This week, Daniel Sousa (2008 Film/Video) premieres his Creative Capital-supported project, Feral, in the Shorts Competition at the Sundance Film Festival, with screenings on January 19, 21, 22, 23 and 26 (full screening details). The 13-minute animated film tells the story of a wild boy found in the woods by a solitary hunter and brought back to civilization. Alienated by a strange new environment, the boy tries to adapt by using the same strategies that kept him safe in the forest.
The structure of Sousa’s film is associative, abstract and poetic; the animation includes 2-D, graphically animated characters and hand-painted frames. I talked with Sousa to learn more about his approach to storytelling and his animation process:
Jenny: What is your approach to storytelling? How did this story about a wild boy struggling to adapt to society develop?
Daniel: I have always been interested in the duality that seems to exist between our intellectual and our physical selves, between our thoughts and our urges. I explored that literally in my film Minotaur (1998), about a half-man, half-animal creature. And to a certain extent, that struggle between conflicting instincts is also present in Fable (2005), where two people are trying to find each other, but are stuck in a cycle of love and hate. With Feral, I wanted to ask what it is that defines us as human beings and separates us from the other animals. If we were raised without the benefit of human contact, culture and education, would we still behave like humans? Or are we more like mirrors that reflect whatever environment we are exposed to? Does a child raised by wolves become a wolf too?
As I started to research the idea, I found that in almost every documented historical account of feral children, if the child is re-introduced into society after a critical formative period has elapsed—during which language and other cognitive skills are acquired—he or she is never quite able to adapt to the new environment. They are stuck between two worlds—not quite human, and not quite animal. I thought this state of limbo was both heartbreaking and impossible to illustrate without resorting to a poetic medium like animation, where the internal lives of characters can be externalized through visual metaphors. Continue reading