MyFrenchFilmFestival: Denis Walgenwitz, Vincent Paronnaud on ‘The Death, Dad & Son’

‘Persepolis’ co-director Paronnaud is preparing a new feature, based on his graphic novel ‘Mysterious Forest’

Winshluss Vincent Paronnaud
Annabelle Lourenço / Mick Bulle

Featuring at UniFrance’s MyFrenchFilmFestival, cartoon short “The Death, Dad & Son” marks a new collaboration between Vincent Paronnaud –a.k.a. Winshluss– and Denis Walgenwitz. Paronnaud leapt to fame as co-director, with Marjane Satrapi, of 2007 Cannes Jury Prize winner “Persepolis.” Walgenwitz served as assistant director on the film.

It bows on the online festival as Parannoud is developing a new feature project targeting young audiences, based on his own graphic story “In the Dark and Mysterious Forest”. Produced by Je Suis Bien Content “Forest” plumbs the processes by which “fear helps you learn,” he explained. He’s also illustrating a collection of books about knowledge and the story of anarchy.

A multi-hyphenate, – a musician, animator, cartoonist– Paronnaud is a leading light of the French underground graphic novel, characterized by his provocative, off-the-wall comic tone. His books include “Smart Monkey” (2004) and “Wizz et Buzz” (2007). Walgenwitz has co-directed stop-motion shorts “Three Little Pigs in Space” (1993) and “Like a Pixel on the Soup” (1999) with Nathalie Pat.

Based on a Paronnaud graphic story, the non-dialogue 2D/3D “Death, Dad & Son” depicts a father-son relationship with a gloomily sweet tone and vintage visual touches. The kid shows reluctance to continue with the family business – his dad is the Death itself, – being fiercely determined to go over to the enemy and become a guardian angel.

Paris-based Je Suis Bien Content, which backed “Persepolis,” also threw its weight behind “Death” as did Bordeaux-based Schmuby Productions, created by Nicolas Schmerkin –a producer at Autour the Minuit (Academy winning short “Logorama”) – and Thibaut Ruby, the production director of “Ernest and Célestine.”

The directors point out a paradox of European animation: “On one hand, it’s very hard to produce a short film, especially of it targets young people. You have to tell ‘serious’ stories.” On the other, “But it’s also quite hard to produce a feature for an adult audience. So we will watch carefully what happens to Wes Anderson’s ‘Isle of Dogs’ and Michael Mort’s ‘Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires,’” Paronnaud said.

Regarding trends, “a lot of films are questioning history or contemporary society. Some other people like to explore different possibilities of genre movies, as we did with horror films,” Walgenwitz said.

“When it’s time for tenderness, be very tender; When it’s time for reality, be pragmatic; When it’s time to die, be fun,” Paronnaud commented regarding the directors¡ guidelines for directing “Death.” In the final analysis, “Do your best to make your horror film beautiful,” he added.

Walgenwitz will serve as assistant director on Nadia Nakhlé’s stop-motion feature debut “Air,” produced by Naïa Productions, which backed Simon Rouby’s “Adama,” and will shortly begin writing his own feature debut. Organized by French film promotion organization UniFrance, MyFrenchFilmFestival runs online Jan. 19-Feb. 19.