Thursday, November 3, 2016

My Life as a Zucchini: The Animated Life of a Swiss Boy

By José Alberto Hermosillo
"My Life as a Zucchini" is the most generous film of the year! A heartfelt stop-motion animation, colorful, and yet sweet and tender. This masterfully crafted coming-of-age Swiss production is suitable for children of all ages.

The animated story recounts the early life of an introverted nine-year-old orphan named Icarus. His mother nicknamed him Zucchini. From then on, Icarus proudly keeps the Zucchini moniker to honor his mother's memory. 
Zucchini is the wallflower kind of kid who is also an excellent storyteller. He likes to communicate his experiences through drawings. 
His big eyes are two transparent windows that reflect the purity of his soul, emotions, and real feelings
Zucchini, photo by Jose Hermosillo © 2016 Festival in LA
By looking at those big eyes, we can tell when he feels lonely, sad, depressed, or nostalgic. Also, when he is jealous, happy, or when he feels love for his friends. As Zucchini once said, “And sometimes we also cry of happiness...”
At one point, Zucchini has to assimilate the passing of his mother by using the help of Raymond, the supportive cop who tells him that his mother is already in heaven, and she is O.K. There is no need to feel guilty.
Claude Barras Director of "My Life as a Zucchini," photo by Jose Hermosillo © 2016 Festival in LA
Director Claude Barras identifies his childhood with these fantastic characters. He is influenced by classics such as the “400 Blows,” “Nobody's Boy: Remi,” “Heidi,” and “Bambi.”

Zucchini and his friends have one thing in common: all of them lost their parents in particular circumstances. 

Barras comments that no matter how obscure the story is, we always find ways to tackle those critical subjects with children. As the Brothers Grimm did in Germany with their dark stories told in their own exciting way.

The Autobiography of Zucchini is a dark novel that departs from the depiction of a kid who kills his mother with a shotgun. 
Those tragic stories happen almost every day in real life; not many are able to tell.

“My Life as a Zucchini” is a faithful adaptation to the screen from Gilles Paris’ Autobiography. Screenwriter Celine Sciamma (“Tomboy”), laid down on the page an elegant and subtle screenplay. She knew the story had to be up for kids of all ages. So, she wrote a less ghastly adaptation from the writer’s experience.

Inside the Fountain’s Foster Home, Zucchini and his “diverse” buddies are from different backgrounds and represent the most needed inclusion and diversity in cinema. 

The Zucchini gang is teaching us an unforgettable lesson, “No matter how rough life can be, there is always hope for a better future.”
The Magnificent Seven

Simone is the red-headed sloppy boy, the one who knows everybody's story. Ahmed is the soul of the party. Jujube is the chubby, gluttonous/hypochondriac. Alice is the shy blonde who hides under her hair. The gentle African girl is Beatrice. And Camille is everybody’s sweetheart, a proactive, confident, lovable girl.

The ten-inches-tall puppets were beautifully handcrafted and came to life in a very simplistic but realistic form. The dolls were made of latex, silicone, wires, fabrics. 
Zucchini and his collection of mouths. Photo by Jose Hermosillo © 2016 Festival in LA

The designs of their "human-like heads" were computer-generated. Those were made of metal, to easily attached and detached mouths and eyebrows with magnets and be able to change the facial expressions quickly between shots.
Camille and her collection of lips. Photo by Jose Hermosillo © 2016 Festival in LA

When the puppets needed a change of clothes for the next scene, the production stopped for the night.
The handcrafted sets are minimalistic and hand-painted by the director and his crew. The art direction, combined with the perfect editing, makes the audience glides evenly through the entire movie.

Without sugar coating, "My Life as a Zucchini" draws the spectator from the begging till the end. The story flows smoothly with continuity, good pace, and gratifying surprises.
Max Karli & Pauline Gygax, producers, "My Life as a Zucchini." Photo by Jose Hermosillo © 2016 Festival in LA

To communicate the emotions realistically, professional and non-professional child actors were cast to do the voices of the characters. The children were placed in an actual set to perform and interact with each other taping dialogs during the action. In the recording, their voices occasionally overlapped in purpose to make the soundtrack more realistic.
Director and producers. Photo by Jose Hermosillo © 2016 Festival in LA

This original animated film is Switzerland’s official entry to the 2017 Academy Awards for best foreign-language film. It also qualifies in the category of a best-animated feature, with a high possibility of getting an Oscar nomination in both types.
The saddest and yet happiest moment of the film is when they talk about adoption, it helps children to mature emotionally. As Simon says, “Adoptions with older kids happen rarely.” Children must be content with a simple goodbye and the sweetest memories of their good friendship.
Film critic Jose Hermosillo, Director Claude Barras © 2016 Festival in LA
“Zucchini” captured plenty of gratifying moments for the little ones and the grown-ups as well masterfully created by the talented puppeteer.

“My Life as a Zucchini" left my heart with an uneasy feeling of longing for more along with other sweet and sour emotions confronting. Also, it started me thinking about how catastrophic and beautiful life can be when we are children.

Copyright © Festival in LA, 2016


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