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Canemaker Wraps on Personal New Film

John Canemaker and Peggy Stern have complete production on THE MOON AND THE SON, an HBO-Cinemax animated documentary, featuring the voices of actors Eli Wallach and John Turturro, with an original score by Ron Sadoff, and editing and sound design by David Mehlman. The film explores the difficult emotional terrain of father/son relationships as seen through Canemakers own turbulent relationship with his father.

I made this film to resolve long-standing emotional issues I have with my late father, said Canemaker. I wanted to find answers to our difficult relationship, to understand the reasons he was always a feared figure in my childhood, why he was always angry and defensive, verbally and physically abusive and often in trouble with the law.

Canemaker interviewed his father, John F. Cannizzaro, Sr., before the latters death in 1995, in an effort to get to the truth of issues that had always simmered beneath the surface of their relationship and often erupted into violence. He discovered in his father a man of many contradictions American born but raised in poverty in Calabria, Italy; a pious Catholic with long ties to organized crime; a twice-decorated World War II hero subsequently convicted of arson; an eager, aggressive go-getter unable to achieve his dreams; a devoted husband and father whose rage and self-inflicted misfortune devastated his family.

After developing a script and storyboard, Canemaker approached producer Stern, with whom he had previously worked on GALAXY CLASSROOM, an interactive educational media project.

Ever since we first worked together I have admired Johns ability to infuse his animated images with emotional depth, said Stern. In THE MOON AND THE SON, we have tried to express a personal history through animation in a way that I think will resonate deeply with our audiences.

Animation, is rarely used and, in my opinion, often ill-used as a means to express powerful feelings, said Canemaker. In THE MOON AND THE SON, I have an imaginary conversation with my deceased father. I drew upon memory, fact, conjecture, trial transcripts, audio recordings, home movies, photos, snapshots and original animation to pull together his story and my story.

I used traditional drawn animation because that is the technique I am most familiar with and comfortable with. It is also a very direct and personal way to express myself. To use symbols, caricatures and highly stylized characters to draw out my feelings is akin to writing poetry or painting or sculpture.

There is a visceral connection between my emotions and the extension of my arm and hand to drawings on paper. This connection gives immediacy, directness and spontaneity to the artwork in a way I find lacking when a computer intervenes.

Wallach (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY) plays the father and Turturro (DO THE RIGHT THING) plays the interrogative son.

In addition to being a noted independent filmmaker, author and animation historian, Canemaker has created a number of commercial works, including the 1989 Academy Award-winning short YOU DONT HAVE TO DIE, the Peabody Award-winning TV special BREAK THE SILENCE: KIDS SPEAK OUT ABOUT ABUSE; the feature film THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and the PBS special WHAT DO CHILDREN THINK OF WHEN THEY THINK OF THE BOMB? He has also written nine books on the art and history of animation, and is director of the animation program at New York Universitys Tisch School of the Arts.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
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