Always something of a Great War buff, animator Andy Smetanka got his first taste of animating it while working on Guy Maddin's 2007 hometown "docufantasia," My Winnipeg. Further moved by a new history of the Meuse-Argonne campaign--still the bloodiest battle in American history--Smetanka set about to create an original vision of America in the fight with an animated documentary combining silhouettes and cut paper with the words of soldiers who were there.
During a two-month period, over 25,000 Americans were killed in action in the Meuse-Argonne. To do this epic chapter in American history justice, thousands of individual paper cutouts will go into the making of And We Were Young, all hand-cut by animator Smetanka in his tiny Missoula, Montana studio. Filmed in luminous Ektachrome on an old Russian super 8 camera, And We Were Young is old-school animation in the true sense of the word, at once ultra-traditional and groundbreaking, and always fearlessly inventive.
The interwoven stories of And We Were Young together give the whole arc of U.S. intervention in Europe, from enlistment and passage to France aboard pestilent troop-ships, through baptism by fire and lead and, for those who lived to tell about it, to the Armistice and beyond. Selected carefully from first-person accounts passed down in letters, journals, memoir and interviews, the dusty words of the men and women who were there come alive in silhouetted scenes of surprising beauty as well as shocking brutality. Mindful of this fine line, Smetanka's feature debut demonstrates what fighting men have always noticed: that war, in all its abject ugliness, can have its senseless beauty, too.
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