Laureine Sautereau: on her short film “The Grind”

It’s with great honor that I write my first article about my work as a director, a title that is still difficult for me to accept. I’ve always admired the great artists who have helped make me into what I am today, although I am still trying to find my own way and didn’t expect so much hype about my own short film, The Grind. However, the notoriety and the fame don’t matter to me—it’s the message that I’m trying to spread. I just hope that the film will reach as many people as possible to raise awareness and do its part to help this cause (more on that later).

First allow me to tell you a bit about myself. My name is Laureine Sautereau; I’m 24 years old and just finished my schooling. I was immersed in artistic culture from the very beginning of my life—my mother was a sculpture artist and my father crafted cabinets in his free time. My specific passion for animated films began at a young age and grew rapidly thanks to Disney (I never missed a chance to see a movie release, I saw the Lion King six times).  When you’re a child, you don’t ask yourself how an animated film is made—you just watch the cartoon and simply believe. This is where I first understood that someone’s career was to make these films, and it filled me with so much joy that I knew that this was the path for me! I wanted, at any cost, to give life to characters, universes, worlds, anything that I wanted. In the world of animation, the only limit is your imagination. Growing up, I also experienced the world of video games, where I discovered more interactivity in an infinite number of stories that fed into my love for creation. After opting for the BAC L cinema/audio/visual, I continued my studies at Créajeux in Nîmes, a private school for video game professionals. I took a course for three years in 3D animation, but I lacked a strong foundation in drawing, so I continued at the Emile Cohl school in Lyon, where I switched to 2D animation courses until I graduated in four years.

It was during my last year at the Emile Cohl school when I created my short film, “The Grind,” designed to marry my infatuation with film with my love for nature and animals. I started with the grindadráp because, frankly, I was shocked by the amount of indifference and excessive violence surrounding this massacre and wanted to advocate for those who couldn’t so themselves. Genocide is a strong word, but one that’s warranted nonetheless because entire clans, consisting of several families and including pregnant females, are often decimated. Yet this occurs each year with celebration and festivities—can we really allow these kinds of atrocities to happen in the name of tradition?

To create this film, I studied all of the aspects of the grindadráp, including the inhabitants’ motives, their defense, and the criticisms of the opposition. In my opinion, addressing this issue remains a much more accessible goal in the short term than other salient issues like climate change or the meat industry, where more significant changes and interests are at stake. It should be easy when the grindadráp is overwhelming viewed with such contempt. I wanted to use my role as director to express this point of view, and appeal to people’s sense of empathy and compassion to ask questions, awaken their minds, and force their reactions.

The film is structured in three parts; the first is called “the calm before the storm.” I placed the viewer in the shoes of the whales, to feel what it’s like to swim next to the dolphins, in the gentle waters, carried away by the waves. It was also extremely fun to draw this first part. But then things accelerate, and there’s a dramatic shift in ambiance when we enter the second phase: the massacre. I didn’t want to make any concessions. I wanted to show everything and relate the facts in the most exact way possible before the third part, where the last whale is murdered. At the end, the calm returns, where it’s peaceful but no animal can be seen and the beach is colored red with blood.

The artistic direction that I’ve chosen allows me to accentuate this tragedy in incredible detail. The negatives provide an uncomfortable and oppressive atmosphere, where only the red color of blood is present and the monstrous human expressions are amplified by the engraving effect. While worth it, it was a long and fastidious technique. There are twelve drawings exposed two times each for a total of 25 frames every second, meaning that by the end I had hand drawn 1764 designs.

The duration of production was around six months, and I had the immense pleasure of collaborating with composer Yanier Hechayarria Mayas. It was fabulous to find a person so easy to work with. He immediately understood all of my intentions for the film and what I wanted, and I was equally excited about all of the propositions he gave me.

I’ll finish what I have to say about the film by adding that I wanted to personally express my feeling about this massacre, but more globally about the ease in which human beings can engage in violence without anger or forethought. It’s an assumed and normalized violence. The Faroe Islanders don’t understand why we are so against their practice and their children wait each year for the massacre like it’s Christmas morning. But tragedies like this exist in all nations, with events like bullfighting, Chinese dog fights, or processed chicken nuggets causing so much hurt everyday. These are all magically remediated when a short man in a suit arrives to defend these absolute cruelties without any shame…I hope that one day we can all have a conscience and realize that every living being is just that—a living being, and not the property of man.

Some more words from composer Yanier Hechayarria Mayas

Collaborating on this project was an immediate decision. The theme resonated with my heart, but the passion of Laureine Sautereau came across from the beginning. The work was intense; I wanted to shock the viewer, to make them feel each blow and understand the barbarity of what was depicted in front of them.

This experience was a true example of collaboration in both the professional and personal sense—we have the same passion for making change through art.