the greatest feeling for us; that’s the best part..... when people say, ‘I watched your movie and laughed out loud in the middle of the office.’” As for future goals, all three echo a similar sentiment – the desire to continue working together. Says Kantor, “At some point in the future, I would like to found a visual effects company, hopefully with the guys I did the film with.”

Inspired by characters in a story written by the late Israeli actorsinger- writer Yossi Banai and by Jim Henson’s “The Story Teller,” Abulafia and Somer created the stop motion short The Miracle Lady. The story chronicles the enduring love of Fortuna, a woman widowed on her wedding day who awaits her husband’s return from the dead.

The film won the Student Jury Award at the 2011 Athens ANIMEFEST; the Editor’s Choice and Best Story Awards 2010 from Stop Motion Magazine; and was screened at the Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film; the Jewish Motifs International Film Festival in Warsaw; and other festivals worldwide, including Barcelona, Korea, Turkey and China.

“We knew we wanted to use the idea of fairy tales,” Somer says. “We knew we had to fall in love with the characters.” When they read Banai’s story, their creativity was unleashed.

“Yossi Banai tells of his grandmother returning from visiting her husband’s grave. She walks happily down the street, so a neighbor yells at her, ‘Why are you so happy? Your husband is dead.’ And she says, ‘So what if he’s dead? I just returned from seeing him.’ And she’s wearing her wedding dress. This gave us the idea for Fortuna.”

Abulafia says the film’s participation in international festivals was a reward in itself. “It gave us the opportunity to see what people in other countries are doing,” she explains. “Here in Israel we are pretty much alone in stop motion animation.”

With their graduation film behind them, Somer and Abulafia are working as freelancers and teaching animation. They plan to open a stop motion studio with two other colleagues.

With these three student films and others gaining notice worldwide, Bezalel professor Hanan Kaminski, himself a member of the school’s class of 1977, says he sees a bright future for the Screen Based Arts Department and its graduates.

“We are a very young department,” he explains. “We started from scratch and began making shorts. In the last five years we started to win awards. I think our graduates will be the next generation of animators, not just in Israel but internationally. They are the start of something new in the world of animation.”

On My Doorstep can be viewed at http://www.mefeedia.com/watch/324 40150.

The Good Knight Story can be viewed at http://vimeo.com/14698533.

The Miracle Lady can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIS0 AcdkGc0.

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