In March, Ann Marie Fleming’s Window Horses Rides Again

2 Mar


By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

For a list of upcoming screenings,
please click here.

Window Horses has been trotting through many festivals since its world premiere at the 2016 Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France. In North America, it’s making a return for a special engagement today in Vancouver with the producer of this movie, Ann Marie Fleming, in attendance. It has played in other shows like the Toronto Film Festival last year and the Victoria Film Festival early Feb 2017. On March 4th, it is playing at the New York International Children’s Film Festival.

Plans for a wider distribution is continuing with Mongrel Media handling distribution, and soon, folks can see why this colourful and powerful coming-of-age story is particularly engaging.

This film’s main protagonist, Rosie Ming (voiced by Sandra Oh), is on a journey of self discovery. She lost her parents at a very young age and has been raised by her over-protective Chinese grandparents (mother’s side). She never knew why her Iranian father disappeared. The film’s introduction shows her leading a typical life of a twenty-something in a dead-end job and yearning for more to do with her life. One day, she looks out the window, sees a horse (hence the film’s title) and plays her guitar. Inspiration hits her, and she writes a collection of poetry which she gets self-published through an online service. Copies surface at a few book stores and before she knows it, she’s invited to an International Poetry Festival in Shiraz to read her works. When she arrives, she befriends an eclectic mix of poets, including one snarky German dilettante named Dietmar (nicely played by Don McKellar), and locals in her search for the meaning of not only her life but also in how to grow as a bard. Not only that, she learns about what happened to her father.

I became fascinated with this film because not everyone can easily understand poetry. There is more to it than reading a string of words expressing personal experiences through similes and metaphors. One film is not enough to educate, as it really has to be studied from The Epic of Gilgamesh to the Romantic era (at least) to see how poetry has evolved over the centuries. I enjoyed Fleming’s story about Rosie facing her fears and developing her voice as a bard. One published book does not cement anyone’s status as an literary master.

This stick character developed some muscle, so to speak. That is, the way she is drawn was created by Fleming years ago and how she looks will not change. In the Q&A during the Victoria Film Festival with McKellar and two production artists, they revealed Rosie is a representation of Fleming’s own life. As for the rest of the people Rosie encountered, I think they are creations partly inspired by the Cubist works of Pablo Picasso. Perhaps they are fractured in some way or there’s a complexity about them which requires looking into their psyche to fully understand.

In this film, other artistic styles are presented (including one straight out of Greek mosaics). The movie is a tour-de-force of not only poetry but also art history. The dash of cultural exposition is meaningful but I kept on having visions of Zack Snyder’s 300 because of how the Ancient Persians were than the peaceful world we see in this film. Had this movie been longer, I’m sure more of the modern styles would be presented, but insofar as I can ascertain, I would say at least six periods of artistic expression (in both the visual and literal worlds) are explored. Technically, Rosie is a creation from the school of Minimalism.

This movie is worth purchasing when it comes to home video to study again. Fleming created a richly textured and deeply layered story that can be interpreted multiple ways. It’s not a simple animation to take a child to see, but rather a complex tale for the tween to look at should he or she need extra guidance in navigating the tough life to come.

4½ Stars out of 5

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