Animation director Ami Lindholm’s The Irresistible Smile was first released in 2006 and now finds itself on the programme of the In Short, Europe ESCAPE short film festival. Ami spoke to us about the film and international collaboration in animation.
The Irresistible Smile was first released in 2006. What’s it like to revisit the work now?
The Irresistible Smile was the first piece of practical work I created while studying at Turku Arts Academy. The process involved a great deal of learning, I got my first experiences of animation, editing, directing and storyboarding. It’s nice to see that the film’s humour and storytelling have remained topical. Animation films are, after all, designed to be timeless. The Irresistible Smile is also coincidentally topical during this time when people can’t fly.
Could you tell us about the thought process underlying the work?
I set the film in an airplane as it provides a fun, enclosed environment within which to situate different characters with varying needs. The protagonist is a flight attendant who manages to retain a smile while serving increasingly unruly passengers. Thematically, the work deals with what happens when you don’t express your feelings or make clear where the boundaries lie.
The theme of this edition of In Short, Europe is escape. How does The Irresistible Smile relate to the theme?
At one level, the passengers are escaping the ennui of everyday life through flight and travel. Inside the plane on the other hand, the passengers are avoiding encountering one another. The film’s protagonist, the flight attendant, is avoiding a sincere emotional response by smiling and serving the passengers without challenging their bad behaviour. The flight attendant’s smile serves as a sort of disguise.
The festival brings together films and filmmakers from across Europe. How does Finnish animation fit within a broader international context?
The Finnish animation industry is international by nature and highly reliant on European cooperation. The Irresistible Smile has had screenings across Europe. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to the British animation industry post-Brexit as it’s historically such a significant place for animation. There’s a lot of cross-European collaboration ranging from production projects to festivals. I miss festivals and events and the experience of showing up somewhere entirely new and within the course of an evening you can find yourself in a new group of like-minded individuals. I’ve been thinking about how we can maintain that feeling in a safe and environmentally friendly way.
How has your practice developed since The Irresistible Smile?
I’ve had the opportunity to get involved with a range of projects. I’ve made more short films, animations for documentaries and I’ve directed episodes of Rovio’s Angry Birds Stella series. My latest short film Mother and Milk deals with the emotional landscape of parenthood. The Irresistible Smile is also an exploration of emotions and their uses. It’s fun to notice that there are a lot of similarities between the two films.
What are you working on now and what do your plans for the future look like?
Recently, I’ve focused on making parents laugh. I want to rethink the language of motherhood, how we talk about and represent motherhood and parenthood. I’m weary of depictions that exaggerate happiness and paint a picture where everything is rosy. I want to introduce a register that foregrounds empathy and support, which allows for mothers to be tired. I’ve addressed these preoccupations in Mother and Milk, Vauvakirja -series, and in the Oodi’s Mothers exhibition organised last August at the The Helsinki Central Library Oodi. I want to explore these themes further across comics, animation or mediaworks.
Explore In Short, Europe ESCAPE by clicking here (films only viewable in UK). Ami will be participating in a panel discussion on Nov 2nd at 7pm (GMT), register by clicking here. Find out more about Ami’s work on her website, here.
Image: Heli Blåfeld, Text: Volter Rechardt