Sundance Film Festival 2022
U.S Premiere
Interview

Hugo Covarrubias

Beast / Bestia  

bestia-shortfilm.com

Oscar Nominated 2022: Best Animation Short

Ingrid is working in the Chilean Intelligence Directorate (DINA) in 1975. Her relationship with her dog, her body, her fears and frustrations reveal a grim fracture in her mind and in an entire country.

Hi Hugo, thanks for talking to The New Current, how have you endured these strange times?

It's true that they have been strange times, but although it sounds a bit corny, thanks to cinema and animation I managed to control my head, since we finished Bestia in the middle of a pandemic. That kept my mind pretty busy.

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration or opportunities?


I think the social outbreak in Chile in October 2019 made us take an important pause, this added to the pandemic allowed the project to have a kind of maceration or maturation. When things rest and have a time of maturation, sometimes they achieve a better development or flavor. Somehow it made me create in a slower and more fragmented way, that sometimes helps things to be more consistent.

Bestia has already had an incredible run in festivals, winning multiple awards, including the Prix Festivals Connexion at ANNECY, what has it meant to you to get this kind of recognition for your film?

I've always thought that you have to make films to be able to understand things, to heal, to reflect, to build, more than for the awards. I think that's the true essence of filmmaking. But undoubtedly, receiving all these awards has been very important, because it means that the message is reaching its destination in a good way. I am very happy that it is being so well received and that a local story has turned out to be so universal.

Congratulations on the selection of Bestia in the Sundance 2022 international animated short film section, how does it feel to return to the festival and be part of such an incredible lineup?


The truth is that it was a huge surprise to learn that we were selected at Sundance. It's a festival that many independent filmmakers would like to be in. And to be part of the official lineup is something incredible for everyone who worked on the film. We were very excited to go in person but unfortunately plans changed due to the pandemic. However, we are very much looking forward to the US premiere and experiencing the reactions of the audience and the jury. 

As it is your U.S. Premiere, does it put additional pressure on you?


There is certainly additional pressure, as it is a very demanding audience and a very big industry. But that pressure is transformed into anxiety that they will see this work that was very hard to make and that aims to touch people's heartstrings.

Can you tell me a little about how Bestia came about, what inspired your script?


It all came from the idea of making a series about little-known characters in Chile's political history. During the research, the figure of Ingrid Olderock (the woman who inspired the story) appeared several times. We realized that this woman, in the interviews that were published in the book "The Woman of the Dogs" by Nancy Guzman, left in evidence many mental imbalances product of the system in which she was involved. A totalitarian and ultra patriarchal system that ends up driving its officials crazy by treating them as if they were small pieces of a monstrous machinery. This is how many layers of reading appeared that helped to give power to the script.

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"That base allowed me in the following versions to create with more freedom and add mental, dreamlike and surreal components typical of a psychological thriller."

What was the biggest challenge you faced in basing Bestia on a true story?


I think the biggest challenge was trying to condense a timeline that takes place over several years, in only 15 minutes, without losing the essence of the premise and maintaining the intention of exposing the evil that reigned in Chile in one of the darkest decades of our history. And if we add to that the psychological peculiarities of the protagonist, it is undoubtedly very difficult to sustain in only 15 minutes.


On the other hand, the absence of dialogues imposed a difficulty that we had to face through the gestures in the performances, the choice of actions, the rhythm of the structure of the script, the editing and the sensations provided by the music. 

You co-wrote Bestia with Martín Erazo, how was this experience and how important is this kind of collaboration when working on an animated short like this one?


With Martin we wrote the first version of the script, it was something very positive, because we gave it a certain base structure, and in general we were very much in agreement in that process. That base allowed me in the following versions to create with more freedom and add mental, dreamlike and surreal components typical of a psychological thriller.

Do you give yourself a lot of flexibility with the script or do you like to stick to what you have written?


I'm quite flexible to modify things. In Bestia I modified a lot of things right up to the last minute. I believe in taking the stories organically, feeling what's going on, and if you need to make certain twists, you need to do that.

 

Do you think filmmakers and animators could continue to push the boundaries of the films or stories they want to tell?


I think it's hard for there to be clear boundaries for storytelling. You can always find a different way to approach them. The important thing is to try to do it in a meaningful way.

Have you always been passionate about animation?


Since I was a child I was always interested in knowing how animation was done with such fluidity, I considered it as magic, and then when I discovered it professionally in 2005, I found that it was a technique that brought together all the things I like, cameras, lights, sculpture, painting, miniatures. And since then I haven't stopped doing animation and I find more and more sense in it and I'm more and more passionate about it.

Finally, do you have any advice you would give to someone who wants to get into animation?


I think it is very important to create with honesty and truth, try to speak from yourself, regardless of whether you are talking about someone else. It's important to tinge the stories we tell with one's own experiences, so there is a credibility that will reach people more effectively. And if there are not enough associated experiences, research and observation are paramount. Regardless of the animation technique, it is important to take advantage of the magic it gives us.