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Posted at 03:20 PM ET, 03/13/2013

SXSW ANIMATION AWARD: The ‘ridiculous notion’: Belgian filmmakers wowed by win for poignant ‘Oh Willy...’

WHEN YOU’RE half a world away from the festival that helped give rise to Twitter, it seems only fitting that you receive the fest’s good news on Twitter.

As they awoke in Toyko on Wednesday, Belgian filmmakers Marc James Roels and Emma De Swaef turned to social media to learn that their stop-motion film “Oh Willy...” had won the Animated Short award at Tuesday night’s South by Southwest Film Conference in Austin.

“We’ve only found out now, so we’re still reeling from the news!” Boels told Comic Riffs late Tuesday (ET) from Japan, where he and De Swaef are finishing up an artists' residency program.

“SXSW was one of the U.S. festivals [where] we were really thrilled just to have been selected,” Roels tells Comic Riffs of “Oh Willy...,” which in January screened at Sundance.

The 17-minute “Oh Willy...” — which features fuzzy-textured stop-motion puppets — follows the 50-something title character who suffers the loss of a parent and, having emotionally fled into the wild, lands into the maternal care of a Yeti-like creature.

Oh Willy... - SXSW 2013 Accepted Film from SXSW on Vimeo.

“Years ago, we made a documentary about a lonely office worker named Willy, and we were so moved by his gentle and tragic persona
A scene from “Oh Willy...” (courtesy Emma De Swaef & Marc James Roels via SXSW - .)
that we created this stop-motion character based on him,” says Roels, who studied animation at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, Belgium. “The film basically tells the story of his long journey of suffering. We tried to envision the most gentle and passive character and set him on a grueling voyage — a delicate, fat little man thrust into a Herzog wilderness of ‘chaos and violence.’

“Our first little pitch while developing the short was: ‘It’s ‘The Jungle Book.’ but backwards.’ “

Roels has directed several live-action shorts; De Swaef, who learned documentary filmmaking at Brussels’s St. Lukas Academy, previously made the animated short “Soft Plants,” her graduate film.

For now, from Japan, Roels and De Swaef can bask in the surprise award, which last fall won Europe’s Cartoon d’Or. as it continues to rack up the honors.

“Winning seemed a rather ridiculous notion” when we entered, Roels told ‘Riffs, “but apparently it's true. ... Wow!”

You can click HERE for the full list of SXSW winners.

And to see where “Oh Willy...” will screen in the weeks ahead, you can click HERE.

By  |  03:20 PM ET, 03/13/2013

Tags:  south by southwest, animation

 
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