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Femme Filmmakers Festival Interview: Kati Egely Brings the Beauty of Nature to Animation Film

Kati Egely’s second short film in competition at the Femme Filmmakers Festival, Alegría / Euphoria, tickles the senses from the outset. An owl hoots, the foot-tapping music drifts in, a lavish array of water colors are in motion. Various, vibrant images images blend between the next seamlessly.

The kinetic style of the short piece, is very reminiscent of Egely’s Land Without Evil, the filmmaker clearly has a fluent process. There is so much rhythm in Alegría, a couple dance the tango, a lion roars, eyes turns to blue sky. The Hungarian Egely is telling us one thing, if anything at all, that we are beasts, we are nature.

I was determined to get inside the creative mind of the talented animator, so interrupted her free time in Peru, to pick her brains.

Kati Egely

Robin: Firstly congratulations on Alegría and Land Without Evil. Both have been highly praised.

Kati: Thank you.

Robin: So, Alegría / Euphoria. Did you paint or draw the images yourself? How is it animated?

Kati: Yes, I do. It took four months.

Robin: Wow.

Kati EgelyKati: I painted it, just on the cheapest print paper. And it was the first time I used watercolor. Usually I prefer to try something new with all of my projects. I try to not repeat myself, and in this way it is more exciting for me too.

Robin: Yeah. Land Without Evil has a very similar flow, but very different materials. Tell us about some of the material used in that extraordinary film. Grain? Paper? Wool? I mean, how did you create that fire effect?

Kati: It was made mostly of paper that I painted, but the fire was cotton wool. I wanted to use some different textures to make it more 3D. And the table I made for it from glass, was extraordinarily small, as that time I had a small room. So sometimes papers were so small, that I couldn’t even move them with my hand, but with a pencil. I also used wire inside of the paper in some elements, to move them – like the bird at the beginning with the flower.

Robin: Do you have any behind the scenes stuff for Land Without Evil?

Kati: I am so sorry that I didn’t take pictures when I was making it. I had some on my old phone, but I have them now in Hungary. I was so tired when I finished it, that I just wanted to clean my room.

Robin: I’m not surprised. So Alegría, how do you design such a film? And how close is the finished product to what you saw in your creative mind?

Kati: It’s pretty close.

Robin: That must feel great.

Kati: This was the first time in my life when I did think about the message, and how I wanted to tell it, before I started the animation. So yes, it’s still flexible what people get from it, but everything that they have told me about it, was something I did want to express. And yes, that feels great. So I definitely learned that it’s better to take some time for the preparation. Just usually, I have to work in a hurry, and it always makes the results worse.

Robin: How do you capture such authentic movements, like the dancing, or animals walking, water glistening?

Kati: Usually I imagine everything closing my eyes, and I am counting the seconds, and counting how many pictures I have to make for the rhythm and timing I want to reach. Timing is really important, since I always work with music. Of course, music also inspires me a lot. In the case of the tango dance, I had to use some extra help. I dance tango, so I know how it feels. So it is not because it is an Argentinian music video, but because I have a strong connection with tango myself. It was important for so many scenes about isolation and loneliness. I found a video that I really liked, and I used it as reference, but not as rotoscoping.

Robin: And the music. How did that come about? How did you acquire the music for both films?

Kati: I lived in Buenos Aires for more than a year. A friend of mine showed me Tonolec, and I liked them, so I wrote to them, sending my portfolio. Later, when they become more famous, they offered me the project. The same with Pedro (Chancha vía Circuito), except that I was listening to his music already before I moved to South America. That’s 5 years ago now. So I waited a lot for this project, and I am still a huge fan of his music.

Robin: So you made the films with the music in mind?

Kati: Yes. Pedro sent me the entire album, and I could choose the song I wanted. In the case of Land Without Evil, I couldn’t choose the song, but of course, I had it before I started to work. And when I met them in Buenos Aires, Diego from Tonolec told me a bit about Guaraní culture, and the background of that song. I just made a new one for him, but for another music band called Nación Ekeko.

Robin: The Tonolec song has popped in and out of my head for weeks now. Love it. And will likely check out other stuff they have done.

Kati: They usually mix traditional music with electronic. This album was an exception, made with/for children. This is the new one:

I had just 4 weeks for this work. It’s about Andean worldview.

Robin: You appear to be heavily influenced by nature, people and animals, the beauty in the world. What makes you want to explore these themes? And also, what personal experience do you have embracing these landscapes you create?

Kati: This is what my life is about; travelling between nature and cities. I lived in a small village as a child, next to Budapest, but just a few minutes from the forest. A really beautiful one. And my grandparents used to live by a river, so as a kid I had a really strong connection with nature. My parents never would let me to watch television, but send me outside to play. Then when I was 16, I moved to the capital, because I started to study in a special art institute (leather design). I didn’t even realize, but slowly I had less and less connection with nature, and more frustration because of the “city life”. Which seems ridiculous, because Budapest is not a big city. Later I started to learn Spanish, because of a dream I had, and decided to go to South America. That was the first time in my life when I saw mountains. And many other things. I kind of thought that existed just in National Geographic. That was a huge step. I could never imagine how strong and alive and wild nature can be.

Kati EgelyI was always traveling alone. This was the best way to meet people and new places. And now, when I spend too much time in Europe, I always feel a really strong connection that the people have here with nature. I believe it’s the best way to discover ourselves. Just to feel that we are part of this beauty, which sometimes is really scary. I just spent 3 weeks in the Amazonian rainforest. And at night, it was crazy how many different kinds of animals you could hear – but not see. So I think that all of that people who spend their entire lives in big cities, with no connection to nature, may be not able to find the kind of answers that are given by just watching the ocean or huge mountains. Or just a tree.

Robin: Absolutely. I mean, both films are terrific. I mean that. A true sense of being there. Great achievements. I found Land Without Evil liberating, almost moving.

Kati: Thank you. When I made Land without Evil, I also wanted to make a memory of the landscapes I have seen. For the sets, I used some pictures I took.

Robin: It feels like you have seen those places.

Kati: And the craziest thing, is that at the time I didn’t know the rainforest, but now I know it is how I imagined it.

Robin: That’s awesome.

Kati: I think we all saw those places. This is just what I realized. All of those landcapes are inside of us. It may sound stupid, but this is the unity, the feeling that can liberate us, and what I wanted to express with Alegría.

Robin: Nah, its not stupid. Your certainly connect with audiences.

Kati: And it’s not necessary to take Ayahuasca or San Pedro or whatever, just let come those places in. When I saw the Titicaca lake from the Isla de Sol (sun isle) it was one of the most ecstatic moment of my life and I clearly remember I though: I wish everybody could see this once in life! so I made that picture from my mind to the first and last scene of Land without Evil

Robin: Right! Wow

Kati: Maybe this is why artists create, to share (nice) things.

Robin: You know, I could talk to you for hours about this stuff. Thank you for sparing your time to talk with me.

Kati: It always make me really happy when I feel I could give something. Thank you.

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