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 subjects are the Chilean multidisciplinary – a fancy word for mucking about in different mediums – partners Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña.
In a sentence: Using a recipe of dark, absurdist humor and nightmarish imagery, the stop-motion duo have cooked up a unique body of work that is spellbinding, surreal, and frequently political.
Where to start: Lucía (co-directed with Niles Atallah, 2007) Young Lucía remembers a summer of love with Luis that was mysterious and filled with dark secrets. It’s an eerie work of creepy beauty. Set in, it seems, Lucía’s bedroom, the ghosts and voices of the house’s past seem to come alive and unveil the troubling history of the building. Is Lucía dead? Was she murdered? Assaulted? Using stop motion with charcoal, dirt, flowers, and assorted objects, Lucía is a haunting ghost story and a reminder that the past is never truly dead.
What to watch next: Luis (2008) was made as part of a series of films along with Lucía. Equally chilling, this time the story is told from Luis’ possibly psychotic perspective. In a different room, perhaps a basement, Luis recalls his life in the forest and his love for Lucía. You want to look away, but you can’t because it’s too damn beautiful and hypnotic.
Other key works: The Smile’s Thin Thing (2022), La Bruja y el Amante (2012), La Casa Lobo (The Wolf House, 2018), Los Huesos (2021)
Influences: David Lynch, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Jan Švankmajer
Says: “Almost all of our works begin with jokes. The truth is, I mean this honestly, we always want to do funny things, but the results are always terrifying. We seem to be bad comedians. But we will work on it. We try to have fun working. I am fascinated by artists who manage to combine comedy and horror, like Jordan Peele. I think art is very much about connecting emotions that seem separate.”
Currently working on: “We are now working on Los Hiperbóreos, our first live-action feature. We will shoot it in December and January in a museum in Santiago. It will be an exhibition/shoot, open to the audience. We will work with one actress, Antonia Giesen, and many puppets of different kinds. Everything will be shot in life-size sets built within the museum.”
Pictured at top: La casa lobo