My graduation project: frozen relatives and pension scams

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.

A frame from Sylvan Chomet’s “The Old Lady and the Pigeons” (1997).

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.

This is a frame from the first political video message that Silvio Berlusconi broadcast on all of his private tv channels (at the time in Italy there were a total of 7 main networks, he owned 3 of them). Legend has it that one of the studio assistants took her stockings off and put them on the camera lens to give a smoother look to the footage.

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.

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