Japanese Notebook: a Journey Into the Empire of Signs is a graphic novel by Igort. As the subtitle suggests (the reference is to the Empire of Signs by Roland Barthes), the book is a visual encyclopedia of semiotic fragments. The story covers different manifestations of the country’s culture in its diverse forms from Zen Philosophy to manga. In doing so, it produces a sort of visual meta-discourse in which semantic reiteration becomes a visual reflection on the drawing medium seen through the lens of memory.
Here are some character sheets from my new short ‘Seguidilla of the Femminiello’. The aesthetic is a mix inspired by classic 90s Disney characters and Sylvain Chomet’s masterwork, The Triplets of Belleville. However, most of the characters are based on real life people, like the two Godmothers below.
On the 3rd of October the great Hideo Aduma passed away.
Besides his many achievements as a manga artist and cartoonist, he was the genius who created Little Pollon, one of my fave childhood tv cartoons. Aduma used to start each episode by portraying himself as a narrating, weird fly character with a human head, wearing an ink pen hat and often carrying a red flask. This was his self portrait, those were his props; the hagiographic attributes of a man, kind of like the Asian Bukovsky in cartoon form.
His life of great professional achievements came with a high price when, in the 90s, Aduma disappeared for months at a time in a bubble of alcohol, at the fringes of society. He came back on the scene in 2005 with a fictionalised account of these troubled times in his life.
An English language version of Disappearance Diary, published by Ponent Mons, explains:
In 1989 Hideo Azuma left his family and work and tried (unsuccessfully) to hang himself using the slope of a mountain. This autobiographical account of his slide into alcoholism and eventual recovery takes painful experiences from the darkest reaches of his mind and treats them with an overriding sense of a cartoonist’s humor.
Last week I pitched a movie idea to the English National Opera and my project was selected! Below is the research I undertook to come up with the concept.
We were asked to choose a song from one of the ENO productions and I choose an extract from Carmen. This inspired me to talk about the tradition of the “Femminielli”: an ancient manifestation of the third gender, exclusively in the city of Naples. In the 19th century, The Femminielli were usually the eldest son, of the very poor families, that would take care of the house and others. As a result, this son would assume female looks and behaviours. Later in life, he would be taken into a rich family’s house in the belief that he would bring good luck. In post-war Italy, the Femminielli became associated with sex work in the old neighbourhood of Quartieri Spagnoli. Every year, in during the Easter period, the Femminielli would perform a fictional marriage, “The Matrimonio dei Femminielli”, and parade through the streets while the rest of the city joined in a display of human warmth and acceptance (that is Naples at heart!).
My movie was part of this year’s Official Selection for the MEET Film Festival in Rome. The Movies for European Education and Training was so kind to invite me to stay for the duration of the kermesse that took place in the gorgeous neighbourhood of the Garbatella.
There I stayed in one of the famous ‘Lotti’, the modernist council houses built before, and during, the Fascist Regime in the unique revivalist and eclectic “Barocchetto Romano”; a style that blossomed in early 20s Rome. This was based on the urban model of the city garden but was also permeated by architectural citationism.
It was wonderful to see Rome in October again. The weather is still summery even though it’s autumn everywhere else in Europe. The Romans call these sunny days, where you go out and about, “Ottombrate”.
Even though my movie didn’t win a prize, I was happy to have it screened outdoor in Rome on a random evening in October. I wondered through the “Eternal City” for a couple of days with some old friends and went out dancing all night… all unplanned!
For the past two months, I have been working on a short animated documentary for The Children’s Society. The movie is based on an interview with a young Afghan refugee who arrived in the UK after a very difficult journey that led him to Calais, where he remained for five months before finding a safe place in the UK.
Below is a synopsis of the short:
When I Leave Afghanistan is a short animated documentary based on an interview with a young Afghan Refugee who arrived in the UK after a long and dangerous journey. The animation follows the protagonist and others through their journey from Afghanistan to Calais, including the moment when their status as refugees is recognised and they are saved from limbo.
The 3D animation was entirely realised in VR using Oculus Quill and the scenes were edited in Premier Pro. Working with Oculus Quill led to a character design that I would define as utilitarian. The characters were built with simple strokes, in an abstract style, so that I could go on render some of the scenes in Maya. Producing an animated interview was an experimental process to . To my knowledge, this is going to be the first animated documentary produced with Quill since the application was released in 2016.