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Michael Dudok de Wit

“Michaël is a captain determined to reach the North Pole."

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Michaël Dudok de Wit's career is full of adventure: risk, resolution, rigour and a solid base of wisdom intrinsic to experience. This adventure has led him to achieve recognition from the film industry (at Annecy, the Oscars, the Baftas or even a Robert Bresson Prize), enjoying a reputation with an almost mythical aura among fans and even being recruited by the prestigious Studio Ghibli. Always ready for discovery, his nomadic spirit led him to leave his native Netherlands and move to Switzerland, where he learnt the basic techniques of visual creation. However, he soon understood that he lacked one thing: the inner journey and its expression, the art of narration. The young Michaël needed to tell his stories and found in animation the perfect summary of all his concerns: art, cinema, music and comics. Dudok continued to travel and accumulate experiences. In Spain in 1978 he worked for Jordi Amorós' studio, coming to terms with solitude, in the midst of La Rambla in Barcelona. In England, under the direction of Richard Purdum, he learnt that his talent goes beyond the Disney model while completing his first short, Tom Sweep (1992), a diversion in the form of cartoon that already planted the first seed of his new universe as a creator. Like the lead character of the short, a tireless street sweeper repeatedly collecting rubbish, Michaël established an almost mystical relationship with the idea of repetition and the cyclical. However, for Michaël, in contrast to what Sisyphus does, it is not a mere repetition of the eternal return but of doing something again to advance further in the spiral of a chosen destiny. He placed this idea at the metaphysical centre of Le moine et le poisson (1994), which the prestigious French studio Folimage promoted throughout the world. If the monk in Le moine et le poisson endlessly tries to catch the fish that from time to time jumps in front of his nose, the girl in Father & Daughter (2000) goes throughout her life to the mountain where she awaits the return of her father. With Father & Daughter Dudok achieved the unanimous recognition of neophytes (Oscar and Bafta for the Best Short Animation), experts (Grand Prix and Audience Award at the Annecy Festival) and industry (Cartoon d’Or at the Cartoon Forum).

 

Dudok has already made a large number of exquisite commercials that allowed him to triumph in the advertising industry, an unquestionable reputation as an animation teacher and three shorts that revealed a perfectionist animation artist and a filmmaker with a poetic and philosophical vocation. However, a long time before he was known, Michaël discovered himself as a filmmaker while seeing how Kurosawa in Seven Samurai concentrated on shooting the wind shaking tree leaves. An attraction for the Asian universe that became inseparable from his life and his work. He shaped his style by studying the illustrations of Japanese monks from the 17th century, the roadmap that took him to search for the profound through simplicity. A path that found its maximum refinement in The Aroma of Tea (2006), an abstract play of dots and lines based on tea brushstrokes. A short featuring a radical minimalism that he used as a response to the avalanche of offers that asked him to repeat the formula of the great success of Father & Daughter. From his studio in England, Michaël thus became the big master of Zen animation. Nevertheless, Dudok for many would soon be known as the Terrence Malik of animation. Indeed, in 2015 Michaël's career seems to run in parallel to that of the American filmmaker after Days of Heaven, a mythical creator that many believed had disappeared. At the time, Dudok arrived at the Annecy Festival to present some scenes of a work in progress and unveil to the world the surprise. “In 2006 I received an e-mail from Tokyo with a proposal to direct a film. The sender? The Studio Ghibli”. Michaël did not just announce his return but it was also at the request of Hayao Miyazaki and Iseo Takahata, who until then had never produced a foreign animator. This resulted in his first feature film, The Red Turtle (2016), a story as minimalist and transcendental as the most beautiful Japanese tale. An apt meeting between the universe of Dudok de Wit and the legendary Studio Ghibli, which has been warmly welcomed by festivals with reluctance to accept animation, such as the Cannes Festival (Special Jury Prize in the section Un certain regard). In short, perhaps Miyazaki's heir will be this nomadic wandering Dutch man. Alberto Lechuga.


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