A difficult age

Flóra Anna Buda on the challenges facing young adults, and making 27

by Jennie Kermode

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Although it’s also important as a platform for emerging talent and as a space in which to celebrate a different form of filmmaking, the Oscars short film selection tends to be dominated by the big issues of the day. This year there are several films about women’s rights, some about war, some about poverty in African American communities and some about the Holocaust. Flóra Anna Buda’s 27 is something rather different, exploring the rather more obscure but doubtless urgent issue of young people growing up during a housing crisis and finding it impossible to make a start on independent adult lives.

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“It was inspired by my own struggles,” said Flóra at a press conference a few days before the shortlist was announced. “As the title says, at 27, I was living with my parents, and I thought that I was a gigantic loser. So once I managed to move out, I got a little bit of perspective on this whole situation, and I could research why did this happen, and what aspects are interesting to me and to understand my own situation.

“After that, I just figured that actually, not only in Hungary, but in central Europe, almost 70% of the young adults are moving back to home after university. And then I went a bit further, and I also realised that it's a worldwide problem. And actually there are many young people who start their adult life way later.”

In the UK, 22.4% of families have an adult child in the household. In the US the figure is almost twice that. One of the subjects that Flóra takes on, in a playful and teasing way, is the frustration that he 27-year-old heroine feels about lacking sexual opportunity.

“The current government of Hungary kind of banned sexual education and the topic of sexuality from everywhere, from the media, from schools, from speech,” she says. “That really inspired me to speak about this topic, because, first of all, you really don't see you. It's erotic content told by a female person. I found it very important to show this point of view.”

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This erotic aspect was one of the reasons why she chose to use the style that she did, she reveals.

“I wanted to make something that looks like a painting. It's partly because I grew up in this very artistic environment, so there were a lot of painters and sculptors around me as a kid, so it's something that really inspired me without knowing about it, maybe. And it has something to do with the fact that I started to grow up quite late, and the opinion of my parents maybe stayed with me a little longer than usual. So I wanted to make something like this because I knew it was going to be very an explicit film. And I also knew that my parents will see it.” She laughs.

“It's not very easy to find a fine line between erotic and vulgar. And I didn't want to go vulgar, but I wanted to stay explicit in a way, meaning, I wanted to be direct. It's very important for me to talk about sexuality in a direct way, because it leaves less room different interpretations, which I think are many times the source of traumatic events. So I chose this very soft painting-like aesthetic to balance out the fact that it's an explicit movie. And I tried to play with the composition, so it's not directly in-your-face kind of explicit, and it can be still quite poetic at the same time.

“The production itself was a year and a half, and pre production was a year and a half. And so I started by myself to create visual aesthetics and the storyboard, the animation, all the layouts, all the backgrounds. And then we worked with an editor on the animation. And then I started working with animators, around six animators who were amazing, and they animated the layouts I gave to them.

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“In parallel, I started developing the colouring technique, which ended up super complicated. So we worked with a ton of colourists. If you watch the film, you can see that there are maybe 30 names in the colouring team. So there were flat colours, and then there was the texture team. And I'm so grateful for them because I think they did the hardest work. After that, I worked together with one compositor guy who did the compositions, and I also did part of the compositions. And then the sound designer, two musicians, and all the production people from France and Hungary.”

The film is now one of 15 in the running for Best Animated Short. On 23 January, Flóra will find out if it will progress further.

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