Claude Barras heads to Borneo for the next stop-motion adventure ‘Savages’

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When making live-action films, a continuity error can be very annoying, but it is usually easy to fix: simply reshoot the scene. In the excruciatingly slow world of stop-motion animation, where recording seconds of footage can take months, this can cause quite a headache. So when Claude Barras realized that he had filmed several parts of his new film “Savages” with his main character, the teenage girl Keria, without the backpack she had worn earlier in the story, he had a problem. .

Ultimately, after a long brainstorming session, the addition of a big farting monkey turned out to be the perfect solution.

“We decided that the monkey would steal the bag and give it back to her,” Barras explains. And while the loud accompanying fart may not seem entirely necessary, it also served a purpose. “We wanted to introduce a bit of humor because the movie is obviously quite dark,” he says.

“Savages,” which screens in competition at Annecy (screened out of competition at Cannes), arrives eight years after Barras’ critically acclaimed directorial debut, “My Life as a Zucchini,” which bowed at the 2016 Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes. The film received international acclaim and won two Cesar awards and an Oscar nomination for an animated film.

Like “My Life as a Zucchini,” “Savages” is an animated visual spectacle, featuring cute, wide-eyed characters living in a lushly colorful world. Like Barras’ previous feature – about a young boy sent to an orphanage – it packs a serious emotional punch, both in the story and in the way it is told.

Inspired by his grandparents, who lived in the nature of the Swiss Alps, Barras set his story – for which he began sketching ideas during the year-long tour with “Courgette” – in Borneo, on the edge of a rainforest that is under construction. be destroyed. There is a conflict between loggers and local tribes, between Keria and her father, who works for a palm oil plantation, with her younger cousin Selaī, and with herself and her own nomadic roots. And in the middle of it all, there is a baby orangutan named Oshi.

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It’s a much bigger world than that of “Zucchini,” with Barras noting that there are “more characters, lots of animals, and lots of outdoor locations, all of which require a lot of extra work.” About 300 people were involved in the production, which he estimates cost about $14 million (more than “Zucchini,” but still the same cost per minute after 20 minutes longer).

During the making of “Savages,” Barras became a parent, which he says took him away from production, focusing more on puppet making and some detached art direction. His daughter is now two and a half, and Oshi the baby orangutan – a creation crying out for a ‘Shaun the Sheep’-style spin-off – is now her favorite character.

“Savages” arrives during what feels like a purple patch for stop-motion animation, with British powerhouse Aardman releasing its highly anticipated “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” last year and now preparing a new “Wallace & Gromit” feature, and “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” won the animated film Oscar in 2023.

For Barras, whose puppets would lose much of their charm without their lovingly handcrafted aesthetic, despite advances in 3D animation (which he says can now make something look like stop-motion), there is growing interest in his favorite technique .

“Maybe it’s a paradox, but I think stop-motion is for people who like to let go, while 3D is for control freaks,” he notes. “Because with 3D you can do endless redos and make something better, but with stop motion you make things, you put things together, you put the light and then you shoot, you can’t do endless takes.”

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And with 3D animation, you don’t have to add farting monkeys.

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