Local animator spices up Calgary film festival

By Alex Brown

A voice begins its wordless song and a faceless figure dances across the screen. After five minutes of figures moving to the heartbeat of this ethereal rhythm, a sun sets, leaving behind a wash of fading colour. Viewers are left with the sense that they have reached the beginning. This is precisely what animator Wayne Traudt intends.

Body Rhythm, Traudt’s fifth animated short film, is an abstract representation of the human life cycle.

"The whole thing takes place inside a female womb," says Traudt of the film. "The characters dancing are the potentials for life."

As the motion of these figures progresses, one potential individual grows, taking on a more definite shape. The cycle continues, with the final sunset portraying neither death nor birth, but instead "energy dissipating, going back into the universe to become another life afterwards. [The] continuation of that cycle," says the award-winning filmmaker.

"Imagine an ocean as being this life force," explains Traudt. "When a new life starts it’s like taking a glass, a cup of energy, and then when a life cycle is over, it’s like pouring that cup back into the ocean."

This philosophy of continuing cyclical evolution applies not only to Body Rhythm, but to the entire process of creating such a film.

Motion is the life force Traudt taps to create his art. Although initially educated as a graphic designer, he says, "any linear quality that related to the body was just intuitively interesting."

The local filmmaker’s words become electrified with enthusiasm when he speaks about motion of any form. This fascination led him to animation and making films centered on human mobility. As an Alberta College of Art and Design animation instructor, he tells his students to go to the mall and watch people move.

"No one has the same walk," says Traudt. "It’s as different as a fingerprint. Everyone, their timing, the way that their foot hits, the way their body arcs."

Drawing inspiration from this pool of movement, Traudt creates still images, the art that begins the Body Rhythm life cycle.

"I’m interested in gesture and spontaneity," says Traudt. "I always draw with pen or ink brushes so I don’t get a line that I can change. I don’t go back in and do a rendering."

Even Traudt’s still images seem to move, and it is these into which he breathes life, turning potential momentum into motion sequences. The drawings are mated with music, further evolving their graceful action. In the case of Body Rhythm, this music is the song "Tracery" composed by Michael Brook. It features vocal exercises that traditional Quwwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan used to warm up his voice.

The film reaches perhaps the most advanced stage of its life cycle as it is completed and released to the public whose movement inspired it. Body Rhythm is now premiering around the world, including a showing at the first Calgary International Film Festival.

Though his film is complete, the life cycle and evolution processes never end for Traudt.

"I have other ideas left over from [Body Rhythm] that I’d like to do in another film," says Traudt. "It goes on and on and on."

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