Images of Loss and Beauty

Sofie Nørgaard Kampmark was living in Tokyo in 2011, when a cataclysmic tidal wave hit Japan, inspiring her to make her graduation film, the animated short Tsunami.

The film is about a man who is grieving and how he has to deal with his personal tragedy before he can get on with his life. The pace is slow, and I tried to create a melancholy visual language with poetic and bittersweet notes but also magical and surreal elements.

"The Animation Workshop is pretty much the most exciting fountain of coolness I can think of right now." – Tomm Moore, Oscar-nominated animation director

"The Animation Workshop is pretty much the most exciting fountain of coolness I can think of right now." – Tomm Moore, Oscar-nominated animation director

I was living in Tokyo in 2011, kicking off a six-month stay in a city I had long wanted to try living in. There I experienced the earthquake and the tsunami at close hand. I met a man who had lost much of his family but said that the sea had never been more beautiful than after the tsunami.

The Animation Workshop

The Animation Workshop in Viborg has been a source of world-class animation for over 25 years.

Here, students from all over the world are taught by professionals from Pixar, Aardman and DreamWorks. The students' films have been attracting wide attention in recent years at international animation festivals. In 2012, Slug Invasion, a comical short about a gang of murderous garden slugs waging war on an elderly lady, was selected for Cannes. The same year, the school was represented in Annecy by no less than three films, including the stop-motion short Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto, which later played at heaps of festivals.

The school had further reason to be proud when Tomm Moore's Song of the Sea was nominated for an Oscar this year. The Nørlum animation studio, headed by Animation Workshop alumnus Frederik Villumsen, animated about half of the film. There is certainly much to be happy about, Animation Workshop general director Morten Thorning says.

"Since the school was established in 1988, animation has grown from a niche art form into a key skill in the media world. The Animation Workshop has grown alongside the industry in Denmark, and our students today occupy important roles in the Danish and international animation worlds. Tracking that development has been, and remains, amazing," says Thorning, who has headed the school since its start in 1988.

Read more about this year's seven graduation films and the programmes available at the Animation Workshop's website.

The way that the Japanese coped with their grief was so impressive and beautiful. It was a huge eye-opener for me. A lot of Japanese culture is rooted in certain philosophical thoughts that have been a big inspiration to me ever since and that I'm working hard to incorporate into my own life.

For one, I have a tendency to worry a lot about the future. That often prevents me from enjoying things while they are going on. Now I'm trying to generally be more in the moments so that I experience them fully instead of documenting and maybe Instagramming them in an attempt to hold on. A picture is rarely as wonderful as being in the moment.

Sofie_kampmarkDirector Sofie Nørgaard Kampmark Photo: Jonathan Puntervold

I was impressed by how older Japanese people admired the cherry blossoms falling from the trees in contrast to the young people who were running around with their phones trying to get the best shot. There's no doubt in my mind who got the most out of that hanami, which means "looking at flowers" in Japanese.

For my film, I was very inspired by the Japanese director Yasujirô Ozu and his visual language with a lingering, low-placed camera that makes a lot of time for tiny nuances and room for reflection. I find his depiction of everyday life in Japan very poetic. I particularly love Late Autumn.

Hayao Miyazaki's play on the contrasts between the magical and the ordinary was also an inspiration. And the sublime portrayal of a grieving man in Tom Ford's A Single Man was highly influential. Colin Firth's character doesn't say much about what's going on inside of him, but the contrast to his surroundings and his interaction with the objects around him says it all. Based on all these different sources of inspiration, my team and I tried to create something new and different that will hopefully give the audience a stunning visual experience as well as food for thought.

Animation is a fantastic medium that gives you nearly unlimited possibilities for telling stories. The only limit is your imagination. Animated films can create worlds and atmospheres without parallel.

Tsunami_Still_01"Tsunami" Framegrab

I learned an awful lot from the Animation Workshop. Among the most important things, I should probably mention collaborating with others. It has been wild to see how much you can achieve when you put very different people with very different skill sets together and make it all hum.

The Animation Workshop also taught me to appreciate my own creativity more and take better care of it – not to take it for granted, and the importance of giving it the best conditions for thriving. And I have gained a much better understanding of what it takes to make a film really good. I appreciate good films a lot more now. They are so hard to do! 



If the right story and the right team come along, I would love to make more films. And I'm looking forward to the premiere of Tsunami at Cannes. I can't wait to see what the rest of the world thinks about it! 



Tsunami, Sofie Nørgaard Kampmark's graduation film from the Animation Workshop, has been selected for Cinéfondation, the Cannes Film Festival's student film competition.