CINEUROPA March 6, 2015 | By Fabien Lemercier
Early images of the stop-motion film by Claude Barras, written by Céline Sciamma, have won over the European animation professionals
The first day of presentations for the projects selected at this year’s Cartoon Movie (its 17thedition) organised in Lyon undeniably saw a film that is currently in production take centre stage: namely, My Life as a Zucchini by Claude Barras (in competition at Cannes in 2005 with the short film Banquise). Written by Céline Sciamma (the talented director of live-action titles like Water Lilies [+], Tomboy [+] and Girlhood [+]) together with Germano Zullo, Claude Barras and Morgan Navarro, based on a novel by Gilles Paris, the stop-motion film – for which the shoot will wrap at the end of April (and for which the compositing has already begun) – delivers on all of its promises, judging by the first images that have been revealed in Lyon.
Revolving around a ten-year-old boy nicknamed Zucchini, who is taken to live in an orphanage following his mother’s death, the movie tells the story of how he will overcome the obstacles and fit into this new environment, surrounded by a small group of children who, just like him, have been scarred by life.
“The casting process included 500 children, and we were looking for voices that were slightly unusual (in terms of tones, speech impediments and so on). We put the emphasis on being natural and group dynamics,” pointed out Claude Barras. “There were six weeks of pretty intense recording, which allowed us to flesh out the characters and give them each a bit of colour. Moreover, since the puppets’ heads constitute 1/3 of their entire bodies, their eyes become very important. I played on this aspect with sequence shots that lasted as long as one minute and 30 seconds, during which we focus primarily on the reactions of a character to what is going on around him or her. And we do all this while retaining the spirit of the story, which moves from the shadows towards the light, also in terms of the cinematography. It is at the crossroads of two universes, and there is a contrast between the naturalism of the children’s voices and the puppets. That creates a kind of mismatch.” This is a strategy that has paid off, going on the sheer quality and precision exuded by the excerpts on offer at Cartoon Movie.
Produced by Armelle Glorennec for Blue Spirit Productions with Gebeka Films (which will handle distribution in French theatres) and Swiss outfit Rita Productions, My Life as a Zucchini is co-produced by France 3 Cinéma, and has also been pre-purchased by Canal+,Ciné+ and RTS. Having been backed by the CNC’s advance on receipts and Eurimages, among others, the feature, which will be finished in the second half of 2015, is sold internationally by Indie Sales.