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Co Hoedeman

Overview of work

Co Hoedeman
The Magical Imagination of a Humanist Filmmaker
By Marco de Blois

In the 1960s, when Co Hoedeman was making his first animation films with marionettes, the technique had been dominated for several years by Czechoslovakian realism. The marionettes of Prague puppet master Jirí Trnka, for example, were highly stylized, yet mimicked human body language and possessed a lifelike appearance. The materials used to make the puppets were hidden from view in order to maintain a sense of reality. It is significant, therefore, that Hoedeman’s early works feature a puppet built from wire (Oddball, 1969) and Russian dolls (Matrioska, 1970). The shape and composition of the figures give them a unique personality.

<strong><em>Marianne's Theatre</em></strong> (2004). © NFB<strong><em>Ludovic - The Snow Gift</em></strong> (1998). © NFB
Marianne's Theatre (2004). © NFBLudovic - The Snow Gift (1998). © NFB

Tchou-Tchou (1972) stands out for its playfulness. The characters and decors are assembled entirely from coloured building blocks made of wood, as if the filmmaker delighted in bringing to life the contents of a toy chest. The entire film is like a giant construction game. The viewer’s enjoyment is heightened by the fact that Hoedeman makes his own amusement palpable. The types of materials Hoedeman uses can also symbolize fragility: for example, in The Sand Castle (1977), creatures from a world of sand spring up from the ground only to be blown away by the wind. Charles and François (1987) and The Sniffing Bear (1992) exhibit a broader variety of artistic methods. Figures drawn on thin-surfaced materials interact in a three-dimensional space, giving them a certain vulnerability. Hoedeman was also inspired by Inuit art for the creation of three films grouped under the title An Eskimo Legend (1971-1975).

<strong><em>The Sand Castle</em></strong> (1977). © NFB<strong><em>The Sniffing Bear</em></strong> (1992). © NFB
The Sand Castle (1977). © NFBThe Sniffing Bear (1992). © NFB

From 1998 to 2002, Hoedeman made four episodes for a series that was widely popular with young audiences. Ludovic, the hero of the series, is a teddy bear who experiences emotions that are new to him: friendship, love and grief. Children can easily identify with Ludovic, especially since he and all the other characters are stuffed animals, which puts young viewers at ease.

Co Hoedeman’s films are usually geared toward children and promote strong humanitarian values: ecology, social inclusion, respect for diversity, peace. The stories generally involve a group whose members learn to live in harmony by coming to terms with their differences. Hoedeman’s pursuit of harmony is also evident in his art, which succeeds in creating a coherent universe out of a mix of elements. Hoedeman tackles filmmaking with serious pedagogical objectives but does not sacrifice magic and fantasy in the process.

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