Bob Spit – We Don’t Like People

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Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Bob Spit – We Don’t Like People
"Undoubtedly among the most impressive of this year’s animated works."

Having a character one has created become more famous than oneself is every serious artist’s dream, but it can easily turn into a nightmare. Bob Spit – or Bob Cuspe, to give him his original name – is one of the most iconic comic book characters in Brazil, a green-skinned punk who became so popular in his heyday that he is considered to be a key factor in the rise of comics as an adult art form in Brazil. Yet whilst his success cemented the fortunes of his creator, Angeli, who had emerged as a political cartoonist during the military dictatorship in the Seventies, it also resulted in intense demands from fans who kept wanting more. Angeli wanted to move on to other things. This placed him and Bob at odds.

Mixing documentary, fragments of past narrative and fresh fantasy, Cesar Cabral’s film, which is Brazil’s hope for Best Animated Feature at the 2022 Oscars, explores the conflict between the monster and his creator. Stop-motion animation used for both places them on an equal footing and illustrates the potential permeability of the border between their worlds. The voice of Milhem ‘Corn’ Cortaz, not for the first time, gives Bob gravitas without robbing him of his hard-earned unpleasantness or outsider status. Crawling off the pages of Chiclete Com Banana zine, he moves easily into three-dimensional form, and breaking into something more closely approximating the real world seems like a natural next step.

As Angeli discusses his work and his career history, we flit back and forth between his monologues and footage of Bob contending with a hostile post-apocalyptic landscape. Newcomers might initially think he is fighting children, but look more closely and you’ll see that those are miniature Elton Johns with sharp, pointy teeth – the essence of pop music trying to destroy punk. They are the first of many obstacles he will have to work around on a very strange journey to escape the world he knows, letting go of familiar logic and geometry to cross the imaginary boundary.

Fans of short film will notice similarities to The Making Of Longbird, which also deals with the struggle between artist and art, but this film is pointedly less elegant and in places goes out of its way to offend. The ways in which it does so seem rather tame today, but hark back to a time when that content was both considerably more edgy and an important form of resistance against the cultural order maintained by the military regime. Bob Spit won the Contrechamp prize at the Annecy Festival, the most coveted animation award in the world, and is considered a serious contender for the Oscars, but whether or not it will succeed may depend on the squeamishness of older Academy voters. In terms of pure skill (not to mention effort), it is undoubtedly among the most impressive of this year’s animated works. It’s also an intriguing reflection on Brazilian art history which, though it may not communicate as successfully to international audiences unaware of the wider context, makes an important contribution to the archives of cinema.

Reviewed on: 13 Dec 2021
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A Brazilian punk comic book legend comes into conflict with his creator.

Director: Cesar Cabral

Writer: Cesar Cabral

Starring: Milhem Cortaz

Year: 2021

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Brazil

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