Juan Pablo Zaramella Films, Ranked (Top Animation Directors)

Juan Pablo Zaramella animation director

Juan Pablo Zaramella has been among the most highlighted South American animators for 25 years. In 2011, 'Luminaris', the great Zaramella’s short, entered the Guinness World Record for winning 324 awards! One year before, Annecy International Animation Festival screened a special program with his works. Nowadays, Zaramella is producing his first feature animated film, “Soy Nina’ / ‘I’m Nina,” (have a look at our interview with the animation director).

We here rank and review his nine independent animated shorts (excluding his TV series commissioned works - but you can see all of them on his page). Most of his production was made in partnership with some French producers, such as Les Films de l’Arlequin, co-producer of 'The Tiniest Man in the World', a stop-motion and live-action series.

Juan Pablo Zaramella's films, ranked:

9. En La Ópera / At the Opera (2010)

This animation is based on a gag. However, of course, it has a majestic animation quality where its characters (in clay) present an exaggerated aesthetic and a very emotional expression. They cry, cry, which results in the laughing of the audience. The Zaramella’s humor sense is also a mark in this short.

8. Heroes / Heros (2018)

The synopsis is: “A handful of fingers prepare for the great fight. They believe they are winners, and only one thing can make them happy: victory.” It is a very short and hilarious animation that mixes animated and live-action images. The representation and emotional states of characters are made by the expression of their eyes and mouth (in drawing) on the fingers' top. It is an example of how Zaramella is able to capture the human soul.

7. El Desafio a la Muerte / The Challenge to Death (2001)

This clay animation shows a Yogi putting himself into a food processor and returning alive again. I was in the audience when this short was screened in AnimaMundi, and I can testify to the people’s reaction. That was amazing, everybody loved it, and this short won the Audience Award for Best Short in Video, 2002. The humorous look and the animated logic from 'Felix, The Cat' (playing with the character graphic form) are already present in this short.

6. El Guante / The Glove (2001)

This pixilation story is based on a fictional glove with “bad powers” who gives an evil and independent personality to the character’s hand. The aesthetic of the short film is black and white and recalls the North American thrillers of 1930-40. The actor Gustavo Corndillon (also responsible for the script and sound of the short) is the same actor who played in 'Luminaris'. Corndillon is a Zarammella’s partner in many other productions. In The Glove, it is possible already to note all the main qualities of the animator’s work: technically perfect animation, a mocking and unusual sense of humor, absurdity, and a connection with the imponderable, with a non-real, extra-sensory dimension.

5. Onión (2016)

That short is a live-action with animation. It shows a parody of the self-helping wave and makes us think about what can be “enlightening” for ordinary people. It is hilarious and critical. In terms of animation, all scenes of daydreaming and “vision of other dimensions” were made in animation, and again, the absurd and the comicality of the animated action, the registered mark of Zaramella, is strongly present.

4. Viaje a Marte / Journey to Mars (2004)

'Journey to Mars' is a clay animation that tells the story of a boy who wanted to go to Mars and went there with his grandfather in a pickup truck trailer. Of course, he is harassed by his schoolmates because of this. Years later, this boy, now a man, works with the same pickup, and I will not make a spoiler here. You can see the final for yourself. However, the sense of humor and Zaramella’s knowledge of the human soul are present in this short. As well it presents another animator’s characteristic, the no fixed borderline between dimensions, “reality,” material logic, and the fantastic, the oneiric aspect of the narrative.

3. Passajero / Passager (2022)

The most recent short of Zaramella is in the third place on my list. The animation quality is top-notch. The visual of the painted aluminum leaves (which look like paper to us), creates the flexibility needed for all characters’ actions. 'Passajero' is the most complex short of Zaramella, in psychological terms, although it can run unnoticed by the audience. In this script, Zaramella knew to capture the social relation of the people, in shock with the individual personality. The characters are very well constructed as “personas” of this story, and the narrative is divided into two time dimensions. Just one session is not enough for the audience to perceive all the details and instances of the 'Passajero' film.

2. Lapsus (2007)

Despite the simplicity of this short, 'Lapsus' is my preferred Zaramella’s short. Using black and white areas, we can see a cute little nun involved with issues with getting in a black wall. That is a brilliant animation since it handles the figure-background conception and offers the audience many interpretations. What is the figure, and what is the background? Over that, it is amusing due to the absurd actions that only animation has the power to create. For this reason, that is in my heart. "Oh my God!" is my mantra.

1. Luminaris (2011)

Without any doubt, 'Luminaris' is Zaramella’s masterpiece. The idea was inspired by the 'Tango Lluvia de Estrellas' theme, composed in 1948 by Osmar Maderna. The animation script began to be written during a creative residency at Abbaye de Fontevraud, with support from DRAC of Pays de la Loire, France, in 2008. The music gives the rhythms of this comic, critical, and romantic pixilation story. All the animated details are linked to the script and tell us about the light.

It is usually a girl, the employee who lights these lamps up with the flash of an eye — the woman who “gives birth”, an intentional metaphor. However, when he is dismissed for stealing the marbles (primer material to create the lamps), he enlists the help of this workmate. They flee in a balloon built of a giant light bulb, with the illuminated Paris as a background—closing the story with a lengthy kiss, with the romanticism of tango and like classic films.

'Light' has many meanings, and won't represent just the short's title but also the main character. 'Luminaris'  depicts a character who wants to make lamps outside the factory where he works but cannot ignite them.

Besides that richness of meaning, Zaramella’s sense of humor is very present in 'Luminaris', which in some moments makes me remember the scenes of Buster Keaton’s films (a related article on the film -in Portuguese). The film was Oscar-shortlisted for Best Animation Short in 2012.

contributed by: Eliane Gordeeff

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