Tekst (smal)

Venice 2023: Wander to Wonder

Orrizonti Corti

It’s kids’ telly, but not as you know it. Nina Gantz talks to SEE NL about her anarchic and satisfyingly subversive new short film, selected for Venice (Orizzonti Corti section).

still: Wander to Wonder

In Nina Gantz’s short animation Wander to Wonder, Uncle Gilly is the kindly and genial host who engages with puppets Mary, Billybud and Fumbleton in a popular kids' series, also called ‘Wander to Wonder’. Gilly explains to them the wonders of the real world, using everyday objects, such as a bar of soap.

But all is not well in telly world. When Gilly dies (we know this because we can see the soles of his shoes as he lies prostrate, and big fat flies continually buzz around), Mary, Billybud and Fumbleton are not sure what to do. But they decide to continue broadcasting to their young audience, inadvertently revealing more about themselves than may be wise.

Fumbleton is revealed as a frustrated thespian who struts and frets in Shakespearean garb, his genitalia on display, and we see how Mary’s fears lead to her physical abuse of a naïve and reckless Billybud. Eventually she is forced to send out increasingly desperate appeals for aid as their plight steadily worsens…

Dutch director Nina Gantz is somewhat of an authority on Dutch kids TV, but even more so on British television, which is why Wander to Wonder has a very British feel to it. Uncle Gilly bears a passing resemblance to television stalwart Harry Corbett who created the famed Sooty and Sweep, and the studio set could easily have housed ‘Rainbow’, the series all UK kids from a certain generation grew up with. What’s more, Fumbleton is played by British acting luminary Toby Jones, while Gantz herself lives in Brighton, having moved away from London (as many Brits do, eventually).

The film also reflects the disturbing underbelly of UK television over past decades, as evidenced by a series of horrendous scandals involving previously trusted and much-loved personalities.

I started with the film eight years ago, but I started it from quite a different place from where I ended up, because you grow as a maker as well in-between,” comments Gantz of her journey on the film. “It started from nostalgia, watching those kids TV shows with a friendly uncle and all that innocence. Then later on, especially living in England, finding out that some of that world had quite a grim background. That stuff made me look at my childhood and at these innocent childhood TV shows quite differently…harsh reality kicked in. There was a real juxtaposition.

Furthermore Gantz draws parallels between the film and aspects of her own life over the eight years she spent making it, a period during which she helped to look after her dying father-in-law. “The characters are dealing with the loss of their creator, a kind of father figure, but they keep on going with the thing that they know best what to do, and that is making, let's say, art,” she says. “I was going a bit mad. I had to rewrite and rewrite, but I kept clinging on to this thing and I knew what to do.

The film has more than a touch of Alex van Warmerdam, the acclaimed Dutch auteur whose films play out within the disjointed world of his cavalier, dangerous and audacious imagination.

Gantz is also an avowed fan of Jan Svankmajer, the Czech animator whose cinematic aesthetic is also evident within the film. “The mix of techniques and the mix of materials he uses, and his absurd style, attracts me massively. When I first saw his work, I realized that animation is not just for kids. It is actually very right for me,” Gantz ends.

Wander to Wonder is directed by Nina Gantz and written by Daan Bakker, Nina Gantz, Simon Cartwright and Stienette Bosklopper. The film is produced by Circe Films and Kaap Holland Film and supported by the Netherlands Film Fund. International sales are handled by Miyu Distribution

Interview by Nick Cunningham

Director: Nina Gantz
Festival: Venice