For my graduation project I had to create a short narrative piece of animation about a character wanting something.
I came up with a story about a small village, on a limestone cliff, like the ones you can find in Maremma Toscana, the southern and wilder area of Tuscany.
The movie is inspired by true events.
In small communities life can get stagnant and often younger generations don’t get the chance to develop into fully independent adults. Elderly relatives, receiving state pensions, can become their only ‘reliable’ source of income. In Italy in 2014, during a single month, the bodies of two different pensioners were found being kept in house fridge freezers. These had been hidden by their close relatives who continued to collect pensions on their behalves, long after they had died. In one of the cases the fridge was specifically bought for the purpose.
Here is a link to another case of a woman who had frozen her mother, also from 2014:
But let’s go back to the village in the movie. In this apparently idyllic village almost everyone has a dead grandma in their fridge. All proceeds as usual until, during a hot summer, a heat wave leaves the small town without electricity…
The story is inspired by the late work of Italian Director, Mario Monicelli, such as Parenti Serpenti. Some of the characters’ moods are inspired by the experimental work of Sicilian directors, Ciprí e Maresco, and their Cinico TV. The grandma character’s features are a caricature my great aunt Nene. The visual style is inspired by the work of Sylvan Chomet. Some shots have more ‘expressionistic’ and stylised characters, a bit more like David Feiss.
The movie is a dark comedy set some time in the 90s when Italian tv was full of tits and arses at every hour of the day and night. TV was, more than ever, a tool of mass distraction deployed to build popularity to turn into political consent.
I know it might sound ludicrous but, yes there is a socio-political subtext in the 4 min movie about dead grandmas in the fridge. And this is because the movie is a little love/hate letter to the trash Italian Television I grew up with. Some of it was criminal and some was great, for example the work of Enrico Ghezzi and his daily strip Blob. The show was a collage of tv programme cut offs providing the viewer with a daily homeopathic dose of Willam S. Burrough’s technique for creative thinking.
So in the mood board for the movie I could not leave out a tribute to trash tv production with programs like Drive In or Colpo Grosso, a very successful format sold all over Europe. It was an outrageously non pc, male gaze driven sexy tv show set in a casino in which several girls – the so-called “Cin Cin Girls” – would strip along with the contestants.
Another theme of the movie is the idea of the village as an isolated place where the bucolic is in contrast with the squalid lives of its inhabitants.
I made some loopy animations out of the character sheets for my grad movie. This is the grandma character, she is called Nene:
This character is a portrait of my great aunt Nene. She lived in my family home in a flat above my parents. She was truly evil… over the years I came to accept that she was a sociopath. The worst thing she did was beat her 80 year old husband with a cane to the point that he could not walk anymore. But this was the later Nene. The Nene from my teenage years would cash me to drive her to the cemetery so that she could take fresh flowers, obsessively tidy up several family tombs and use her old claws for snapping dried bush branches. She would clean the tombs with a little broom and purposely swipe all the dirt on the surroundings. Once I remember her apostrophising to freshly dead ‘neighbours’ who had just been covered with a sparkling new white marble, “Sti cagoni” translated “these showoffs” (literal translation: “Big Shitters”) after swiping some dust onto the slab.
Another time she looked to the left and then to the right like a cartoon and then thew a ball of paper into the middle of the outdoors, grassy graveyard area.
Nene would go around and show me all these tombs telling me about this and that big family from 200 years ago whom she talked about as if she knew them well. She more likely knew the tomb well rather than than anyone deceased in 1890… We would end up tidying the tomb of some very far, far away illustrious relative from the 30s. But was this shit made up?
Great Auntie Nene died few years ago. I did not go to the funeral and have never gone to see her grave. My home town’s old cemetery is so beautiful that it has become one of those places where you hang out with old friends every few years. Perhaps I should go and look for her grave and draw a moustache on her picture.