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Chilean Animation

“Underground Stories”:  The animated portrait of an epoch

“I was working with somebody in 2015 who told me that a recently published graphic novel reflected his cousin’s life during the dictatorship (in Chile). The next day I went to the bookstore and bought it. It was love at first sight, and although I come from the field of documentaries, I imagined the novel as an animated movie from the very first moment.” Says José María González, director and scriptwriter.

“Underground Stories” is a movie that utilizes animation for the plot of the past, and live action for the present. Animation uses three quarters of the total run time.

Vision and challenges of the movie in technical terms

From the beginning, the team knew that the movie had to be animated, and that the aesthetics had to match the graphic novel it was inspired by. As the project moved forward, the idea of working with only black and white was reaffirmed, no greyscale. The different tones would be provided by the density of the hatching, which is another characteristic of the novel that the directors wanted to preserve to give the film a unique look. To Ariel Rojas, creator of drawings in the novel, “It has a rusty and underground style.”

From the technical point of view, it has been a challenge. In reality, it still is, because we still have not defined exactly how to conduct the animation process. The hatching is an element that has made the implementation of what we had in mind rather complicated. Nevertheless, I am very happy with the work conducted by Niño Viejo. There has been an important trial and error process to approach the special nature of this film.” Says José María.

The film tells the story of Ariel, a 50-year-old man who has a teenage son with whom he has a hard time communicating. To overcome this obstacle, he uses the graphic novel he created about his life during the dictatorship, and how it radically changed when his parents decided to give shelter, for over 10 years, to the two most wanted people during Pinochet’s military regime.

Throughout the process…

During the 5 years that they have been on the project, the director says that they have had everything happen to them, on both personal and professional levels. Because the initial team came from the field of documentaries, the movie was originally conceived as an animated documentary, that is, Ariel (who is the creator of the graphic novel) and his teenage son would be the protagonists, playing themselves in the present storyline. “However, it’s been 5 years since we conceived it, and we still have a few more years before we start filming that part. By then, his teenage son will no longer be a teenager. So, we dropped the original idea, and instead will include actors.” Explains José María.

he production company in charge of the project from the beginning was Cusicanqui Films & Media, founded by Catalina Donoso. Since then, they have secured the development funding from CNCA and public funding from CORFO – in 2016 and 2017-, as well as the pre-production fund from CNCA in 2019.

The pre-production stage is finished. “The animatic is ready, in addition to the teaser, art and everything else that is needed to move to the next phase confidently.” Explains González. During this time, the production company Niño Viejo, the animation studio that they worked with during pre-production, has joined the project. It’s fundamental to have somebody in animation to join us, and the decision to work with Niño Viejo, among other alternatives, was the first option. They know their professional trajectory and their expertise in a challenging type of animation, and not so conventional.

They are currently in pursuit of an international co-production. They are optimistic about materializing something in the short-term, because the film has already been well received by the markets in which it has participated, including Cannes and Berlin.e se encuentran Cannes y Berlín.

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