Soy Una Tumba Soy Una Tumba

In this 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.

Our subject this week is the self-taught artist Khris Cembe. He cut his teeth on the Spanish web series Cálico Electrónico, before directing his own films and launching a long-running collaboration with director Alberto Vázquez.

In a sentence: A skilled animator and draftsman, Cembe has parlayed his talents into a couple of short films of his own, which play on genre conventions yet quiver with a disquieting ambience that’s all his.

Where to start: Soy una Tumba (2018), a clammy psychological thriller set on the scraggy coastline of Galicia, the north-western Spanish province from which Cembe hails. A friendless boy lives with his father, a sea captain in an area known for drug smuggling. Past hurts and present conspiracies bind them in a vow of silence — the film’s title translates roughly as “mum’s the word.” The sensitive animation and atmospheric landscapes speak the feelings they can’t express. The film was deservedly nominated for a Goya.

What to watch next: Viaje a Pies (2015), in which a lone traveler embarks on a train journey that doesn’t go as planned. The story, which mixes elements of noir, horror, and Westerns, is a tad sophomoric, but the film hints at the graphic ingenuity that will become more apparent in Soy una Tumba: watch what happens to the art direction when the stench of a fellow passenger becomes overwhelming.

Other works: Cembe has only directed these two films to date, but as an animator he is more prolific. He is the go-to animation director for fellow Galician Alberto Vázquez, working on the feature Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015) and short Homeless Home (2020), among other projects.

Influences: David Lynch, Michael Haneke, François Truffaut

Says: “I watch very few animated films, to free myself from influences.”

Currently working on: Unicorn Wars, a new feature from Vázquez, for which Cembe returns as animation director. The somber satirical fantasy is described as “Apocalypse Now meets Bambi” — need we say more? Watch the trailer, which we exclusively premiered, below:

Image at top: “Soy Una Tumba”

Previously in this series

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Deputy Editor of Cartoon Brew.

More in Know Your Indie Filmmaker: