Arrugas is an animated feature film based on comic book signed by Paco Roca and treat Alzheimer’s problem. The book was published first in France and being selected as one of the 20 best comic of the year. Arrugas won Goya Award for best animated film and special mention at Annecy – the most important animation festival in the world. Arrugas won also Goya Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Animated Feature Film Festival in Stuttgart, Audience Award for Best Animated Feature Film at Anima (Belgium) and Best Picture (Premio Borau Fundacion Opera Prima) at the Festival du Cinéma Espagnol de Nantes. Information about Arrugas can be consulted on the film website: www.arrugaslapelicula.com/en/
How would you describe Arrugas?
It’s the drawn-animation adaptation of the comic-book by the same name of Paco Roca. It tells the story of Emilio, an old man who suffers from alzheimer’s and is sent to live in a care home, and of Miguel, Emilio’s room-mate, an immigrant with no family of his own. There are other characters and stories intertwined with
this main story, but the film really centres on the relationship that develops between the two main characters.
What is the message of the film?
I don’t like to tell people what the „message” of the film is, the film will mean something different for different people. At a general level the film is of course a reflection on old age and the interdependency between people, about what it means to be a person even in the face of a disease that seems to take away all that you have accumulated throughout your life, your memories, your personality… but it is a film about many different things.
Reading the Paco Roca’s statement: ” Basically I haven’t invented anything… Emilio (the protagonist) is the father of a friend … I also met a lady who thought that she was traveling by train, by standing in front of a window at a retirement house. In order to make her eat, the home staff had to convince her that they were taking her to the dining car” I have tried to imagine all the view in order to understand the story.
Unfortunately I haven’t seen the film yet but I guess it is very emotional.
Yes, I think it is, and I think it is emotional precisely because it is not a film about something unusual or extraordinary, but it deals with things that happen to everybody, in their ordinary lives. More that anything I think Arrugas is a film that reminds people of their own stories and their experiences with relatives who might have suffered from some form of dementia or who spent their last years in a care home, so it is something very close to people.
I hope in the near future we will see Arrugas in the cinemas in Romania and Moldova.
Me too. The truth is that it isn’t easy to secure distribution for small alternative films such as „Arrugas” which do no come from any major studio. The film is slowly finding its way to other countries but in the end it depends on the distribution companies of each country or area and on whether they are interested on the film and want to distribute it in their territories. Things are also harder now with the internet because illegal downloading can make things harder – distributors might not want to take the chance to distribute a film in their country when they know that the film has been illegally available on the net for a while…
Is distributed in the U.S. and Canada?
Have you released the DVD of the animation movie Arrugas?
The DVD has been released in Spain with dialogues in three Spanish languages: Castilian, Galician and Catalan, but no subtitles in any other language such as French or English.
What is the art-book of the animation film Arrugas?
The art-book was edited for promotional purposes and it is not available commercially, but a small version of it is included in the special edition of the DVD – I believe this special edition is not available online but you can only buy directly from certain shops in Spain such as Fnac.
How do you manage to make films in this period of crisis?
We started working on „Arrugas” in 2009, right before the worst of the crisis really started to be felt (it takes a long time to make an animated feature!). It was mainly financed with public money both from central and regional governments in Spain. I think it was one of the last years in which this kind of financing was still
available; if we were starting to make „Arrugas” today I don’t think it would be possible to finance the film in this way.
What was the first step in your documentation for the film Arrugas?
I really relied on the documentation which Paco Roca, de author of the original comic-book had already done, which was very extensive. He had a lot of material, also a lot of things he had not been able to put in the comic-book, which he passed on to me, so my job was really one of choosing some of that material and give it cinematographic form. I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t stray too far from the original comic-book in terms of the story, so I tried to look at the story through the eyes of the comic-book and not look for additional documentation which might have suggested a completely different story.
You worked on the animated “The Illusionist”?
Yes, I worked there mainly as an animator. It was also in that production where I met my wife Rosanna who also collaborated in the script of Arrugas
What about Spanish and European animation?
I don’t like talking about the current economic crisis because everybody is talking about it but I suppose it’s unavoidable at the moment. There is no doubt that it will affect European (and Spanish) animation production in the coming years, since up to this point it has relied heavily on public money to survive as an industry. Things will have to change from now on, and even though the process of adjustment will probably be quite difficult, I think that in the end it will be a very good thing from a creative point of view; it will force European animation to make films which connect with the audience, which has not always been the case up to now. I think we’ll see the emergence of new talent, people doing new things in a different (cheaper!) way, finding ways around the limitations instead of repeating the same things over and over. Someone – I don’t remember who- told me some time ago: „in Europe people in the film industry make their money of the production, not of the distribution”. I think that’s been true to a large extent and it is not a sustainable situation. So things are not easy, but I think there are good reasons to be optimistic and hope that all these upheavals will get rid of a lot of „dead wood” and make room so that new creative talent can flourish.
