© Cecilia Traslaviña, Mauricio Durán

Interview with Cecilia Traslaviña

On Sunday, the 29th of May, starting from 14:00 you have the rare opportunity of watching a carefully curated selection of Colombian animation short films, at the Stadtkino im Künstlerhaus. The curator of the programme, Cecilia Traslaviña, will also be present at the screening to give a short introduction and answer all your questions. She will also pe part of the Animation Avangarde jury. We couldn’t wait until Sunday to satisfy curiosity, so Cecilia was kind enough to answer some of our questions in advance. Read below her insightful remarks on the state of Colombian animation, its relation to society and to the wider context of Latin America.

Cecilia Traslaviña is an animation professor at the Pontifical Xavierian University while also being a visual artist whose work has been widely exhibited internationally. One of the creators of Moebius Animación, she is an active supporter of Colombian animation, promoting the more experimental works of Latin America. Her latest documentary, “Perpetuum Mobile”, co-directed with Mauricio Durán, is an exploration of the relationship between space and time, the result of a research about “animation as a creative tool of the arts”. You can watch the documentary Friday, the 27th of May, from 16:00 at METRO Kino-kulturhaus, as part of the VIS Film & Talk programme.

VIS: How do you see Colombian animation in the wider context of South American animation? And in relation to the other arts in Colombia?

Cecilia Traslaviña: As in almost all of Latin American countries,  in Colombia animation has found an interesting position that allows an exploration of the world from different angles. There are different trends, of course; the strongest are related to the film, television and advertising industries, in which technical aspects of the products are the most important. These productions are not very different to standard commercial animation made in most of the countries. Sometimes they just copy the structure of  successful films from the hegemonic studios in the United States, giving them a national "flavour", using characters or situations of their own countries.  At the same time, a different kind of films are produced by small independent studios: these are focused on the creative development of a variety of narratives including fiction, experimental productions and also documentary animation for film and TV.

In the field of art there is an important production of short films.  You can find non-narrative films that explore more technical possibilities, the behaviour of materials, the rhythm of images, and also experimental works that make social and political comments, but not in a direct way. These are also films or art pieces that reflect on the complexity of the reality and the contradictions of the human being. That is why many of them are created by following an intuition or a sensation instead of using a previous or standardized structure. There are also some artists that use animation in their installations, and serial work or collaborative projects using Internet.

To conclude, I could say that Colombian animation is well positioned in the regional map, especially in the production of short film, which makes sense for a country like Colombia, that does not have a big film industry as is the case of Brazil, Mexico or Argentina.

VIS: In recent years, the styles and approaches have diversified more. Where is this variety stemming from?

: I think technology has contributed to it because nowadays you can find whatever you want to see in the Internet and at the same time you can work with different kinds of media.  This great palette of tools helps to widen your imagination. Based on my experience as a teacher, I find that students are interested in new media, but at the same time they like to work with real materials, they want to touch them and experience the feeling that the materials produce. It may be a kind of nostalgia for the old devices and techniques that they did not use, but I have to say that this combination produces a wide variety of styles, technical solutions, and takes animators to work together around a need of producing thinking.

VIS: Art has long been a way for people to express societal anxieties and try to make sense of mental and political struggles. What would you say the relationship between Colombian animation and its past and present difficulties is?

: This is a question that I usually make to myself. Some years ago, the production of animation films that were directly related with the social and political aspects was scarse, but in recent years, like four or five years, it has grown significantly, maybe because we have had more time to think about it, maybe because animation is a particular and powerful tool to talk about reality.  

These works show the cruelty of war using animation as a sort of symbolic filter. When watching these films, people can get closer to this reality, but still keeping a healthy distance that allows a non-traumatic understanding of the experience of war.

However, I am more interested in the productions that are not focused on social issues, but instead express the violence or psychological injuries related to war and violence. These films give us an idea of how people in the cities, or the artists themselves, have been affected by war in a silent way.  To give you some examples, you can find a kind of exaggerated  tremble in the line, certain unstability, or other films depict children appearing alone in the dark or strange spaces.  I think these are formal features that talk about what we feel. This is a topic of an interesting research that a friend of mine is developing now so we have had long conversations about it.

VIS: Would you say there is a difference between the animation films selected for local or regional festivals compared to those screening at European or North American events? Is there a difference in what interests them?

CT: It depends more on the nature of the festivals. If they have a commercial profile, for sure, they will be more interested in narrative and commercial animation. In case they are more experimental they will prefer more innovative and risky films. 

VIS: In recent years, there has been more recognition at an international level. In 2010 "Little Voices" was selected for the Venice Film Festival, and in 2015 "Sabogal" and "Desterrada" screened at Annecy. Both films tell stories of struggle in the context of political violence. Do you think that foreign festivals have an "expected narrative" when it comes to Colombia?

CT: I could say that yes. For the one hand they expect colourful, musical, and enjoyable films.  You know, the Latin American stereotypes working in the films.  And, on the other hand, they want films that show the adversities and the crudity of our social context. They usually expect traditional narratives, characters and situations that are easy to grasp. Of course, there are exceptions; in many festivals people do not know much about Colombian animation so most of the times the audience is surprised by what they see.

VIS: In closing, tell us a bit what we can expect from the special program dedicated to Colombian animation at VIS.

CT: Since I come from the world of the arts, I teach animation in a Faculty of Arts. So I made a selection in which the animators explore different types of narratives, in order to give the audience a wide perception of independent Colombian Animation. Some of these films are made by artists that do not live in Colombia, and these films are interesting because they allow us to see differences in the treatment of certain topics and the use of technique. In general, these films have a strong poetic and expressive grammar, materialized in their atmospheres, color and textures that show the inner state of characters, reflect a malaise, or create a world that seems to be working not exactly in a "right" way.

Interview by Diana Mereoiu