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Brazil celebrates Len Lye

Brazil celebrates Len Lye


New Zealand film-maker Len Lye has been hailed in Brazil as “a virtuoso and master of animation, who continues to be a source of inspiration for countless film-makers.”

A retrospective of Lye’s work was a highlight of this year’s Anima Mundi animation film festival held in July in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Animated films are very popular in Latin America and this is the largest festival of its kind in the Americas, selling more than 100,000 cinema tickets annually.

Having decided to showcase Len Lye as its historical figure this year, the Festival invited Roger and Shirley Horrocks to the two cities to present programmes of Lye’s films with prints supplied by the NZ Film Archive. They also screened their award-winning Len Lye documentaries Flip and Two Twisters and Art that Moves.

For the Brazil trip, Roger and Shirley took two weeks off from their work on Len Lye the opera, which will open on September 5th at the Maidment Theatre in Auckland. Roger is the author of the libretto and Shirley is creating moving images for this multimedia production.

At the festival they were amazed to observe the level of interest in Lye. “He is certainly a film-makers’ film-maker,” remarked Roger. “There were animators from many countries at the festival who said they valued Lye as a role model or a source of ideas and techniques.”

A building next to the cinemas offered free workshops in which young people could learn the techniques of animation, including “painting on film in the style of Len Lye”. Shirley observed that “The festival coincided with school holidays and the building was always jam-packed with families and excited kids. Animation appeals to all ages in Brazil.”

During question time at the Lye screenings there was much interest in the fact that Lye had bequeathed his collection of work to the people of New Zealand. The Brazilians were also intrigued to hear about the Lye opera in Auckland and about the special Lye Museum planned for New Plymouth.

When Anima Mundi made its major awards, a special prize was presented to Roger Horrocks by Marcos Magalhaes, one of the Directors of the festival, who said: “We are great admirers both of the artistic genius of Len Lye and of your brilliant efforts to keep alive and enhance his life work and artistic inheritance.” Roger received the festival’s ingenious trophy, a kinetic (animated) figure.

Shirley Horrocks also received recognition at the awards ceremony as “one of New Zealand’s leading producers and directors of documentaries about the arts” including “an essential documentary about Lye”.

Magalhaes, a noted Brazilian animator, said his film Two had been sparked off by Lye’s Free Radicals.

This year’s Anima Mundi festival screened 450 films from many countries, about a quarter of those submitted. Roger and Shirley were impressed by the scope of the festival in covering all aspects of animation, from large commercial feature-films by studios such as Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, and Aardman, to more personal artistic projects (which was Lye’s chosen tradition).

Roger summed up the festival saying: “It was amazing to see by how much variety and continued experimentation is happening in animation. We just wish Len Lye could have been there to share the enthusiasm for his films. He once said with a laugh ‘I think my work is going to be pretty good for the 21st century,’ and the growth in international interest in his art shows that Lye’s prediction was spot on.”

LEN LYE the opera will premier at the Maidment Theatre, Auckland from 5-8 September. Tickets are available from the Maidment Theatre box office on 09 308 2383 or online at www.maidment.auckland.ac.nz.

The University of Auckland’s National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries comprises the Elam School of Fine Arts, School of Architecture and Planning, the Centre for Art Research (CAR), the School of Music and the Dance Studies Programme.

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