Interview met Jonas Geirnaert

In 2004 heeft Jonas Geirnaert een korte animatiefilm op het publiek losgelaten, Flatlife. De film was onmiddellijk een succes, en won de prijs van de jury in Cannes. Hieronder kan je het interview terugvinden met Jonas voor vacuum! magazine uit 2004.
Sorry, interview in het Engels … 

Hello Jonas! I’m sure you run a very busy life, so first of all, thank you for the chance to ask you a few questions. Tell me, how does it feel to become famous all over Europe (and the USA too by now probably) in a matter of weeks?

Jonas: Err… I don’t really know what I feel right now. Of course I’m really happy with the prize and all, and happy for the reactions I got about that and my short speech on the Cannes stage. But then again, I was totally exhausted after two years of hard work that became ever more hectic towards the festival, and when some newspapers started writing things about me that were simply not true, I kinda lost all confidence in the media. Well, not all confidence, but it’s hard to know who you can trust or not. So I cancelled most of my interviews and I only make exceptions for students that make online magazines. 🙂

One of the weirdest experiences was that right now, people recognize me when I walk down the street. I was in a pub the other day, and a group of people asked me ‘Are you Jonas Geirnaert?’ and when I said yes, they started applauding. I was happy and embarrased at the same time.

You short-film ‘FlatLife’ was (is!) a real success, people from everywhere are begging to see it. Will it be released in some form soon?
Jonas: Yeah, I’m still dealing with that. You know, as a creative being, I want to bring my film to an audience as large as possible. It has nothing to do with money, but with my wish to make people laugh. This is why I contacted a short film distributor, “La Big Family” in Brussels. Currently we are negotiating about a cinema release in Belgium and maybe elsewhere. This is a quite tricky business: my film would be the ‘pre’-film of a feature film. But I have 3 demands that are absolutely obligatory for me to agree on: first of all, this feature film should be accessible for children, since my film is accessible to all audiences. Second, the feature film should be a good film. Some people have even warned me about feature film distributors that will want to abuse my short film to get some more audience to their less succesful movies.
And third: it should be released as soon as possible!

You’re studying at the KASK in Gent, right? Will you graduate successfully because of your nomination in Cannes, or do you still have to prove yourself in front of a jury?

Jonas: Actually I hope the jury will be objective in all ways. They should only watch the film and forget everything they know about me. And if they say the film isn’t good and I don’t get my graduation, then that’s okay to me. I don’t value the Cannes jury more than the jury at school. I’m so terrified that there will be any press at the jury in june, because that is the last thing I need to achieve objectivity.

How did your graduation project end up in Cannes and where you surprised to be nominated?
Jonas: I was very surprised it got nominated and even more surprised it won a prize. If you told me this a couple of months ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. How it ended up in Cannes is quite simple: I sent a video tape which wasn’t even a finished version of the film, and I filled in an online submission form, and that was it!
A month later, on april 19th I got the most amazing telephone call I ever got: I was selected for Cannes!

The style you have is rather odd (compared to other movies you see nowadays), and highly entertaining. What was the idea of the movie, before even making the first sketches?
Jonas: Now the idea was very very simple: the audience must laugh. If possible even with tears and a severe belly-ache. This was even before I had the first idea for FLATLIFE.
Actually, it was in february 2002 I got the idea. I was in 3rd year animation back then, and me and my classmates had to look for good ideas for an end-of-year film. Since I wanted to make something funny in the first place, i started thinking about other funny animated shorts, and it occured to me that some of the most hilarious ones handle with gravity and directions. This is mostly visual humour. And I started thinking what I could do to make a film as funny as possible, when I ended up with this idea of showing a cross-section of an apartment building. I thought this idea was so brilliant -in all modesty- that I decided to save it until next year, as a graduation film. But then the problem was: what will I make this year? Since it became clear to me – long before the traditional media realized it – that the USA was preparing for war against Iraq, and I decided to make “The All-American Alphabet“, a very political film against the US government, not against the US inhabitants.
As for my graphic style: it is quite simple. I don’t know how to draw all that well.

You’re also active in the comedy-club Lunatics. Can you tell us something about it?
Jonas: The Lunatics kick ass! We are a comedy club, based in Gent and Leuven, and we also have a team of improv comedy players. If you don’t know what that is: it’s something like ‘Onvoorziene omstandigheden‘ that was on Belgian TV a couple of years ago, or ‘Whose line is it anyway‘ that is very popular now in the United States and elsewhere.
We play in theatres and pubs and so on, and there is always a different team of players that step on the stage without any clue of what they are going to say or do, and this often ends up in hilarious scenes, or very emotional ones. When it works, it gives me an enormous kick. I really enjoy playing with the Lunatics, but the last few years I had little time for it. I hope this will change.

When you had to speech in Cannes, you couldn’t help talking about your best friend George Bush. Why the strong ideas about this person? (isn’t it obvious?)
Jonas: Well I’m not going to sum up every inhuman decision he has made since he was not elected last time, if you want to get depressed, visit and read all about it. Whenever I see him somewhere on TV he makes me feel terrible. Last week he was dishonouring the graves of all soldiers that died in France in WWII. You know, when you tick in “Bush” in Google, out of the 1st 10 hits, only 3 of them are pro-bush pages, all the rest is anti or making fun of him.
I’m not exaggerating, but Bush is the worst thing that happened to the world since Hitler. And it’s not because we don’t feel the consequences of his raving mad politics right here in Belgium that we never will. Also, that’s why some people underestimate the impact of what happened in Cannes. I knew for sure, even though I hadn’t seen ‘Fahrenheit 911′ yet, that Michael Moore’s film would have a HUGE impact in the States. So huge that it would cost Bush’s election. But in order to achieve this, his film had to be showed in the States before the elections, and rather as soon as possible. And this happened partially because he won the Palme d’Or in Cannes. But when I was awarded the Jury Prize for Short Film, I didn’t know yet if Moore would win or not, so I took the liberty of addressing the US citizens myself, because I knew some of them were watching live. I just said “In case Michael Moore doesn’t win, I want to ask: please, don’t vote Bush“. And then Tim Roth (director and actor, a.o. Planet of The Apes) came on stage to award the Camera d’Or and he said: “I want to congratulate that young man for his courage and also I totally agree: Don’t vote Bush“.
That felt good.

You met Michael Moore in Cannes. I think you both think alike on some theme’s? How is he ‘in real life’?
Jonas: Well it’s not like we spent an hour talking, just 5 minutes maybe. Anyway what amazed me: he looked terrible, happy and tired at the same time. I was very exhausted also after all that hectic stuff in Cannes, but Moore kept making jokes and smiling. That is just incredible. He’s exactly the same as you see him in Bowling For Columbine: it’s not a role he’s playing there. It’s Michael Moore. He said he was so delighted that I stood up and said ‘Don’t vote Bush’ because last time he was at a film award ceremony (at the Oscars), he was all alone in his protest.
His wife whispered in his ear “Thank god, we’re not alone!”

You’re working on a new movie already? Please, do tell us more …
Jonas: Woops, err… it’s a secret! You’ll hear about it soon I hope… maybe even by the time this interview hits the web.

You’re graduating this month (hopefully). What will you do after school? Looking for a job, or starting on your own, freelancing maybe? What does the near and not so near future look like for you?
Jonas: Same question as above… big secret! I can just tell you: I will have great fun, together with some other people. And it’s not the Oktoberfest in München.

That’s it I’m afraid. Thank you a lot for your time, and good luck with the rest of your carreer!
Thank you very much!


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