CANNES — Could “The Secret of Their Eyes’” Juan José Campanella have another break-out hit on his hands?
Produced by the Argentine Academy Award winner and Gastón Gorali at their Buenos Aires-based MundoLoco Animation Studios and Fundación Ian, and directed by Abel Goldfarb, “Ian” world premiered in Cannes Monday at a special market presentation.
An animated short, it embodies the large creativity of current animation in Latin America, using what Goldfarb, as supervising editor on “Underdogs,” describes as a “mixed” technique of stop-motion techniques for its background, and CGI for characters and the objects they touch. Normally, the mix would be the other way around, he added.
Set in a fenced-off playground, “Ian’s” objects use recycled materials: a lamp light filament is made from an old guitar string; a swing is fixed in the ground by two screws.
“Ian” turns on a young boy who watches from a wheel-chair on the other side of the fence, accompanied by his mother, how the other kids play. He can’t walk. Every time he tries to join them in the playground, a wind sweeps him back and through the fence, his body disintegrating into pieces, then recomposing on the outer side.
The kids, bar one little girl, at first cold-shoulder him. But Ian’s courage at trying to walk wins their admiration. Attempting to help him not being blown way once again, they too are swept through the fence, fall apart into pieces like Ian, then come back together and discover they are made of exactly the same material as Ian.
Written by Gorali, “Ian” was inspired by a true event. Nine-year-old Ian who suffers cerebral palsy, lives in Argentina, is “very intelligent” but can’t move or talk, communicates via especial computer which aligns letters with his eyes, attends a regular school, is in 4th grade, and has lots of friends, his mother, Sheila Graschinsky, said at Cannes.
That heart-warming integration is less common, however, outside the school. When he first attempted a rehabilitation center, kids at an elementary school across the street would mock him from behind their school fence as he entered or left, she recalled. Their attitude inspired her to action. But, rather than fight ignorance with violence, Gorali said, she wrote a book,” The Gift,” which shows a regular day of a family who has a kid with a disability. Every time a kid makes fun of Ian, Graschinsky gives him a book. “It’s amazing the change it has on them,” she says.
Inspired by the same event which gave birth to the book, the short “Ian” – lovingly animated with a host of background detail and a warm color palette – can reach a far larger audience than a book, however. “Ian” screened in a sneak-peak sessions, at Village Cines across Argentina on May 8.
Gorali is now talking to other exhibition chains in Latin America, as well as free-to-air kids’ networks, cable TV operators and digital platforms. “Ian” has already received support: The Cannes presentation was backed, as the film, by Argentina’s Incaa film-TV Institute.
The distributor reactions, suggesting large distribution potential, are also heartwarming, he said. Fundación Ian, which Graschinsky launched, has lobbied successfully for the retail cost of Ian’s special computer to be dropped from $30,000 to around a tenth of that price.
The most important thing about “Ian,” however, Graschinsky argued at Cannes, is not how it benefits Ian but other children, giving them an understanding of and love for diversity and integration from a young age. Their lives will be better as a result.