Luminaris Luminaris

In this ongoing series, we profile the most interesting independent animation filmmakers working today — the artists who, through short films and other projects, change our ideas of what the medium can do.

This week’s subject is Argentinian animator Juan Pablo Zaramella, whose diverse body of stop-motion work includes what was at one point the most awarded short film in the world (see below) along with many other acclaimed tv and commissioned pieces.

In a sentence: These are technically adventurous works that use live action, drawings, clay, pixilation, paper puppets, human fingers, and all manner of other objects to tell often comic tales about characters haphazardly trying to navigate their way through a strange world.

Where to start: Luminaris (2011). The 324 awards that Luminaris received set a world record for a short film in 2018, at least according to the folks at Guinness. (The record was broken earlier this year by another short.) Luminarisis a delightfully inventive work about a lightbulb manufacturing worker who decides he wants to change the way light works in the world. Influenced by silent films, melodrama, fantasy, and a hint of Norman McLaren, Luminaris suggests that even if we can’t change nature, we can readjust how we live within it.

What to watch next: Lapsus (2007). Zaramella’s first work to generate buzz on the festival circuit is a clever piece of formalist play à la Chuck Jones’ Duck Amuck (1953) or Daniel Greaves’ Manipulation (1991), but also a satirical take on repressed and generally out of touch religious figures.

Other key works:  Bit Bang Festival trailer (2020), At the Opera (2011), Homejaje al Cine Argentino: “Caballos Salvajes” (2014), and The Tiniest Man in the World (2016)

Influences: Silent film era: use of body language, visual resources, and abstraction. Fritz Lang, King Vidor, Chaplin, Keaton, Abel Gance. Comic vignettes: there’s a huge tradition in Argentina. My favorites: Quino (Joaquin Salvador Lavado), Oski (Oscar Conti). I strongly LOVE Saul Steinberg illustrations. In animation: Terry Gilliam paper-cut animation. Both Norman McLaren and Jan Svankmajer, not only because of the obvious connection of their pixilation films, but also because of the constant exploration of different techniques that they used.”

Says: “I find that every time I approach a new technique or concept, it pushes my creativity in a unique way. I love to be in front of a new space to explore, so maybe I unconsciously find a way to lead myself into new techniques.”

Currently working on: Zaramella’s most recent film, Passenger (2022) is currently on the festival circuit.


Chris Robinson

Chris Robinson is a writer and Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF). Robinson has authored thirteen books including Between Genius and Utter Illiteracy: A Story of Estonian Animation (2006), Ballad of a Thin Man: In Search of Ryan Larkin (2008), and Japanese Animation: Time Out of Mind (2010). He also wrote the screenplay for the award-winning animation short, Lipsett Diaries.