2024 Academy Award Contender for Best Short: -Epicenter- Directed by Ham Hye Yoon

Welcome to Cartoon Brew's spotlight series highlighting animated short films that have qualified for the 2024 Academy Awards. There are several ways for a film to qualify for an award. In this edition, we will focus on films that have won an Oscar-eligible award at a festival that is eligible for the Academy Awards.

Today's short is the Korean film "Epicenter," directed by Heeyoon Hahm, which qualified by winning the Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animated Short Film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

In this black-and-white short, an old man dreams of a snow-covered Bukhansan (Mt. Bukhansan) while a young woman tracks the growth of the mountain top after an earthquake. Gradually, fantasy and reality collide, exposing a previously unseen universe.

Cartoon Brew: The illustrations in "Epicenter" are ultra-realistic, especially compared to those in the previous film, "Memory Theater." Epicenter ventures into the realm between reality and fantasy and explores the subtle extraordinary nature of our everyday lives. I believe that realistic depictions are necessary to reveal these nuances, so I paid close attention to detail in the illustrations.Epicenter's genesis lies in the contemplative fusion of various art genres: film, painting, and animation. My goal was to seamlessly blend the realism of film, the stillness of painting, and the imaginative possibilities of animation in a single work. A great deal of effort was put into elaborating on every detail to emulate the authentic experience of watching a movie. We are currently working on our next project, which will continue to employ the same photorealistic painting style.

What was it about the story and concept that attracted you to direct this film? I later became interested in animation and made "Memory Theater" as my senior project. I then changed my major and transitioned to animation for graduate school. The exploration of limits and boundaries in diverse art forms spanning painting, film, and animation has always been an intriguing theme for me, and "Epicenter" is the result of my efforts to break down boundaries and integrate elements of different genres. This project marked the beginning of my career as an animation director.

What did you learn about the production side, the filmmaking side, the creative side, or the subject matter through the experience of making this film? Ideas reveal themselves through the conduit or vehicle of the artist. The Epicenter taught me about the passive nature of creation. I absorbed this idea and thought deeply about its meaning throughout the process of creating my animations.

On a personal level, I am more fascinated by the artistry of slow but subtle movement than by quick, fleeting touches, and with Epicenter, I intended to create a work that would resonate deeply with the viewer through this deliberate and nuanced approach. I knew I had to imbue each frame with a sense of subtlety and sophistication to convey a lasting impression. The medium of pencil was appealing to me because of its ability to produce such detailed drawings. The delicate, rhythmic sound of the pencil gradually increasing in volume on the paper was enjoyable in itself. Furthermore, I like the inherent simplicity of the pencil as a tool.