Participating at the Toronto Film Festival’s Spain-Canada co-production forum Do It the Spanish Way, dystopian animated feature “Desechable” (“Disposable”) is a blistering indictment of social injustice in Colombia.
Spanish producer Miguel Molina of Jaibo Films, whose credits include Locarno 2021 standout “Sacred Spirit,” is presenting what is billed as one of the more ambitious and prized animation features from the Spanish-speaking world which has just passed through Spains ECAM Incubator.
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The superhero saga seems to have anticipated, when written, the maelstrom of social protests which rocked Colombia last year.
The co-production between Jaibo Films and Colombian art & animation studio Nocroma follows a biochemist who is nabbed by a Colombian paramilitary unit to make cocaine for them. He creates a synthetic drug that allows him to kill his captors and escape. But the drug he was forced to ingest also turns him into a junkie.
Calling himself Disposable, he wanders homeless on the streets with his only companion, a dog. When his pet is killed in an arson attack, his rage transforms him into El Colibri, an assassin bent on fighting against corruption and social injustice.
“Desechable” has already racked up several awards during its development, including the MIFA/Annecy award at Ventana Sur’s Animation pitching session in 2020 and the best project prize at the Animation Lab of Toulouse.
In a conversation with Variety, director Carlos Gomez Salamanca and Molina broke down their ideas for the making of the feature.
Could you talk about the materials you used in making ‘Desechable,’ the style, the use of both 2D and 3D.
Carlos Gomez: I come from the world of art. The three short films I made with the Bogotá Nocroma studio have a basic characteristic, which is that the materials and techniques are very consistent with the story being told. My last one, “Yugo,” which played at Annecy, is made with metal dust, because the story tells of some people who work in an industrial factory. In the case of “Desechable” we are using materials that we collect from the street: Cardboard, metal, cans that reflect our character’s way of life. We are building our character’s city with these materials, using some stop-motion models to make the backgrounds with a technique called photogrammetry. That’s a 3D scan of the models so that we can turn them around to place the characters and stage the action.
Tell us more about the plot, which has an interesting character, a super-hero who in this case is also homeless.
Gomez: Everything centers around this character and his thoughts, it’s an immersion in the mind of this homeless person, with a life that is all too common in Colombia. This allows us to divide the structure into three moments, three facets. The first is with the real-time life of the character when he is sober, in the present, with the actions that take place in the film. The second, when he is under the influence of this drug that he has discovered, which allows us to make the action a little more spectacular and faster… And the third, when the character remembers his past. His recollections give context to the current state of homelessness and the issue of drug trafficking and money laundering in Colombia.
This allows us to be more creative with the documentary format, combining facts based on real events in Colombia with a story. Using a superhero action movie format, we intend to make people reflect on deeper social and political issues, which are not only shared by emerging countries but also by many developed countries.
From a production strategy viewpoint, it seems that your proposal is to make a film that is both highly original and mainstream.
Miguel Molina: When this project came to us, we were immediately compelled to be closely involved in its development and come up with the best script possible, regardless of whether it were fiction or animation. We see it as a powerful story with a very well-constructed script that speaks of many issues, including social injustice, religion, inequality, drug trafficking. I want it to be like ‘Batman.’
We would love for the film not to be regarded as simply an animated feature. We are aiming for class A festivals but not within the animation section. Logically, there is the animation niche, which we are not going to lose, but we want our film be the best film of the year, not just the best animated film.
And there is the documentary aspect as well.
Molina: Yes, it is a very important part, because we include archival photos and footage of real events. When you see the real images, you realize that ours is a fairy tale compared to reality.
Tell us about this time in Colombia’s past. We’ve heard some horror stories about what happened in the poor areas.
Gomez: The film revolves around the people who are invisible, the street dwellers who camouflage themselves both out of habit and because of the class culture. And then there is a series of structures that this inequality generates, and strategies are implemented to sustain the political and economic status quo.
For example, during the guerrilla war, government forces captured civilians, especially the homeless, the sick or the indigent, enticing them with job offers, or other types of deception. They were taken to rural areas and killed, and then dressed up as guerrillas to prove that the war had been won. It was a dark period of violence with the state in alliance with some private groups who felt they had the right to carry out a kind of social cleansing.
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