Jean-Charles MBOTTI MALOLO
Jean-Charles received a writing grant for his next short film.
What is your artistic background?
I grew up trying to maintain two artistic practices that I have always considered complementary. I've been dancing since the end of the 90s, ever since I saw people moving around me, in fact. In a similar way, I started drawing very early on, it was one of the must-do activities when I was a child. Some people got bored quickly, while I spent a lot of time alone, in front of a sheet of paper or at a desk, trying to create some kind of crafted object. It is probably in that way that I developed a particular love for tasks that require patience and concentration. As I grew up, it made sense for me to take up an artistic profession. So I decided to enter a general course in high school. School wasn't really my strong point (I had great difficulty understanding how the institution worked) but I still managed to get a literary Baccalauréat in visual arts, which was the key to my going to a great drawing school. I joined Emile Cohl in 2003, after a year at university. And I started to really train in dance, at the same time, by meeting pioneers of Hip Hop culture. Animation and dance were the two practices that accompanied me everywhere, wherever I went. I graduated in 2007, thanks to a film that combined the two practices, The Heart is a Metronome. It won the prize for best first film at the Hiroshima Film Festival. Today I'm keeping my fingers crossed that one of my films will be selected again. The year after graduation, I joined the Hiphop Stylistik dance company as a performer, and stayed there for about 10 years. I also worked on the set design of a few dance pieces, before starting a first feature film production at La Fabrique, one of the oldest traditional animation studios in Europe. I drew sets there for several months and then continued to work with them for a while until the studio closed. My first film as a director in a professional setting was a commission for Arte's Karambolage. I completed it in 2010. At the same time, I joined the Folimage studio to develop the sets for a feature film, and I started writing a new short at the same time. Le Sens du Toucheris the first film I made as a writer and director, with traditional financing that involved the Arte channel and the CNC. It was well received by the public, was included in more than 60 festivals and won 22 international awards. In 2015, I directed a one-minute film for Folimage and La Grotte Chauvet, while preparing the short film that would follow. Make it Soulwas released in June 2018, with the aim of paying tribute to black American music, bringing Solomon Burke and James Brown back to life.
How do you see your profession today?
Animation is a very pleasing environment to work in. There is a certain slowness that I am passionate about, even if I find it frustrating at times. Making a short film, every four years, is not the most attractive work prospect but I like to narrate through drawing. The production process is long, of course, but anything is possible when you start with a blank sheet of paper. All the themes, graphics, shapes and formats are at hand. You quickly come back down to earth when you start thinking about a feature film, because you're quickly caught up by questions of budget, target and distribution. You have to know how to juggle these imperatives and find a balance that allows you to tell the stories that are important to you, while being aware of the issues related to the industry. Adult animation is still seen as a niche in which many fears crystallize. It's not easy to gather under these conditions, but I hope that a change can take place in the coming years, so that it finds legitimacy in the eyes of the general public and that it also finds its place within the profession. Cinema is broad and plural, it needs support in all its forms. Receiving two awards at the Saint-Jean-de-Luz Festival was an unexpected reward that gave me a lot of perspective. It is not only an essential support for us authors, but also a rigorous approach in which the festival allows animation cinema to exist on the same level as ‘traditional cinema’. I can’t thank Patrick Fabre enough, along with the jury presided over by Corinne Masiero and the young jury sponsored by Clémence Boisnard, for having put the spotlight on Make it Soul.
How do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years?
The writing grant awarded by the Porosus endowment fund will enable me to start writing a new film project again, in good conditions, it's very motivating. I am very grateful, these first steps are often difficult to take on their own, so this grant will play an essential role in the coming months. The story I am working on today is moving more towards a long format. I hope that I will be able to put these ideas into place quickly. Maybe something will emerge in the next five years, who knows? Actually, it's hard to answer that question. The first images that come to me are not really about work, to be honest, but rather about family life. Ten years is a long way off and yet very close at the same time. But there is no hurry. If I can't imagine myself at that point, I just hope to be able to continue to live from my passions in the years to come, while trying to give more space to rest, and to forming rewarding human relationships.
This interview was conducted in 2019
Photo credit: Amandine Besacier