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ANNECY 2019

Gints Zilbalodis • Director of Away

“I was working on it alone for a long time, and I really didn’t know if people would like it or not”

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- We caught up with Latvian director Gints Zilbalodis to chat about his fairy tale-like animated adventure Away, which is screening at the Annecy Film Festival

Gints Zilbalodis  • Director of Away

Away [+see also:
film review
interview: Gints Zilbalodis
film profile
]
, an animated feature by Latvian director Gints Zilbalodis, is a fairy tale-like adventure in which an unnamed protagonist finds himself pursued by a malevolent creature across a lush landscape. With animals as his only companions, our hero must find some sort of safety in the midst of his beautiful yet strange surroundings. The film eschews dialogue to create a rich and satisfying world full of both dread and wonder.

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An expansion of his 2017 short Oasis – itself nominated for numerous Latvian film awards – Away is remarkable for various reasons. Not only does it feel like a completely different style of animation from what one might traditionally associate with the Baltic regions (it being a slick, 3D computer animation), but it also represents an immense technical achievement for an animator. Everything in the movie – from the animation to the editing to the music – was done solely by Zilbalodis. Without any other crew on board, the film is a testament to the singular vision and dedication of an animator whose work will be eagerly awaited over the years to come.

As the film screened at the Animafest Zagreb and the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, Cineuropa caught up with Zilbalodis to ask about how it all came together.

Cineuropa: Can you tell us a little about your background?
Gints Zilbalodis
: I’ve made seven short films – two hand-drawn, one live-action and four CGI. Away is my first feature.

What are your influences? Especially as it seems like such a different film from what you might class as your typical Baltic animation. There seems to be a myriad of influences, from anime to computer games.
Away was influenced by a lot of different things. The long-take camera shots were inspired by films like I Am Cuba (1964) and Y tu Mamá También (2001). There were also TV series such as Future Boy Conan, a 1978 post-apocalyptic science-fiction anime series made by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, which is an example of incredible world building. There are bands and musicians like Sigur Rós, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Max Richter, and Gustavo Santaolalla alongside computer games like Journey and Shadow of the Colossus. I also admire the books of Haruki Murakami.

The production of the film can be described as being that of a “one-man band”. Can you expand on the production process and how long the film took to make?
It took three-and-a-half years to make. I decided to split it up into four chapters. This helped me to transition from shorts to features more smoothly, and made it easier to structure the story and find the funding. There were no storyboards or script. I could do this because I didn’t have a crew.

You’re screening the movie at Annecy and Zagreb. What does that mean to you as an animator, and how do you hope audiences are going to react?
I’m very excited that the film is finally finished and people will see it. I was working on it alone for a long time, and I really didn’t know if people would like it or not, so I’m very happy that it’s been selected for so many festivals. I feel encouraged and motivated to work on my next film.

And what will that next film be?
I’ll be adapting my short film Aqua (2012) into a feature, which is going to be called Flow. I’m still in very early development with it, but once the story is more fleshed out, I’ll try to get a small crew to help me with it.

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