Nara Normande’s, Guaxuma, is a moving film that elicits memory in a very sensory, visceral way. Veteran of 115 festivals and 70 plus awards including SXSW, Palm Springs, Guadalajara, Ottawa and Chicago, we caught up with the film’s creator to hear a bit about how she told her story.

“The film is about my memories,” Normande told us, “and I wanted to mix different techniques to tell the story of the loss of my best friend.”

This is one of the first things that struck us about the piece: the way it harnesses the fuzziness and grain of the past, and the gaps in the sounds and imagery of memory in order to simulate it. Guaxuma deftly combines actual photographic proof with the artful recreation that often fills in the blanks in our minds when we reminisce, inviting us fully inside the storyteller’s memories.

“We have different kinds of memories and dreams,” she went on, “some are clear and we remember as if they were real, others are more abstract and intuitive. I wanted to explore the techniques and styles to give these different sensations to the spectators. As the story is narrated on the beach, working with sand as the main material was quite natural to me. So there is the sand element that connects all the narrative.”

In terms of her process, the team used what Normande calls, “traditional sand animation,” a classic technique where the light comes from behind the glass. “We had different animators with different styles working with two types of sand, a darker one from Portugal and a lighter and thinner one coming from France. We also worked with sand illuminated from above where we played with the photos (as in the beginning of the film) or in the accident scene with the colored sand.”

A young Normande and friends are often portrayed by puppets that were animated at the beach. “I wanted to go back to the place I was born,” the director said, “and shoot important scenes there: the shadows and variation of nature…tide, sand, coconuts..these were very important to me on these scenes. The puppets were made with aluminum iron, foam and  are covered with latex and sand. The hair is made with aluminum iron and covered with seaweed.

“We also had the kinetic sand animation that seems like wet sand that I animated myself. I had animated before with mud but using this kinetic sand was new to me. I`ve never seen that and I found the result very interesting.”

For the nostalgic old photo looks, Normande explained, “We printed the frames of a video on photo papers (a road) and I animated the photos above a sand texture.” When the film beings to take a darker turn, there’s also origami animation, beautifully representing the potential for even the best things in life to change, morph into something else, and even take flight away from us.

For more on the film, check out the making-of video below: