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Immersed in Movies: Talking Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts ‘Bear Story’ and ‘We Can’t Live Without Cosmos’

Immersed in Movies: Talking Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts 'Bear Story' and 'We Can't Live Without Cosmos'

Gabriel Osorio and Konstantin Bronzit discuss their two Oscar-contending shorts, Bear Story and We Can’t Live Without Cosmos. The former represents the first nominee in this category from Chile, poignant allegory of a lonely bear who builds an elaborate mechanical diorama in an attempt to remember a happier life with his wife and son before being abducted into the circus. And the latter is a cautionary tale about two inseparable friends training to be cosmonauts in the former Soviet Union.

Gabriel Osorio on Bear Story

Bill Desowitz: Talk about the importance of your grandfather’s story as the impetus for your movie as an allegory and the theme of his invisible presence. Did the notion of a bear come quickly?
Gabriel Osorio: My grandfather was exiled from Chile in 1973, during the Pinochet dictatorship. He was exiled only for his political views, (for being a socialist) but he didn’t do anything wrong. My family always talked about my grandfather and how he was far away and that was really difficult to understand when I was a small child. I grew up in a world without internet so all the contact I had with him was through letters he wrote to my older sister. So for me, growing up in a government that doesn’t let me meet my grandfather, and for a reason that I didn’t really understand, was something that I always felt that was a terrible mistake, and something awful to do to a family. The idea of representing this story with animals came to me very quickly and the idea to use bears came with the notion of using the circus as a metaphor for the military fascists.
BD: Tell me about the design and animation process and the tools you used.
GO: The design process took very long, I was very demanding with myself and with the whole team. For example, I redid the main character several times, because I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the result. Similarly, our art director, Antonia Herrera, was very patient and thorough in designing this character and the world he lived in. And of course, we had the added difficulty that we had this world within a world in the mechanical theater that the bear builds, where we had to do all the characters and sets all over again! 
Even though the short is 3D animation, the process involved a lot of handmade work. We always try to rescue the spontaneity and artistry of doing things with your own hands, like drawing, painting or sculpting. So for example, we made clay versions of the characters and then we 3D scanned them into the computer. A lot of the textures are also hand painted, and a lot of pre-production concept art and storyboards are all done with pencil and paper. 

BD: What were the biggest challenges and some of the hardest scenes?
GO: The biggest challenge for me as a director was to tell the story in a way that was accessible for everybody: grown ups and kids alike, and at the same time suggest deeper and more complex themes, while leaving the sufficient amount to interpretation. So I think that balance was really something that we worked on a lot, adding more clues to be clearer, but removing others, to let more things up to the viewers’ interpretation. For example, something that the story doesn’t answer is what happened to the family of the Bear, to his wife and son. Where are they? and for me that was important to be left open, because back in Chile during Pinochet’s dictatorship lots of people not only were forced into exile, a lot were killed and disappeared, so there are still are a lot of families that every day ask themselves the same question: “Where are they?” I think with the short I tried to convey and express to the viewer that same terrible feeling of uncertainty.
BD: What scenes are you proudest of?
GO: Personally, the moment that I love most, is the one where the Bear is looking at the cub bear leaving happily with his father, and then he smiles. I like to thing that the Bear survives his reality knowing that there are still families together that have the chance to have the life that was taken from him.
BD: This is a tremendous honor for you and for Chile. What is the takeaway from this and what are your immediate and future plans?
GO: For me, one of the most important things that I take with me, is to see that everybody in the world can relate to the story, and share the same rejection towards exile and breaking families apart. That this is something terrible, and we as human beings must do what we can to make sure it never happens again. So I like to think that I am using this amazing opportunity to share this message with the world, about the importance of being together, and never being separated by force. It’s really for me an honor to be representing Chile with a story that is part of our country, of our idiosyncrasy and a story that represents many families, not only in Chile but in Latin America and in the world.

Konstantin Bronzit on We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

BD: What was the inspiration for your short and your thoughts on friendship and space exploration?

Konstantin Bronzit: To speak the truth, I don’t like the word “inspiration.” I just feel something inside of me, which starts disturbing me by days and by nights. These are thoughts. About something, from what gradually the film will be born. It is usual way. But this time most strange thing happened to me. One day early morning I dreamed some image. We can realise that a lot of stupid stuff can dream in our heads. It doesn’t mean anything. But this time I waked up and immediately start thinking about image and in 5 minutes all finished story was unfold from this image to the start and to the end.

This image exists in my film almost in the very middle. Without it this film could be born. (I always prefer not to say what that image is) Really I never beleived in such a kind of stories and looked at them like special tales for press and public but I didn’t beleive till the moment it happened to me. And it has nothing to do with the old Soviet Union as it seems to me. But, of course, I am the old Soviet Union’s boy.I cannot probably to get rid of this feeling.

BD: What was it like making the short in terms of design and animation?

KB: As a rule in my films I was making all art design work myself. But this time I felt that I need other artist. It’s difficult to explain why. I just felt that if I will try to do it myself again (and I tried for a moment) the noses of people will be the same like in my previous film. And immediately I thought about one of me very well known artist Roman Sokolov, who is a comic book artist. The most difficult thing was to persuade him to work with just because he was very busy at that moment. But the design of this film is far away from real simplicity, which I had made in my previous film, Lavatory – Lovestory (Oscar-nominated in 2009). In that film almost there was no color and it was drawn just by black and white line like a simple cartoon for a newspaper.

BD: What was the biggest challenge?

KB: To find the most precise construction of the story. Its composition – the way how it will be told step by step before audience. It took three years of making it for me. Totally, I spent 4-5 years of my life for production of this 15-minute film. I am a very slow thinking, stupid guy, you know. 

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