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Some people are different. All that they wish is to be like to the others, deliciously mixing among the crowd. There are people spending the rest of their lives fighting to achieve this, denying or hiding their differences. Some others assume it and raise up themselves, getting their place close to the others, in their hearts. Terri Dentry spoke to Regina Pessoa, the rising star of Portugese animation, about her film “Historia Tragica com Final Feliz” which captures this moment, at the 29th Festival Internacional de Cinema de Animacao, CINANIMA, in the beautiful town of Espinho in Portugal.
Header images: Regina Pessoa: Tragic Story with a Happy Ending, NFB . 2005 . 7min 40sec
Original publication: Design Graphics: DG Magazine 2005
Republished with permission
Jose Mota states in his address to the CINANIMA audience “Almost thirty years old, CINANIMA is, in the Portuguese cultural scene, the instrument that achieved a true democratisation of the animated cinema. Hesitating, at first, with a scarce and sceptical audience, CINANIMA, however, and due to the merit of its organizers and collaborators, it has managed to achieve its own place, becoming quite justly a true reference in Portugal and abroad”.

At the competitive screenings of the 29th CINANIMA festival, held in November 2005 in the purpose built festival theatres in the small fishing town of Espinho, it was a small black and white film by one of their own, Regina Pessoa, which captured everyone’s hearts.

Regina studied Fine Art at the Oporto University of Fine Arts in Portugal but found the art form too expensive to continue as a classical artist. So in 1992 when she was invited to join the Filmógrafo studio with Abi Feijo she was both excited and hesitant that her lack of education in the form of animation would hinder their film projects. Abi, however, saw a great deal of promise in Regina’s paintings and helped her to nurture her animation style.

Regina explains “I was searching for some work to help me pay for my studies when I met some people from an animation studio. They were starting a film and they needed people to work on it and so they saw my drawings and I stayed”.

At the beginning Regina worked on studio films, but realizing that her work could be nurtured to become something special Abi organized a workshop that took in 12 students - six Portuguese and six French. Regina says “The workshop had the duration of nine months and it was very intense because it was eight hours a day every day. Abi organised other people to come each week we had a new teacher and we had people from around the world. We had people come from several different areas of animation for each specialist effect that we were working on. From this workshop I realised that it’s possible, that its available, and that’s how I made my first film.”

Regina’s first film “A Noite”, an engraving in plaster plates, is both poetic and precise. With “A Noite” playing at several film festivals throughout Europe, Regina started to plan her next project. As a delegate to Annecy in France in 2001 she applied for a project grant but heard nothing for several months “…so I forgot about it and some months later I received a phone call in French saying congratulations your project has been awarded and you should come to Paris to receive the prize and so it was heaven for me and in the same day I went home and I was checking my mail and I had a second message of congratulations for an award for my film from ACTE the TV channel also in France. I went to the festival to receive the award and I was very happy, and I listened for my name again and there was a third award. It was from a commission that gives money to support so all of these awards attract attention from studios, the Commission Technic. So this was my lucky day”

The French awards, together with a successful grant from Portugal, and a generous co-production support grant from the National Film Board of Canada, meant that Regina could work on her ambitious film with project teams in three countries.

Her film “Historia Tragica Com Final Feliz” is about a girl who’s heart speaks louder and faster then other peoples. Because of this, the people in the village where they live complain that the heart is too strong, too loud. The little girl explains “it’s not my fault because I’m a bird that’s why my heart is like this”, but they just say “oh she’s crazy”. Little by little they get used to this noise of the beating heart so much so that they don’t realize but they incorporate this rhythm in their lives, so they start living in the rhythm of this noise. But one day the girl leaves the village and at that moment they realize that they need this rhythm and when she leaves something is missing.

Tragic Story works with stark hard black lines but takes on a soft story that touches the heart. Regina explains “in Portugal maybe we work with the shadows very much, with what light and play within light and shadow and I think maybe this is one of the Portuguese characteristics.”

Working with teams in three different countries meant this film, which was three years in the making, took a little longer than most to put together. Regina worked with two other animators in Portugal to storyboard the idea. She then travelled to Canada and worked with two more animators to prepare the linocuts for the artwork and the film and then went back to Portugal for editing utilising a team of three. When the editing was finished Regina went to France to make the engraving, which required a team of six.

Regina explained to me the personal story behind her film “.. because I lived in a village until I was 17 and my family was not very well accepted in the village. My mother was schizophenic, she looked just like everyone else, but she was different. So I know how it feels to be different to a small community and I think this is why this film was so important to me.”

Terri Dentry is an independent film journalist, animation producer, and the Director of thinkRED film & media in Melbourne, Australia.

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Regina Pessoa (Portugal): Tragic Story with a Happy Ending
Tragic Story with a Happy Ending 2005:
Regina Pessoa
Tragic Story with a Happy Ending 2005
Tragic Story with a Happy Ending 2005
Tragic Story with a Happy Ending 2005
Tragic Story with a Happy Ending 2005