Mamie lives in Gaspésie in a house that faces away from the sea. Her granddaughter wonders: “Why isn’t Mamie interested in me or her other grandchildren? Why won’t she give me any affection or her beautiful blanket? What happened that made Mamie so indifferent?” In this wonderful animation of hand-painted watercolours, the filmmaker reaches back into her own childhood memories to share a personal and touching story about the break in “passing things on” between her and her grandmother.
Mamie lives in Gaspésie in a house that faces away from the sea. Her granddaughter wonders: “Why isn’t Mamie interested in me or her other grandchildren? Why won’t she give me any affection or her beautiful blanket? What happened that made Mamie so indifferent?”
Just like her home, Mamie shuts herself off and won’t let anyone into heart. If it’s true that we are the summary of our experiences and those we allow into our lives, what remains if we don’t let anyone in? In this wonderful animation of hand-painted watercolours, the filmmaker reaches back into her own childhood memories to share a personal and touching story about the break in “passing things on” between her and her grandmother.
Mamie was directed by Janice Nadeau and co-produced by the NFB and Folimage.
How was the idea of Mamie born?
I have all these bits and pieces of things remembered about the strange relationship I had with my grandmother—my “Mamie”. I always wondered why she wasn’t interested in me when I was little. And when I had my own child, I realized that our desire to pass things on is a natural, even instinctive feeling. That’s when I saw my relationship with my grandma from a new angle: why did she never feel this attachment? I wanted to make a film that was modulated by my childhood memories, without judgment or the need to confront reality.
With No Fish Where to Go, which was co-created with Nicola Lemay at the NFB, my involvement in the film evolved all the way up to co-director, while initially I was supposed to be the artistic director. Nicola was like a mentor and wanted me to leave the experience feeling ready to make my own film. Which is exactly what happened! The screenplay for Mamie won Best Screenplay in SODEC’s “Sprint for Your Script” contest, which included a trip to the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. Mamie was one of five projects selected by the festival’s “Creative Focus” and won the Folimage award.
What was the NFB and Folimage co-production experience like?
At first I was surprised that a French production company was interested in a story that took place in Gaspésie, but later I realized that the theme of “passing things on” speaks to everyone. I began production at the NFB and then took my storyboard and final animatic to Folimage in Valence. There, I worked with a team of animators, assistants and an editor. Five months later, I returned to the NFB to finish everything.
Can you tell us a little about the technique you used to create the film?
I chose watercolour because it’s a medium I’m comfortable with. My familiarity with the technique allowed me to put the bulk of my energy into the creation and direction of the animation.
What can you tell us about the film’s soundscape?
I approached Benoit Charest to compose the music for the film. I love his work because he is an artist with no set recipe; instead, he creates an artistic response to the film. He chose a simple approach with a single piano accompanied by the cello for two specific, more playful scenes. His music follows the movement of memory: sometimes memories come quickly, sometimes slowly, sometimes orderly, sometimes in a chaotic mess. Because of this, the soundtrack often shifts gears and alters the universe of the characters with the erratic appearance of dissonant notes and breaths.
Olivier Calvert’s sound work brings a somewhat ironic incongruity between the image and the sound. For example, the disobedient children are making jungle animal noises, and the sound of their fighting over the molasses pie is the cries of seagulls! The soundtrack is like the imperfect and quirky world that’s depicted in the film.
What was it like shifting from illustration to animation?
My illustration work had already been evolving toward animation without me really noticing it. My drawings were becoming increasingly minimalist, and I was already integrating the notion of time. It was already a premise of script work! In animation, each drawing comes to life based on the one that comes before it and the one that follows; it’s part of a chain linked together with movement, intention and emotion. Suddenly, each illustration no longer has to be overly polished; there’s creative room to be playful. I’ve enjoyed animation so much that right now I’m having a hard time thinking in terms of static image.
Can you tell us about your next project?
I will be making the NFB adaptation of Harvey, which was published by Éditions de La Pastèque in 2009 (text: Hervé Bouchard, illustration: Janice Nadeau). The project is in development, and Marie-Francine Hébert will be writing the script.
National Film Board of Canada
With the participation of
Centre national de la cinématographie et de l’image animée
MAEL PEREZ MARLEAU
Translation and Voice Direction
JEAN PAUL VIALARD
Distribution – Marketing
The Residency program of the Abbey of Fontevraud
CITIA – 2013 Creative Focus
SODEC – 2012 Finalist of Sprint for Your Script
With the participation of
Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée – contribution financière
Programmes Courts et Créations
PASCALE FAURE and BRIGITTE PARDO
Procirep / Angoa
Studio Direction – FOLIMAGE
Executive Producer – NFB
CORINNE DESTOMBES – Folimage
MARC BERTRAND – NFB