Cannes 2021 – Marché du Film
Dossier industrie: Animation
Un débat virtuel explore les bénéfices du storytelling inclusif dans le champ de l’animation à Cannes
CANNES 2021 : La discussion, avec pour intervenants des représentants de Disney et du International Sámi Film Institute, a présenté la collaboration réussie des deux enseignes sur Frozen 2
Cet article est disponible en anglais.
On 11 July, an online panel entitled “Inclusive Storytelling in Animation” took place during this year’s edition of the Marché du Film (6-15 July). In detail, the talk explored the benefits of including the voices of a diverse range of communities in storytelling development and production, with a focus on Disney and the Norwegian-based International Sámi Film Institute’s collaboration on Frozen 2, and how they worked together to ensure accuracy and respect for the cultures featured in the animated flick.
The debate was moderated by Variety senior artisans editor Jazz Tangcay and saw the participation of senior vice-president of Walt Disney Animation Studios Peter Del Vecho and the International Sámi Film Institute’s managing director, Anne Lajla Utsi.
Utsi spoke about the institute’s activities and how the 1987 film Pathfinder was a “defining moment” for the community, as the Sámi saw themselves portrayed on the big screen for the first time. Since they couldn’t get funding for their productions from other Nordic bodies, they decided to establish their own fund in 2009. “We’re now nurturing a new generation of talents, such as Amanda Kernell and Elle-Máija Tailfeathers, who are winning awards internationally, and many more. [...] Over 70% of our filmmakers are women. We’re the driving force behind this, and we fight to build a sustainable Sámi industry.”
Del Vecho began talking about their research trip, where they were able to meet Sámi people and be educated about their culture with insights “you couldn’t get from scholars”, and there, they realised how Anna’s character was more aligned with the Norwegian tradition, whilst Elsa was more of a mythical character that “would fit more with Iceland”. Once back in Los Angeles, the team received a letter from the Sámi Parliament. “They asked to be involved in it; we reached out to them, acknowledged the letter and had an initial meeting. In the beginning, there was a bit of tension from their side, but once we had developed that personal connection, they became very collaborative,” he disclosed.
Speaking about the creative process, Del Vecho explained that, obviously, the initial story differed a great deal from what is present in the film’s final cut. After each screening, the team tried to rebuild the story and make it stronger, taking into account the Sámi audience’s reactions and opinions on all of the aspects of the movie – for example, the costumes ended up being entirely redesigned thanks to this input. Throughout the process, however, the focus remained on delivering a powerful piece of storytelling, without aiming to recreate a “realistic world”, but at least a “believable” one.
As many filmmakers used to strengthen harmful stereotypes with their work in past, the creation of dedicated “guidelines for responsible filmmaking” came in handy, and these were inspired by the principles of respect and establishing “culturally sensitive collaborations”, Utsi said. She added that following this approach could be helpful for other indigenous communities fighting colonial bias.
Finally, Del Vecho offered some advice to creators who are prepared to take a similar path and guarantee inclusivity: “Don’t be afraid to meet what you don’t know; be courageous, reach out, be willing to change your story and circumstances. [...] Seek true collaborations!”
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