The Court Métrage returned to Cannes for the festival’s 66th edition, attracting an array of budding filmmaking talent specialising in short-form cinema. The highlight of the Cinéfondation Selection, which this year was presided by Jane Campion, was Ana Caro’s The Magnificent Lion Boy.
One of only 18 films selected for competition out of 1,550 entries submitted by 277 film schools all over the world – and the only British entry in the selection – this wonderful 10-minute animation tells the story of anthropologist Leonard Orlov (voiced by Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville), who chances upon the eponymous Lion Boy on an expedition to Africa. Orlov decides to bring the vulnerable feral child back to Victorian London with the view to civilising him. Not long after arriving home, however, Orlov encounters freak show host Umberto (Academy Award winner Andy Serkis), who attempts to exploit Lion Boy for his own sinister gains.
A recent graduate of the National Film and Television School, director Ana Caro painstakingly hand-drew every frame with charcoal, before animating each shot on paper then rubbing out part of the image and re-drawing to create a sense of movement. It was a time-consuming and challenging production process, culminating in some 7000 images, but the hard work paid off in a big way.
Along with writer Jonathan Carr and producer James Cotton – who built up a working relationship with Andy Serkis while working as a driver on the 2010 film Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – Caro has created a magical, beautifully rendered animated fable that is a glowing endorsement of the rich and varied talent that is emerging in the UK today.
And Cannes could prove an invaluable stepping-stone for Caro, as it has previously for female British filmmakers such as We Need To Talk About Kevin director Lynne Ramsay, whose BAFTA-winning short film Swimmer screened in the Directors' Fortnight sidebar, and who this year has also been honoured with a place on the Palme d'Or jury.
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