Greek stop-motion animation short film The Village, written and directed by Greek animator Stelios Polychronakis will be screened at this year’s Cinequest International Film Festival, from March 1 to March 13 in San Jose, California. It is the film’s second appearance in the US, after screening at Savannah International Animation Festival in Georgia, US, this February.
The Village premiered in the prestigious Annecy International Animation Festival in France in June 2010, becoming the first Greek animation film ever to be screened in that festival. It has also been screened with critical acclaim in more than 15 international festivals worldwide, and won two awards at the recent Drama short film festival in Greece.
The film follows the story of a country doctor who is summoned urgently to a far-away village, only to discover that the village is deserted.
We spoke with Stelios Polychronakis about “The village”, stop motion animation and his personal future projects.
How did you get the idea for “the village”?
I got the idea for The Village a few years back, the first time I visited an abandoned village in my hometown of Rethymno, on the island of Crete. The village is called Milli, and the atmosphere of that place was my initial inspiration for the film.
Anyone who knows Greece and its past, knows about the mass exodus of the inhabitants of Greek villages in the years between the ’60s and the ’80s, who headed for urban areas and abroad to seek a better future. As a result, entire communities broke apart and buildings of beautiful architecture were left to disintegrate, like empty shells, around rural Greece. I knew that I wanted to do something with this, so gradually I developed the story of a doctor who is called to a village, only to find that the village is deserted.
Did you fund the project?
The project was funded mainly by the Greek Film Center, and by me. Also, my co-producers Graal S.A., contributed some really amazing post-production work.
What is the process of making a stop-motion animation film?
The process of making a stop motion film is painstakingly slow and difficult. It is basically the process of shooting all of the movements of the characters frame by frame, each time moving them by a few millimeters. When you put all these frames together, you get the illusion that the character is alive, and moving by
himself. You do all this in real sets, built in small scale, and the characters are puppets with metal armatures inside them, that allow for incremental movements.
Is this technique common in Greece?
There’s only a handful of stop-motion animators in Greece. Although this technique has enjoyed a bit of a “comeback” in recent years, mainly because of Tim Burton’s films (The Nightmare before Christmas, Corpse Bride), it is still considered old fashioned. Most animators in Greece prefer to work with the computer, on either 3D or 2D animation.
Why aren’t animation films so popular in Greece?
I wouldn’t say that animation films are not popular in Greece. All the big budget American productions (Pixar, Dreamworks) do well in the box office. It’s the smaller art-house animation films that are not so popular and that’s because, in my opinion ,there’s a lack o
f animation education. For example Greece hasn’t got an animation school at university level. You only get half-year or one-year programs here and there, so an animation culture was never developed. Most of the people who want to study animation go abroad.
Also, Greece is a small market. Animation is expensive, so there’s not enough animation work in commercials. So on the whole, people have never really been exposed to different kinds and techniques of animation, as in other countries.
What are your future personal projects?
I’m now in the stage of developing a story and characters for a new short film. It will take a while to form though and I’m sure it will take a while to get funded – funding animation films, or films in general, is very difficult at the moment in Greece due to the financial problems. Hopefully this story will be good enough to attract some funding and get a green light at some point next year!
Something else you want to add?
I think that due to it’s subject, The Village is a film that will speak to the hearts of many Americans of Greek origin, so if any of them live around the Bay Area in San Jose, I urge them to go and see it in the Cinequest Film Festival, in March.
Screening dates are: 3/5/2011 at 6:30pm, 3/6/2011 at 4:45pm and 3/9/2011 at 1:45pm.
For more information about Cinequest festival screenings visit www.cinequest.org
or follow the film’s page on Facebook www.facebook.com/home.php#!/group.php?gid=107795619242857 for upcoming screenings and events.