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Supinfocom Animation 'Je m'appelle Nathan' Provides a Compelling Look into Autism

01.21.13 @ 1:00PM Tags : , , ,

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.

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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:

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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’?

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  • This is an amazing 1:56 minutes. One can only have respect for the compelling message that evolves from these spare settings. Siward underlines the reputation of French animation. I believe, the 6 months of work that were needed, are well spend.

  • “Was the film a success for you or do you disagree with Siward and believe that filmmakers should always ‘write what they know’?”

    Jorge Luis Borges is a proof a writer don’t need to experience directly what he will express in his stories. As he used to demonstrated, a writer can write from his experience OR from logical inference.

    This great short is made not from experience, but from inference.

    In the mind we can simulate all things with honesty if our emotions are set in the right direction, i.e., compassion with the theme and subject. With that and with good research the simulations and inference guided by intuition can do the rest.

    but in the end, as Jorge Luis Borges used to say, the reader reads what he wants, the writer write what he can.
    :)

    • H.P.Lovecraft is another example how far a writer guided by intuition can go… in his letters there is precise descriptions of Paris that is amazing, it’s amazing mostly because Lovecraft never went to france. He used to say he went there by out of the body experiences (or maybe intuition + logical inference + fringe stuff) :D

      and of course, I doubt Lovecraft experienced direct contact with the entities he wrote about! :)

      • Well there is a number of writers that produce or have produced incredible work, without being there . . .

        Old Chatterhand and Winnetou is a remarkeable example of Karl Mays writing. The author is german and neve left his country. So he made it all up. We believed it!
        C.S Forrester wrote the Hornblower sage. Which was filmed partly. There was a film with Gregory Peg in the 60ties I believe and later a television series. Patrick O’Brian was inspirered and wrote his saga.

        So you need not to be there, to make a book, screenplay or whatever that is for real.

    • Hi guto novo, thank you for this nice comment !

      I really love yours sentences “In the mind we can simulate all things with honesty if our emotions are set in the right direction, i.e., compassion with the theme and subject. ” that’s nice vision.
      And ” the reader reads what he wants, the writer write what he can.” that’s right !!!

      Many people understand many different things in “My name is Nathan” it was really funny and interesting for me to heard or read all this different interpretations.

      One day, I read a website about an Imam who compare short “My name is Nathan” and the Coran ;)
      http://ymam.net/archives/2299

      • that’s the power of great art, Siward!
        if it moves the person, later the person will not resist to give some coherent meaning for those fellings.

        Art is magic when makes us remember that emotions are strong than reason, even with us always trying to prove the contrary! :D, it is even better when the art work makes the positive emotions of care, respect, bond, compassion, etc to grow in the readr/viewer/listener, etc, like your shining pearl did!

        and sorry my english mistakes!

  • Real human bean and the real hero

  • ThunderBolt on 01.21.13 @ 6:24PM

    Great Job!

  • DIYFilmSchool.net on 01.22.13 @ 10:00AM

    I have only limited experience with autism, and if this is metaphorically accurate, I have tremendous compassion for those who struggle with it.

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