Supinfocom Animation 'Je m'appelle Nathan' Provides a Compelling Look into Autism
By now it feels like a moot point to state that a good film has emerged from French animation school Supinfocom given their seemingly peerless record of producing student work which consistently tops animation festivals worldwide and racks up online viewing figures which most resemble a gaming leader board. Therefore please feel free to roll your eyes as I say that for his first Supinfocom animation Je m’appelle Nathan, Siward (aka Benoit Bertha) has created a beautifully touching observation of a young boy living with autism.
Since completing Je m’appelle Nathan, Siward regularly found himself fielding questions as to the nature of his personal relationship with someone suffering from autism that afforded him the perspective to authentically portray Nathan in the film. However, no such relationship existed, and Siward vehemently disagrees that sensitivity and truth can only come from direct personal experience. Instead, it was actually the constraints placed on the assignment to ensure that the workload was manageable — only a single ‘real’ character was allowed — which led him to devise Nathan and his interplay with the origami bird after early sketches led to a comment about autism from a former teacher which in turn inspired and led him to extensively research the condition.
It took Siward six months to complete Je m’appelle Nathan; the majority of work taking place in 3D Studio Max with the Mental Ray rendering engine optimized for film, dipping into Photoshop with the Filter Forge plugin for textures, Nuke for compositing, Avid for the edit, and Reaper for sound. The sparsity of props and single location required for the final film freed him up to spend more time on elements such as lighting and modelling — which were key to capturing Nathan’s vacant look.
This making of video shows the various production phases:
I’m rather taken with the way Siward develops the bird in Nathan’s head from an abstract concept which later ties into the rocking, coping behaviour associated with the condition. It’s an extremely elegant and efficient way to place us into the head-space of the troubled boy.
Was the film a success for you or do you disagree with Siward and believe that filmmakers should always ‘write what they know’?