Jorge Villalobos, Carlos Hagerman Talk “Home Is Somewhere Else”

In Annecy, which promises to be incredibly busy, Brinca Animation Studio will premiere its animated feature film Home is Somewhere Else in the Contrechamp section of the French Animation Meet, its flagship sidebar.

Co-directed by Carlos Hagerman and Jorge Villalobos, the Mexican cartoon reflects on the lives of the many undocumented Hispanic immigrants arriving in the United States; less interested in simply naming the immense difficulties this poses for them, and more intent on carefully observing the emotional consequences this entails. Built around the voices of real characters and their families, the toon’s diverse styles become deeply intimate. Seen from the worldview of the protagonists, the film becomes a serious call for empathy in a country experiencing an unprecedented influx of immigrants.

A portrait of four different characters, presented by an astute narrator named “El Deportee”, voiced by José Eduardo Aguilar – whose true story is also told in the film – who oscillates between English and Spanish with playful lyricism, reflecting on both in form and text the elusive nature of the immigrant: living between worlds, never really accepted, always confined to an outsider status.

diversity interviewed Hagerman, Villalobos and Eduardo ahead of their feature film’s June 13 premiere in Annecy.

The film is divided into three chapters in which you use very different styles and animation techniques to portray the experiences and dreams of the characters. How was the processss in finthing any style?

Jorge Villalobos: It was a very organic process that started with meeting Jasmine, the protagonist of the first story. When we first interviewed her, she was 11 years old and a little nervous, so we started drawing with her. She drew her family, her house, her cats, and when we saw those drawings, everything fell into place. It was clear that it wasn’t just about hearing her voice, but seeing through her eyes. So her drawings went to the animation department and we had to redesign them and make them work for an animation film, but it’s all from her perception. Of course, every story was different.

Carlos Hagerman: A Tale of Two Sisters was a big question mark as to what the graphic style would be. And then I happened upon an exhibition by an incredible watercolourist, Aura Moreno Lagoons, who focused mostly on portraits of women. We immediately went looking for her and convinced her to work on the chapter because there’s a kind of naïve quality to her work that suits Evelyn and Elisa’s voices. And that’s what you’re looking for, that emotional quality in the graphic style or graphic response to the narrative that already speaks to you through the very real interviews and conversations.

Villalobos: In the last episode there is another development in style. We went from a very simple stroke of paint to a more complex, elaborate style through watercolors and we knew the third style had to be very different from the previous ones. There is a progression in the drama of the stories, hence a progression in the complexity of the animation

There are still very interesting narrative devices in the structure of the film entire Dialogue arises from interviews with real people. Could you comment on finding this narrative?

Hagerman: Taking all those long conversations and fitting them into 25 minute stories was a huge challenge. So we approached it like we did animation — having three different teams of animators. We also had three editors who worked independently. They fine-tuned the approach to the material while attempting to shape it into short films. The Tale of Two Sisters was particularly challenging as most of the audio was just conversations between them. So creating that clear and concise narrative between everyday phone calls took a lot of time and a lot of patience to find the key emotions.

The huge influx and diversity of ethnicity that has arrived in just a few decades is rapidly changing a nation’s demographics. As a second generation Spanish, How do you see these new North Americans who are deeply Hispanic?

Aguilar: It’s interesting that you mention generations because this topic is definitely not the same as it was when I was growing up in the ’90s, and it’s not the same of those growing up in the 2000s as those growing up now. Technology and the political climate have a lot to do with it. So it’s generational, but also regional. Growing up in a small white Mormon town, or in New York City, or in California is a very different experience for an undocumented person. When I was deported, I realized how different our life in the US was. Some of us couldn’t get a driver’s license, some couldn’t even go to school. But it’s not all sad either, a music scene is growing and there are new spaces for it, there is a growing identity among those who stayed.

What are your experiences after your deportation in Mexico?

Aguilar: I grew up among whites in a mostly white small Mormon town and was one of the very few Mexicans there. And yet, when I met Mexicans, they treated me like I was trying to be white, like I wasn’t one of them either. This generation or this identity created by the migration of our parents that took us there and also by the oppressive laws of the US that separate you in other ways. We’re kind of stuck over there in the US with this lack of mobility between our two spaces, our two countries. So you’re neither from there nor from here, we’re bicultural, but we’re not binational, we don’t have two nationalities. And when you’re deported, you live in a different shadow. I think Mexico still has a long way to go in terms of acknowledging that identity, understanding the reality of these people who are coming back. And that’s what I’m trying to do, either through poetry or film, to say, “We’re here.”

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Carlos Hagerman and Jorge Villalobos

https://variety.com/2022/film/global/annecy-contrechamp-home-is-somewhere-else-1235292211/ Jorge Villalobos, Carlos Hagerman Talk “Home Is Somewhere Else”

Charles Jones

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