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Joren Verfaillie skilfully squeezes another world in a stunning short

16 juni 2009
Joren Verfaillie dazzled the jury of the Leuven Draait contest in the category of animation with the graphic strength and originality of his UtopIa, a 17 minute 3D animation movie completely based on photos.
'UtopIa is the kind of film you better see a couple of times to get everything out of it', says Joren Verfaillie. In 2008 he graduated at Sint-Lukas University College of Art and Design in Brussels with this film about big themes such as racism, identity and science fiction. The main character, Nathan, is a kind of a manhunter in a world where 'parasites' threaten an artificially created utopical affluent society. 'I was very pleased about the result and I graduated cum laude, but nevertheless I continued to work on it afterwards for a couple of weeks. All in all, I thought the story was a bit too complex to limit it to the 15 minutes I was given. I had worked on the script for 6 months and the story was a lot richer than any animation I had done before. So I thought it was a good idea to add an intro of about three minutes to give a better idea of this world I wanted to show. The introduction gives a better understanding of this utopia with its own regulations, although it is a society that is somehow similar to the world that we live in'. UtopIa Joren also wrote a thesis about the subject. 'I have been thinking about themes like racism and identity for a long time. For instance, my best friend has a darker skin than mine. I have always wondered to what extent that difference affects a person. Why do we want to put labels on people and categorize them? And who are we really in a society that is filled with clues about how we should be? It also struck me that a lot of writers who deal with social criticism tend to use science fiction as a genre. So in a way, UtopIa is the result of my explorations of these themes. It was the synthesis of four years of study, lecture and reflection'. Today, Joren is still writing on the project. 'I have the feeling there is a lot more to tell so I keep working on it. But I'm not sure what would be the best way of telling the story, for me the story is more important than the form or style'. UtopIa The film itself is very stylish, with thousands of digitally processed photographs creating another world with an alienating atmosphere. Some people see a resemblance with the graphics of Sin City or Max Payne. 'I was rather inspired by The Animatrix (a collection of nine animated short films set in the fictional universe of The Matrix series, ed.), especially A Detective Story and Kid's Story. I was very fascinated by their very cinematic narrative style. UtopIa is not exactly set in a universe that similar to that of The Matrix, which portrays a rather freaky SF setting, but what is most important is that it persuaded me to take up the challenge to create a whole other world, that I could do it, too. To be honest, I am very proud to have finished this complex movie as meticulously as I had planned. I had great support from Bregt Jansegers, with whom I work together on different projects. As Nyan Komago we do not only produce audiovisual projects but music scores as well, like we did for UtopIa.' At Sint-Lukas, Joren worked under supervision of Johan Teirlinck and Yves Bex. 'They were great, they had a very open mind towards my graduation project'. UtopIa Still, after finishing the movie Joren wondered what 'the outside world' would think of UtopIa. 'It seems that professional audiences in particular appreciate this movie. Bregt and I also made a video for a Booka Shade remix through which we have come in touch with a lot of producers in the industry. We have not been concentrating on 'artistic' film festivals, I am not really sure how UtopIa will do in this environment.' UtopIa Bregt and Joren dream of directing a feature film one day, 'an artistic one'. In the meantime, they make their money in the commercial circuit. In the near future, Joren prefers to be involved in music projects. 'I like to do different things. Filmmakers are approaching Bregt and myself more and more to compose music scores for their shorts. And we are planning to intensify our Nyan Komago music project and to release some work after the summer. I am very glad with the education I had in animation and in filmmaking, I have the feeling I am well trained in a broad sense, with good technical skills. But where it will lead me, remains to be seen.' Joren Verfaillie & Bregt JansegersWatch the trailer of UtopIa LINKS Leuven Draait Nyan Komago