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Cannes: Manuel Cristóbal, Salvador Simó Talk about ‘Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles’

Variety logo Variety 5/23/2017 Emilio Mayorga

CANNES  — One of Spain’s most prestigious Spanish animation producers, Manuel Cristóbal (“Wrinkles,” “Dragonkeeper”) presents on May 23 at Cannes’ Animation Day the awaited animated feature”Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles.”

Produced by Spain’s The Glow Animation Studio and Dutch outfit Submarine, the film turns on the days that surrealist Luis Buñuel spent in Spain’s isolated mountains of Las Hurdes, shooting what became a masterpiece, “Land Without Bread,” a documentary about daily life in one of the poorest parts of Europe.

“Buñuel” is directed by first-timer Salvador Simó, who studied in Los Angeles at The American Animation Institute. Simó has worked in the layout department on Disney’s ” The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ” and has directed Bangkok-based Monk Studio TV animation series “Paddle Pop Adventures.” Latido Films handles “Buñuel”‘s international sales.

What were the origins of “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles”?

Manuel Cristóbal: I was looking for a project of this kind since I produced “Wrinkles” and producer José Fernández de Vega showed me the graphic novel. He was thinking about a animation short. But as soon as I read it, it was clear for me that it had potential for a feature. I guess in a way José tricked me into it! Then we brought in Salvador Simó as the director. The three of us have created an AD animation studio in Extremadura – The Glow Animation Studio – and we are partners for this project and many others to come.

What’s its financing structure?

Cristóbal.: This is a co-production between Spain’s Sygnatia and The Glow Animation Studio. with Canal Extremadura and TV Aragón. Recently the Dutch company Submarine boarded the film and we are delighted to have an international partner like Bruno Felix. The ICAA [Spanish film institute], and Junta de Extremadura have supported the film and [public broadcaster] TVE and Movistar+ bought Spanish TV rights. The sales agent is Latido. The budget is very competitive allowing us to put together financing quickly and giving a lot of freedom to the director.

How did you build the plot, considering that the feature is inspired by Buñuel’s real life?

Salvador Simó: Our aim wasn’t to make a documentary. Our story is a fiction, but inspired in Luis Buñuel life, at least in a part of it, around the time when he shot the documentary of Las Hurdes and what that meant to him. The main plot is about friendship, but the secondary one is Luis, his courage and determination to defend his artistic vision, his way of expressing himself through the camera and the stories he built, and how this road trip documentary shoot affected him.

Why animation? What does the animation add to a project like this?

Cristóbal: Animation is a very interesting place to be, it is international and gives you a lot of freedom. You can do family films like “Dragonkeeper” or arthouse films like this one.

How do you envisage the visual style of “Buñuel,” a film inspired by one of the most influential and recognizable directors in the history of cinema?

Simó: For good or bad, we did not pretend to copy the visual style of Buñuel, or at least in a conscientious way. There is only one Luis Buñuel, and in the same way he defended his own way of telling a story we defend ours. We tell a story about a 33-year-old director named Luis, who is still unknown. What was most impressing for us was his human side. That’s why I always say that we’re not telling a story about Buñuel, but about Luis.

What will the film’s dominant tone?

Simó: A drama with hints of humor, surrealistic in some moments; warm. It’s a painting with a lot of brush strokes trying to approach to a person with his crises and contradictions, with complexes and influences from his friends and family.

Animation seems to be experiencing a build in Spain. Do you have the same feeling as producer?

Cristóbal. Yes, Spanish animation is living a good moment. We have studios, directors, technologies, we have the Madrid-based U-Tad (Digital Universitary Center) as a top-quality university. But we need more competitive tax breaks and we need them now. This industry cannot wait any longer; we could create many jobs if we had them.

Whom is “Buñuel” targeting?

Cristóbal: This is an adult film but a very accessible one, about friendship and about fighting for what you love.

Who was Luis Buñuel?

Cristóbal: Luis Buñuel is one of the greatest cinema names in history. He was an example for all filmmakers in many ways and this is a homage to him from a new generation.

Simó: Overall, his films he made us to think and feel. His films don’t end with the credits. We take them home with us. They make us think. He was a great provocateur.

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