Frédéric Back: Grandeur Nature (The Nature of Frédéric Back)

Poster for Frédéric Back: Grandeur Nature (The Nature of Frédéric Back)

Winter 2014 Documentary series

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 7:00pm

Acadia Cinema's Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS

Directed by Phil Comeau

Screenplay by Cécile Chevrier

Starring Frédéric Back

Rated G · 1h 18m

View trailer

Frédéric Back: Grandeur Nature (The Nature of Frédéric Back)

Phil Comeau’s new documentary, a portrait of an artist-activist extraordinaire, explores the life and work of Québec artist and film director of short animated films, Frédéric Back. The two-time Oscar-winning director of Crac! (1982) and L’homme qui plantait des arbres (The Man Who Planted Trees) (1988) also received Oscar nominations in1981 and 1994 respectively for his animations Tout Rien (All Nothing) and Le fleuve aux grandes eaux (The Mighty River). They were produced while he worked in Radio-Canada’s graphic department.

Born in France on April 8, 1924, Back would have been 90 this year. The Fundy Film Society had already contacted the distributor in December to plan a screening celebration of his 90th, when the news of his death on Christmas Eve, 2013, became known in the media.

The film follows Back’s exceptional path, tracing the sources of his inspiration, from his early childhood growing up in Alsace, Paris and Brittany, to the beginning of his career and the love and life he found in Québec.

Frédéric Back, an animation legend, was a prolific illustrator and graphic artist in addition to being a filmmaker and animator. He documented his life and work in extensive detail on his personal website.

Back has produced an immense body of work that imparts an essential message.

In striving to depict the beauty of the earth, Frédéric Back was a most persuasive, environmental activist. His films, beautiful and expressive works of art in their own right, are also noteworthy for their environmental and social consciousness. Even into his final years, Frédéric Back never lost his passion or the wonder or outrage that had always moved him.

Over his lifetime, Back received numerous Canadian and international honours among them an Albert-Tessier Award, a Governor General’s Award, a lifetime achievement Jutra, the titles of Chevalier de l’Ordre du Québec and Officier de l’Ordre des arts et des lettres, each and every one of them richly deserved. More than just an exceptional artist or an extraordinary animated filmmaker, more than a pioneering environmentalist, Frédéric Back was a treasure of Québec’s heritage, a heritage whose importance he consistently brought to the fore.

For those interested in further reading, in addition to his own website, there are also these which give further details of his life and work:

• the Vancouver Sun;

The Los Angeles Times

• this tribute , a remembrance from friend, Charles Solomon. [Solomon is a lecturer in animation at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. An internationally respected animation critic and historian, Solomon has written on the subject for enumerable international journals.]

• and this piece from Jerry Beck, another animation historian and author:

Frédéric Back (1924–2013)

Two-time Oscar winning animator Frédéric Back passed away today at his home in Montréal.

Back grew up in France and studied art in Paris in the 1930s. Moving to Canada after World War II he was hired by Radio-Canada to create illustrations for its very first television network – where he remained employed for decades. His first animated film was Abracadabra, in 1970.

Back’s films were hand animated in the classic sense – and often he was the only artist involved in the making of them. Many of his films employed a unique look, using colored pencil-on-frosted acetate that made elaborate works appear simpler than the incredible craft involved. There’s no question, his films were important, moving works of art.

His Oscar winning short Crac (1982) brought him to the attention of Hollywood and the world. In 1988, Back won his second Oscar for a more ambitious project, the thirty minute film The Man Who Planted Trees. He was last nominated in 1994 for The Mighty River.

His films were personal, inspirational and passionate. John Halas said of Back, in his 1987 book Masters Of Animation: 

‘His mastery of timing, his elegant but simple design, his characterisation and observation of animated figures – especially children – and his stories, which are written with a warm sense of humanity, make him an all-round professional.’

He was a beloved member of the international animation community and a consummate artist. Frédéric Back will be missed.”