Bendito Machine is no doubt one of the most non-conventional animated universes, and the man behind it is the graphic designer, illustrator and animator from Spain, Jossie Malis. Working from his Zumbakamera studio in Palma de Mallorca, he creates this absurd and contradictory world of weird mechanisms, building a complex story full of unexpected turns. Jossie was a jury member at Animanima 2019, and this little talk has been recorded between two screening sessions…
Who is, or rather – what is Bendito Machine?
Bendito Machine is an atypical animated series about a humanoid species and its relationship with machines, technology in general and its strangest urges and fears. Any resemblance to reality is mere coincidence.
How did you come up with this title?
Bendito in Spanish means blessed. I was looking for a title capable of encompassing the mystical glory of technology and its users. The translation would be The Holy Machine, but I was also interested in playing with two languages, so the result was a title in Spanglish.
The Bendito world is made up of two-dimensional dark contours. What made you choose this particular graphic style?
By the time I began to develop the idea for the first short film of the series, I was already experimenting with silhouette animation. At that time I was very intrigued by the work of Lotte Reiniger and Michel Ocelot, whose animated films with silhouettes were a great influence at the time by choosing this style, this added to the discovery of a book on Andean iconography and the idea of rescuing the concept of ancient fables through the theatres of shadows in a digital era. It is also a graphic resource that as a designer has always enchanted me for the visual power, the contrast of black with color is very powerful.
In his own, ironic way and with plenty of dark humour and a dose of satire, Bendito paints a picture of our civilisation. Are we right to think that conflict and (self)destruction are the key words here?
Definitely. We are a civilization of many lights and shadows, and unfortunately more shadows than anything else. We have created a system in which we all have to survive by following the same rules, by complying with a set of rules, while playing with technology that updates us at lightning speed. Everything looks very nice and fun, but the reality is that our natural tendency tends to the destructive and we move forward in our evolutionary process, remembering the mistakes and horrors of wildly destructive events that have been shaping our civilization. It fascinates me to try to understand the eternal struggle of the man who tries to conquer his fears, to see how we advance towards a future, which is always uncertain because we know what are the threats that we ourselves have already created, and deep down we know that everything can go to hell in just a few seconds. I have always felt attracted to try to understand the motivations of fear and why humans do what we do. Through Bendito Machine I try to exorcise some of those fears along with our obsessions and technological dependence, with a good dosage of dark comedy, of course.
Bendito Machine IV
Was it your plan from the very start for this story to have a number of sequels? Or did the important topics for new sequels simply occurred by themselves?
In the beginning I had no plan but to tell a single story, the eternal conflict of my god is better than yours. The result of this short film, his journey in festivals and the recognition he received, encouraged me to continue developing more stories that I had been leaving in the drawer. At the end I decided to continue making shorts within this universe but without a plan or anything like that, just go making shorts in my spare time, little by little and with the resources I had at hand. The idea of creating a conventional series didn't appeal to me at all, so it took a good number of years to finish the 6 shorts.
All the apparatuses and mechanisms have the markedly unusual, ‘organic’ appearance?
A lot of them, but it's something I'm just trying to amplify. When I was a child, one of the things that I enjoyed most in life were the school visits that took us to know all kinds of factories, I was fascinated to see the capacity that the machines had to do things, all kinds of things. I have always had this fascination and I believe that with time to observe the world that surrounds us, it is not difficult at all to conclude that our main reference in technological development are ourselves and the nature that surrounds us. On the one hand, the machines that we use in any field, are designed to adapt to our size, to the size of our limbs, fingers mainly, we remain the controllers of these devices. A car factory is a festival of mechanical arms, and just to name one thing, the list of machines adapted according to our own capabilities is huge. Robotics, without going any further, is our intention to replicate ourselves artificially to a maximum level. We are a species that is taking the very first stages of a biotechnological destiny, evolutionarily we are on our way to integrate with machines. What I do with these machines is exaggerate their appearance and make the organic relation more evident.
In the second episode, a strange potion puts people in trance and creates addiction. There is an apparent allusion to Coca-Cola. Also, one of the characters wears a hat with a profile resembling the ears of Mickey Mouse. It seems that neo-myths are an integral part to neo-colonialism?
