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Alessandro Rak • Director

“The idea was to make the stories universal”


- We spoke to Neapolitan cartoonist and director Alessandro Rak, who is competing in the Orrizonti section at the Venice Film Festival 2017 with Cinderella the Cat

Alessandro Rak  • Director
(© La Biennale di Venezia - foto ASAC)

UPDATE (7 September 2017): The film has just screened at the 74th Venice Film Festival.

After his first film, The Art of Happiness [+see also:
film review
interview: Alessandro Rak
film profile
, struck gold at the European Film Awards (EFAs), Italy carved a niche in the European animation market. Now cartoonist and director Alessandro Rak has directed a dark and musical Cenerentola, which will be competing in the Orizzonti section at the 74th Venice Film FestivalCinderella the Cat [+see also:
film review
interview: Alessandro Rak
film profile
was produced by the young Neapolitan outfit Mad Entertainment, led by Luciano Stella, along with Rai Cinema, in collaboration with SkyDancersTramp Ltd and O'Groove, with participation from Big Sur, distributed by Videa and sold by Rai Com.

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Cineuropa: Is your second film an animated adaptation of a classic tale?
Alessandro Rak: Cinderella the Cat was helmed by four directors, Ivan CappielloMarino GuarnieriDario Sansone and myself. And we’ve already started work on the next one, Skeleton Story, based on one of my graphic novels. Cinderella the Cat is the original title of Roberto De Simone’s piece which was inspired by a tale based on Gianbattista Basile’s Lo Cunto de li Cunti, which is known as the first true written adaptation of the famous Cenerentola fairy tale. The film focuses on the game of adapting a story, giving it a more contemporary historical context in order to keep it alive. It was on that model that our imagination developed, maintaining the more grisly aspects often missing from some of the more sugar-coated adaptations of Basile’s story. We set the story in Naples, in the present or in an improbable future, with a somewhat pulp, somewhat noir aesthetic and a sense of magic: the hologram, by now no longer in use and long forgotten, becomes a completely enchanted entity. There’s also a lot of music, both diegetic and non-diegetic.

What techniques did you use?
We worked in 3D, using open source animation software such as Blender and Anime Studio Pro. However, the final section is in 2D, with painted images on-screen.

Tell us about Mad Entertainment.
Mad is a small group that produces music, animations and fiction films. It came to life with the making of The Art of Happiness, which was our first feature-length animation. We also created a musical melting pot for the Neapolitan scene. It’s based in the heart of Naples, in piazza del Gesù, in the historical building in which De Sica filmed Marriage Italian Style and The Gold of Naples. It ended up representing a meeting point for people coming from various different artistic backgrounds.

With The Art of Happiness’ victory at the European Film Awards and the London Raindance Film Festival, Italy has made an impression on the European animation market.
Well, it’s difficult to compare ourselves to France or Belgium. It’s more a question of different cultural traditions. In those countries, as in Japan, cartoons and animations are so integral to daily life, both for adult audiences and younger audiences. In Italy, after the 70s, the cartoon created a niche in the market that was more linked to teenage gamers.

But your films are intended for an international audience?
With The Art of Happiness and now also with Cinderella the Cat, we started out in a Neapolitan setting but we didn’t want the films to just be self-referential. The idea was to make the stories universal. In Skeleton Story however, there are no culturally specific references.

(Translated from Italian)

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