What could be the solution for European animation in this time of economic crisis?
I don’t know, that’s a difficult question. It’s always a lot easier to point out what’s wrong with something than coming up with a solution to the problem… I think there’s a fundamental problem in the size of the audiences and the fact that Europe is not just one culture but many cultures. It might be easier for countries like France and Germany to make animated films because they have big audiences of their own, but it’s harder for smaller countries because European films do not travel between European countries as well as they could.
We might talk a lot about the European Union but in practice each country in Europe is still a very distinct entity with a very different culture, different languages, etc. In general, I think that European animation should aim to produce small films aimed at their local audiences and build slowly from that. We need to work on finding our own voice as European animation filmmakers, which is something that isn’t going to happen overnight; it requires experience and continuity of work. If we are honest about the state of European animation I think we have to admit that in general terms we are still very inexperienced and that our industry is very small, and we have to start building slowly from small projects, gathering experience along the way. I think there’s a lot of dishonesty in the world of European animation and people don’t want to look at the reality of the situation – very often you see European animated films hailed as big successes when in fact they lost a lot of money… I think we need to find a way of breaking our dependency from public funding and be more honest about the reality of our industry.
I know Arrugas have won the Goya Award for best animated film. What others awards have you won?
Arrugas has also won the Goya for Best Adapted script, Best feature film at the Stuttgart Animation Festival, The Audience Award for Best Animated Feature at Anima (Belgium) and the Best First Film (Premio Fundacion Borau Opera Prima) at the Festival du Cinema Espagnol de Nantes… and some others which you
can find on the film’s website: www.arrugaslapelicula.com/en
Do you teach animation? Where?
I used to teach sometimes at the Animation Workshop (www.animwork.dk/en/ ) in Viborg, Denmark, but I haven’t done so for a few years now (since I started working on „Arrugas”) so I’m a bit out of touch with teaching at the moment.
What do you know about Romania and Romanian cinema?
Nothing, I’m afraid. It’s embarrassing but I can’t think of any Romanian films or film directors. Although I have to say that I’m not very knowledgeable about film in general and I have a terrible memory for names so that often I remember films that I like but I don’t know who made them or even what country they are from. I used to watch a lot of cinema when I was young, but the truth is that nowadays I don’t really watch a lot of cinema (and when I do, very often I just watch films I have already seen before). In general I tend to read books more than watching cinema.
What books do you read?
I read a lot, almost anything that falls into my hands. Usually I’ll be reading two books at the same time, one fiction and one non-fiction. I just finished reading Jim Thompson’s „The Grifters” and the comic book „Epileptic” by David B. (the original title in French is „L’Ascension du Haut-Mal”). At the same time I’m reading „Introduction to Christianity” („Einfuhrung in das Christentum”) by Joseph Ratzinger, which is the kind of book that needs to be read slowly so I read these other easier books at the same time. I also like to read books of introduction to scientific subjects, even those which might be out of date, because you never know what you might find of interest in them, and sometimes the writing in them is great. One of my favourite books is „Developmental Biology. Its Cellular and Molecular Foundations” by Maurice Sussman, published in 1973. I don’t really have a great interest in developmental biology but it is a beautifully written book in its clarity and simplicity. I like books which explain things very well, I enjoy the clarity of the explanation which has a poetry of its own, even if the subject is not particularly profound – I really like for example „Basic plumbing and central heating” by Roy Treloar, which is a manual explaining the basics of domestic plumbing.
What kind of animated films do you like?
Mainly Japanese animation, very specially the films of Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki. I also like the films of Satoshi Kon, Masaaki Yuasa and Mamoru Hosoda. Outside Japan I like the films of Sylvain Chomet and old animated shorts from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. I’m not very keen on Disney films, although I really like „Dumbo” – it’s my favourite Disney film.
What future projects do you have?
I’m developing an idea for a comic-book, although I need to do a lot of work on my drawing style, which isvnot so good at the moment… it’s a big change from working on animation, but I think it’s good to try differentvthings and not to get stuck in the same media. I’m also very, very slowly developing an idea for a film, but itvis a very difficult, ambitious project, so I’m not sure what will come out of it.