A group of student from French animation school Pole 3D used CG to tell a powerful story about the Paris Massacre of 1961, which has now qualified for Academy Awards consideration.
Computer-animated short The Seine’s Tears (Le lames de la Seine) has already collected several awards, most recently the BAFTA Student Film Award for Animation. Next week the short will be honored as Best of Show at annual computer graphics confab SIGGRAPH, which returns as an in-person event Aug. 8-11 in Vancouver.
The Seine’s Tears and all of the selections for the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival Electronic Theater — a qualifying festival for the Academy Awards — will be available for viewing both in Vancouver and remotely.
Yanis Belaid and seven of his fellow Pôle 3D students (Eliott Benard, Alice Letailleur, Nicolas Mayeur, Etienne Moulin, Hadrien Pinot, Philippine Singer and Lisa Vicente) helmed The Seine’s Tears, an 8-minute short in the textured style of stop motion. To create the look, the filmmakers drew some inspiration from Swiss stop-motion movie My Life as a Zucchini (Ma vie de Courgette), which was Oscar nominated in 2017.
In the short, which takes place on Oct. 17, 1961 during the Algerian War, Algerian workers take to the streets to demonstrate against a police-imposed curfew, which ends in violence.
“I feel so close to the story [because it is] my family history,” explains Belaid, who is of Algerian descent and whose grandfather told him the story of what began as a peaceful demonstration and resulted in the death of what some estimates suggest were more than 200 Algerians.
The first half of the “horror movie” is intended to be more realistic compared with the second part, during which the Algerian protesters dance as blood begins to pour down during a sequence set to jazz trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf’s True Sorry. “The second part is a more poetic visual to tell the story in another way,” Belaid explains. “We wanted to demonstrate the violence; the blood going down the characters is more powerful that people being shot. The song give us the emotion.”
The environment was created based on photography of Paris’ Pont Saint-Michel, where the actual event occurred.
“[Upon viewing] we want the spectator to go to Google and search for what happened on this date,” says Belaid, who also co-wrote and edited the short. “We want people to discuss this event.”
In addition to the Computer Animation Festival, SIGGRAPH has a packed schedule of sessions. Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull and Meta’s head of new product experimentation Ime Archibong are among the featured speakers, and production programs include Netflix’s The Sea Beast, Pixar’s Turning Red and Weta FX’s work on The Batman.
Updated Aug. 7: A previous version of this story included incorrect dates for the event.