Modern symbolism is dominated by the logotypes of global companies, services or brands, and lately by emoticons. We have been able to memorize the symbols of the brands we consume and obviously, it is a very strong graphic resource to narrate fantastic stories about a species like ours. My approach was to give a primitive touch to the series, without leaving aside universal references that everyone recognizes. Although I hide a lot of ancestral symbology in the series, it is much easier for people to recognize modern icons or graphics that appear throughout the series and that are already part of our lives.
Bendito Machine V
Bendito speaks critically about religion. In the third sequel, the arrival of the idol in the form of a television set is met by an unprepared civilisation, causing it to collapse. Could this be an obvious allusion to the present-day power and influence of the mass media?
Yes, I consider that the biblical references, especially in the Old Testament, have a lot of narrative potential because of how wild they can be. In this particular episode, the idea was to develop a story based on the delivery of divine instructions, alluding to the tables of the law, but with a technological twist. At the time of producing this short film, social networks did not even exist and my intention was to talk about television. As the years go by, I realize that having entered this digital era is not far from what already happened with the absolute and paternalistic truth of the mass media, especially TV, but now the mess seems to me to be much bigger and totally out of control, not because there are big outlets behind the disinformation, but because people no longer make the slightest effort to confirm the veracity of what they read or the sources that transmit it, now you can believe in what you want with closed eyes and the algorithms of your digital profile will reaffirm that your truth is the only sweet truth. These are frightening times as far as this era of infoxication is concerned.
Oil. Plastic. Smoke. Pollution is the topic of the fourth part. It seems that the planet is paying the price of its ‘progress’?
Definitely, our environmental failures are the price of our evolution. We function like a virus on the planet, our goal is to multiply and in return we need to wipe out resources and generate others to strengthen the new organisms that will remain on this planet when we are gone. I find fascinating the amount of analogies that exist between the micro and the macro in relation to the organisms that coexist in this planet, to understand that what happens to our own organism at the cellular level when we are sick, is the same thing that happens to the earth when we see the effects of our progress. I believe that we have not yet finished paying the price and the earth tends to resilience, at the moment we are the ones affected, but the planet doesn't care if we are here or not. The point is that sooner or later, if we don't make a real deep change, mostly of collective mindset, we will pay a high price with endless summers and wild weather swings. At least we will all be tanned.
The extra-terrestrial who comes to Earth on a peaceful exploration mission in the fifth sequel becomes engulfed in a hallucinating, horrifying whirl of war. This provokes an impression that the technological progress of civilisation is but an advancement of warfare technology?
Ironically, the vast majority of technological achievements throughout our history are owed to the military. Wars are their testing grounds, not only at the weapons stage, but technologically in general. It is shocking to be aware of the number of inventions of daily use that originate in the military mind and that once discarded, for whatever reason, become part of civilian life for thousands of millions of people. We are small beings with a great capacity of destruction for what represents a threat, the problem is that this threat are ourselves! Wars are our number one irrationality. In this episode I was interested in the idea of being caught in a timeline that reflected the milestones of our modern history through that technological war development, by trapping a poor, innocent alien who passed by to pick up flowers and butterflies.
Bendito Machine VI
In the sixth part of the Bendito Machine series, we recognise elements bearing allusion to Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Here we find the black screen monolith which alters the anthropological aspect of our species. Thematically, Bendito Machine is a rounded piece? What is your next project?
2001 is one of my favourite films and as time went by and I reviewed it again, I realised that a potential prophetic answer to the mysterious monolith was in the pockets of our own trousers. I wanted to explore and exploit this idea of our technological present and the uncertainty of our future, through an impossible tale but with plenty of real ingredients present in our time. At the moment, Bendito Machine consists of 6 episodes but I do not rule out that in the future I can develop a second season or maybe another couple of shorts, not really sure. Certainly, material for more stories is not a worry, but in the meantime, I am in the initial development stage after finishing the script for my next short film. It's a project that has been mutating in my drawer for many years, the film title is Miss Universe and is not about pretty girls.