Director Tomm Moore screened his Academy Award-nominee animated film The Secret of Kells last night at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge, MA sponsored by the Irish Film Festival, Boston, capping off a whirlwind tour of the United States. After its debut last year at the Angouleme Festival in France, word of mouth spread which led to its being a dark horse pick for the Oscar. Moore said he really appreciated the Academy’s recognition of an independent film and the acclaim has been very positive for him and his career.
The story revolves around a group of abbots in medieval Ireland illuminating the famous Books of Kells. Besieged by a group of marauding Vikings, the young hero Brendan and his faerie friend Aisling struggle to protect the tome and preserve civilization. Through breathtaking animation, Moore showcases the uncharted depths of Irish mythology and the beauty of ancient Celtic art.
Moore began developing the film in college in 1999. It languished for several years till he partnered with the producers of The Triples of Belleville which resurrected the project. While the storyboards and key designs were completed by Irish animators, Moore led an international army of artists from Belgium, France, Hungary, and Brazil to complete the film. He described the experience as “lovely but difficult” as he approved scenes online through a program called PopSoft.
In addition to Celtic artwork, Moore cited animation luminaries like Hayao Miyazaki and Genndy Tartakovsky as influences. “Samurai Jack is a lesson in art direction,” said Moore, “With a limited budget it accomplishes a very cinematic style.”
Moore also mentioned his appreciation of American comic books. He was a huge fan of DC in the later 80s and early 90s, particularly Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. While his current tastes run more towards the work of Jeff Smith, Jimmy Corrigan, and David Mazzuchelli’s Asterios Poylps, Moore said he needed another suitcase to accommodate the stack of comics he received after a tour of DC Comics. He also is a big fan of French bande desinee like Three Shadows and Blacksad.
In regards to the reactions Americans have had to his film, particularly those of Irish descent, Moore said said he finds it heartening the bond they feel to their ancestral roots. The project that Moore is currently working on is entitled Song of the Sea, the story of the last selkie wandering modern-day Dublin. “It’s really a story about loss; the selkie has lost her people and the human family have lost their mother. It reflects the loss of culture Ireland has experienced through homogenization.”
The Secret of Kells is a unique voice in the world of animation and one that any fan of the medium would be remiss to pass up. Be sure to catch a screening at your local theater.