Filmmaker Nicolas P. Villarreal Earns Best Short Film Award from Juried Panel of Young Judges at TIFF Kids International Film Festival

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Nieta, a short animated film by Nicolas P. Villarreal, filmmaker and director of Academy of Art University’s School of Visual Development, was named Best Short Film by the Young People’s Jury at Toronto’s TIFF Kids International Film Festival.

Nieta, a short animated film by Nicolas P. Villarreal, filmmaker and director of Academy of Art University’s School of Visual Development, was named Best Short Film by the Young People’s Jury at Toronto’s TIFF Kids International Film Festival.

Nieta – or Granddaughter – was singled out among more than 100 short films by jurors aged 9 to 13 at an awards ceremony on April 19. At its Canadian premiere, the five-minute film, which contains no dialogue, was called “emotional,” and “artistic and beautiful” by the judges. They also said, “The message was unique and brilliant.”

Villarreal, 37, is a native of La Plata, Argentina, and cofounder of Red Clover Studios. He divides his time between Argentina and San Francisco, where he is director of the Academy’s School of Visual Development, a program he has led since its inception. Villarreal is an alumnus of the university and earned his MFA in Illustration in 2002.

Villarreal said that Nieta was inspired by a poignant photograph he found of his mother as a child, standing with her father. From that photo, he imagined a story of a young girl’s relationship with her grandfather. In the film, he translates her emotions – from fear to elation – into vivid colors. With a combination of traditional animation and computer graphics, Nieta manages to be both simple and complex, and captivates young viewers with a character whose secret is revealed at the end.                                                                

“Nieta is a very minimalistic film, having only two characters and two backgrounds, one being almost completely white, which was one of the challenges since the film is silent,” he said.    

Villarreal, whose own childhood was enhanced by his love of drawing and viewing films such as Robin Hood, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Tarzan, said he has an affinity for the family film genre. His humorous, animated 2012 film Pasteurized earned him several awards at international film festivals, including the Cannes Court Métrage.

“I’ve always enjoyed using my childhood memories as a platform for my storytelling and will continue to do the same on our next project, the animated feature film, The Aces,” he said.

In making Nieta, Villarreal enlisted the help of family members in Argentina as well as colleagues and students at Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

In addition to the films he has produced through Red Clover Studios, Villarreal has worked with Walt Disney Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment, Jim Henson Studios, Amazon and Sega, among others.

About Academy of Art University

Academy of Art University, the largest private university of art and design in the United States, is educating students for the art and design jobs of the 21st century. Established in 1929, the Academy is an output-based higher education model that provides an inclusive admissions policy to all students, but imposes a rigorous curriculum that requires the students to produce a portfolio of work that demonstrates a mastery of their field in order to graduate. The Academy’s hands-on curriculum produces graduates who possess outstanding artistic and design skills—and equally as important, the ability to put those talents to work immediately after graduation. As a result, Academy graduates are ready to compete for and win the jobs of the 21st century in the fields of Acting, Advertising, Animation & Visual Effects, Architecture, Art Education, Art History, Costume Design, Fashion, Fashion Journalism, Fashion Styling, Fine Art, Game Design, Game Programming, Graphic Design, Illustration, Industrial Design, Interior Architecture & Design, Jewelry & Metal Arts, Landscape Architecture, Motion Pictures & Television, Multimedia Communications, Music Production & Sound Design for Visual Media, Photography, Studio Production for Advertising & Design, Visual Development, Web Design & New Media and Art Teaching Credential, and Writing for Film, Television & Digital Media. Academy of Art University is accredited by WASC, NASAD, Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA) (BFA/MFA-IAD), NAAB (B-ARCH*, M-ARCH), and California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). *B-ARCH program in candidacy status. Visit http://www.academyart.edu for more information.

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Jennifer Blot