In Hugo Bumfeldt, we witness a child caring for his pet as it happens so often: a bit rough, sometimes dangerous but always in a loving way. The twist: the child is an alien, the pet is human. Director Éva Katinka Bognár: “I liked the strange tension between these two contrasting points of view.”

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Where did the original idea for the film come from?
“A picture of a diver in a fishbowl occured to me and it started me thinking about what kind of creature could keep a human scuba diver as a pet. Obviously this situation must mean very different things to the diver and the creature who keeps him there, right? I liked the strange tension between these two contrasting points of view. I also knew that I wanted my graduation film to be about a child protagonist – someone who is just starting to make realizations about important things like friendship or responsibility.”

Do you have any pets yourself? And how did you treat any pets you had as a child?
“I never killed any of my pets – it’s not that much of an autobiographical story! As a young child I had a goldfish, and I was really sad for days when it died. Now I have a cat, and I treat her nicely, I hope. But I’ve heard a lot of really truly disturbing and funny personal stories from almost everyone I’ve discussed this film with. It’s strange how universal it seems to be to accidentally torture your pets as a kid. You’re still too young then to understand they too can feel.”

How long did it take you to produce this hand-drawn animation film?
“It was a long production, since 12 minutes of classical 2D animation is a big project for a student film. The Hungarian National Film Fund helps with the graduation films at MOME financially, so I was lucky enough to have a proper team. The production itself was organised by the school. A lot of friends helped with backgrounds, compositing, layouts – there were multiple animators working at the same time. This was my first time directing the work of so many people, and it was a very useful learning experience.”

The film has no dialogue. How did you work on the sound?
“It was very interesting to work with a sound designer on creating the voice for the aliens. The voice actors are actually choir singers. It was also very challenging to find the right music and right composer, but I’m very happy with the final choice and the resulting score.”

The film won the children’s film award at the prestigious Oberhausen short film festival. Did you see it as a children’s film when you were making it?
“It was intended to work on different levels from the start. There’s the emotional journey of a child, but at the same time it’s a dark story from the diver’s point of view. At first I wanted it to be more of a black comedy – but it shifted naturally in a different direction a bit with the final visual design and music. I still don’t think it’s an overtly happy or easy story, so I’m actually very glad it seems to work quite well as a children’s film. For me the emotional core of the story is about experiencing loss, learning empathy, trying to connect with those around you.”