Sundance short ‘Hedgehog’s Home’ spins a timeless fable
Among the torrent of feature-length premieres and competition entries at the Sundance Film Festival each year, the shorts often get lost in the melee. And that is unfortunate — there are some gems hidden there. One of the standouts from this year’s animation category is the stunning 9-minute narrative “Hedgehog’s Home,” directed by Eva Cvijanović.
The painstakingly crafted characters inhabit a magical world of needle-felted wool where they spin a timeless Croatian fable. The story is one that Cvijanović loved when she was growing up in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and that took on new meaning when a brutal ethnic war forced her family to immigrate to Canada.
“I had a happy childhood until the conflict broke out in 1992. We were completely in it, we didn’t have school, we didn’t have electricity for months,” she remembers.
Her family’s struggle was intensified because of her parents’ mixed heritage.
“My mom married a person from a different background so there was a lot of animosity toward us,” she said.
Cvijanović, her mom and sister were forced to leave the city without her father, but even after escaping Sarajevo to live in her mother’s tiny village, they experienced discrimination.
“It was difficult being an unwanted refugee in a place my mom was from,” she said.
In 1996 the family was reunited and moved to Montreal, but the warm, fuzzy tale of her home in the Balkans was still brewing in Cvijanović’s imagination and helped to motivate her toward a career in filmmaking.
The opportunity to finally bring her characters to life came about after earning spot in a program for young filmmakers offered by the National Film Board of Canada. Based on a one-minute submission, the NFB signed on to produce Hedgehog’s Home.
However, Cvijanović says she still had a number of hurdles to surmount. Her 2-D animation skills were affirmed, but her vision for Hedgehog required elaborate 3-D stop-motion expertise. For that, she turned to Bonobo Studios, based in Zagreb, Croatia.
Working with Bonobo’s animators also gave Cvijanović another chance to go home.
Working in Zagreb was more affordable, plus “from the start I wanted to include that region in the making of the film. I still have family there, and it was nice to be there with them.”
The entire process, from building the sets and puppets to orchestrating the minute motions of each character, took a full year, she said. Along the way, she and the team devised ways to create the seamless illusion of live action.
Thanks to their commitment to perfection, down to subtle facial expressions, blowing fur and a race through the woods to Hedgehog’s home, Cvijanović ensures that a beloved part of Croatia’s pre-war culture — and a sweet reminder about the importance having a sense of home — will be accessible to future generations.
Prior to Sundance, “Hedgehog’s Home” won a special recognition award at the Berlin International Film Festival. Cvijanović said she is hoping the film will be released to the public soon.
For more information and a peek at the film go to: https://vimeo.com/246865828.
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