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GOCRITIC! Animateka 2022

GoCritic! Interview: Žoel Kastelic • Director of Nov Dom (New Home)

“That feeling of bringing an object to life is still magical for me”


- We chatted to Slovenian animation director Žoel Kastelic about her passion for stop motion and AR animation

GoCritic! Interview: Žoel Kastelic • Director of Nov Dom (New Home)
Žoel Kastelic, director of Nov Dom

New Home, a new short film by Slovenian animator Žoel Kastelic, was presented in the Panorama section of the nineteenth edition of the Animateka International Film Festival, following its world premiere at the StopTrik International Film Festival in October. Kastelic, an alumnus of the University of Ljubljana’s Academy of Fine Arts, is currently studying towards a Master’s in Video and New Media. The story revolves around the ecological issue of beach waste and its effect on different sea creatures, with five different characters finding new uses for discarded objects, including an aluminium can, a bottle cap, and a carnival mask.

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Cineuropa: Where did the idea for the story come from?
Žoel Kastelic: The idea for the story came in 2019 when I was on vacation at the seaside. I always liked collecting shells and pieces of sea glass on the shore. This time, I found pieces of plastic waste, too. I’d taken some plasticine with me on vacation, because I always like to have it with me so that I can experiment a little bit with animation whenever I want. So the initial idea of different sea creatures repurposing pieces of plastic started back then. I thought this it was just a little experiment, playing with clay on the beach during the holidays. But when we had to do a project for the first year of my Master’s degree, I thought I could get a bit more out of this idea. I thought I could make a funny and cute looking animation with an important ecological theme, because that’s what sea plastic is.

Your film continues a theme from your previous work. Could you tell us more about your interest in ecological subjects?
I’ve always found nature, especially underwater worlds, very inspirational. I find there are so many details and interesting similarities between humans and animals, and through my work I always try to show that nature is our origin, that we will always be a part of it, and that we should stay as connected to it as possible. Maybe my passion for marine life also comes from my fascination with anything under the sea’s surface. When I first dived into it, my first thought was, ‘Wow, this is a completely different world.’ I still see it that way today and I believe this fascination resonates in my work.

How did you decide on the five objects and the sea animals that come across and repurpose them?
There were far more than five to begin with, but they weren't all that interesting. So I decided which of these objects had the best potential to become something interesting and gave each of these collected objects a new purpose. I made the characters for each of these objects last, so you might say I adapted them to the objects in question. I made some of these characters just moments before shooting, just sitting on the beach modelling clay. Maybe it was easier this way because being near the sea, in that peaceful place, always fills me with a kind of creative energy, and ideas just come to me.

Could you elaborate on your decision to use stop-motion and clay?
I’ve always been drawn to stop-motion. The first contact I had with animation was with stop-motion and clay. And I remember that moment vividly. That feeling of bringing a still object to life is still magical for me. It’s the same with clay. I was modelling clay long before I came across animation, and modelling always felt natural to me. I think clay was also the most suitable material for making an animation based outside, amongst nature. I almost always have it with me, and you can make the characters quite quickly.

What were the biggest challenges you faced while producing the film?
The biggest challenge was undoubtedly shooting an animation outside of the safe shelter of a darkened studio, where nothing changes and time stands still. Time, in animation, is different than time in the real world. But you don't notice this in animation until your set is in the outside world, with all its changing weather conditions, or even just the sun which changes position constantly. But I accepted the different weather conditions as part and parcel of the animation because they can’t be controlled. Sometimes the clouds came and there was a flickering, but the weather also offered something that couldn’t be created in a studio. It offered up little accidents or coincidences which actually came at the perfect time during shooting and gave really nice end-results, which we couldn’t have planned. One time during shooting, for example, there were these huge waves which came along, and you can see the whites of the waves crashing onto the shore at the very point where the animation reaches peak intensity.

Your film began life as a work of augmented reality [AR]. How do you see augmented reality being used in future film festivals?
The first time I encountered AR was actually at Animateka. It’s very interesting to me because it brings the magic of bringing still pictures to life even closer to the observer. You see animation outside of the cinema setting and away from movie screens. I see the AR format as a fascinating part of festivals, because you can use it outside of cinemas at different venues and bring animation to wider audiences. I believe you can bring any kind of still reality to life using this technique, and it connects the real world and imaginary worlds together more than any other format.

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