Cuban-American Animator Ryan Gillis On Taking His Short Film To Sundance And SXSW


The bayou comes alive in this dark and twisted tale of environmental justice by Florida-reared animator Ryan Gillis Lizama. Palm Rot, this week’s animated short, has screened at such prestigious festivals as Sundance and SXSW.

An old and sunburnt water ranger version of the Marlboro man has no regard for his lungs or anyone else’s. Using the fan on his airboat, he indiscriminately blows pesticides toward a cluster of palm trees. The floating wreckage of a capsized skiff captures his attention however. There, he will find a strange yet powerful new insect that may rid him of his fumigating ways forever.

Jagged edges and thin lines recall the look and style of action comics. There is great usage of sound that hinges on cartoonish but manages to stay dramatic. Keep your eyes open for the unexpected twists and turns to the story as it moves quickly and manages to hold your ever-dwindling, mobile-device-eroded attention. The ending is delightfully satisfying as this backwater goon gets his comeuppance in the most unique and visually inventive ways. The moral? In a case of man versus nature, nature will mutate and win.

We chatted with Gillis Lizama about the making of Palm Rot and he gave us an insider’s view of attending the Sundance Film Festival and SXSW.


Can you tell us a bit about your background, ethnic, cultural and/or otherwise?

My mother is a photographer and Cuban refugee. My father is a Miami native, and has 12 brothers and sisters. This made for a giant family growing up. I think I have something like 50+ first cousins.

Where did you grow up? What your childhood was like?

I grew up in Hollywood, Florida. It was an incredibly nurturing environment. Like I mentioned, I have a giant family and I feel incredibly lucky for that. I’ve always had an interest in drawing, but it’s a lot easier to pursue your goals when you have 100 people supporting you.