João Gonzalez's “Ice Merchants” nominated for the Oscars

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Filipa Brito

For the first time ever, Portugal is to have an animated short film nominated for the Oscars. João Gonzalez's “Ice Merchants” is in the running for the most famous statuette of the seventh art, an unprecedented feat for Portuguese cinema. In an interview with Porto., the young director from Porto confessed in June that his film took about a year to produce. “Counting the days in a row, it took about a year, which is not really enough for an animated film. If we count the pauses and the pandemic, it took two," he stated, adding: "in this case, the cost was time. ".

In addition to "Ice Merchants", "The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse" by Charlie Mackesy and Matthew Freud, "The Flying Sailor" by Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, "My Year of Dicks" by Sara Gunnarsdóttir, and "An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It" by Lachlan Pendragon have also been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

In addition to "Ice Merchants", "The Garbage Man", by Laura Gonçalves, in the category of best animated short film, and "The Lone Wolf", by Filipe Melo, for the Oscar for best live action short film, which did not get a nomination, were also in the race for a nomination.

The 95th Academy Awards ceremony is set to take place on March 12.

"Portuguese animation is living a very good time"

João Gonzalez was born in Porto in 1996. Having received a scholarship from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, he did his Master's degree at the Royal College of Art (UK), after finishing his degree at the Higher Education School of Media, Arts, and Design (ESMAD) of the Polytechnic of Porto. In addition to "Ice Merchants", his first professional short film and already multi-award-winning in international film festivals, he also directed, in a school context, "Nestor" and "The Voyager", which, together, also collected over 20 national and international awards.

With "Ice Merchants" - which is 14 minutes long and of Portuguese production by Bruno Caetano, at Cola Animation, and co-production with France and the United Kingdom –, João Gonzalez also became the first Portuguese animation director to be awarded at the Cannes Film Festival, winning the Jury Prize ("Leitz Cine Discovery Prize") of the Critics' Week. Nine distinctions followed in festivals qualifying for the Oscar from the American Academy (Curtas Vila do Conde, Guadalajara, Melbourne, Chicago, St. Louis, Alcine, BendFilm, Anim'est, and Spark), 41 other awards and acclamations, and over 90 official selections at festivals around the world, an already historic scenario in Portuguese cinema. According to the Short Film Agency, the film has been seen by over 8,400 viewers.

With no dialogues, the short film has as its starting point the image of a house on a mountain, perched on a precipice. From there, the director developed the story of a father and a son who produce ice in the inhospitable house where they live, and from where they jump every day by parachute to sell it in the village, at the foot of the mountain. João Gonzalez is responsible for both the directing and the soundtrack of the film, and he shares the animation, in 2D, with the Polish Ala Nunu.

In the interview with Porto., the young director from Porto confessed: "Portuguese animation is living a very good time. […] There's no lack of international recognition for our work. I am not a pioneer at all. I am just another person who is enjoying the path paved by the great names of national animation. "