Five Questions With... Paloma Baeza, Writer/Director of POLES APART

In a harsh Arctic landscape, a hungry and solitary polar bear (voice of Helena Bonham Carter) has to decide whether a naïve grizzly bear is her food or her friend. 

POLES APART is playing with Kids Shorts on Saturday, June 23 at 9am. We spoke with Writer/Director about this delightful, animated short film - read more with Paloma below, and bring your family to the program on Saturday morning!



NFF: Can you talk a little about your inspiration for the film?

PALOMA: We read a news article which described a helicopter view over a white Arctic landscape. There amid the white, a distant dark figure moved across the ice - a Grizzly Bear.  The piece talked about how the melting Arctic ice, a consequence of global warming, was bringing Grizzlies and Polar Bears together, sometimes producing hybrid bears.  Polar Bears are struggling to find food as the ice diminishes and can be seen desperately thin, hunting whatever they can find.  This seemed an interesting backdrop for a story about an unlikely friendship.  

NFF: Why do you like to use animation to tell stories, rather than live action?

PALOMA: We both come from a live-action background.  Using animation, live action, or a hybrid of both, should be dictated by the story and what it requires.  Animation offers a huge amount of freedom in terms of the kind of stories you can tell, since you can take things to magical, surreal, unexpected places.  Like talking bears in the Arctic! 

NFF: How did you connect with your wonderful voice actors / were the roles written for them?

PALOMA: The roles weren’t written for them, but we were incredibly lucky to get such perfect bears.  Joseph May is an old friend and colleague, and will often read my scripts at an early stage to give me his opinion.  When he read Poles Apart, he immediately asked if he could play the grizzly.  In some ways I may as well have written it for him - he was the perfect fit, with his Canadian roots and brilliant comic timing. Helena Bonham Carter instantly loved the script and wanted to help us.  She was very generous with her time,  and tried different voices until we found the right one for a grumpy Nanuk.  

NFF: Did you face any challenges or surprises while filming?

PALOMA: Keeping a stop-motion set going is always challenging, and we didn’t make life easy for ourselves by writing a script that required a blizzard, trees growing in an ice cave, a falling cliff, expanses of name it.  The toughest shots were the long complex ones, which sometimes required animating through the night over days to keep the set conditions stable. The end shot was done with another animator and I taking shifts so we could get a few hours sleep between animating.  

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket’s audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

PALOMA: It’s a fantastic festival with a great programme.  We hope audiences will enjoy the absurd humour of the film, while absorbing the very real background story of our changing landscape.