The 2023 Vancouver Asian Film Festival is taking place this weekend, and out of everything being offered this year, it’s their Animated Shorts Program that has my interest. That’s because the National Film Board of Canada is presenting two special shorts. Also, the anime Gonta: The Story of The Two-Named Dog in The Fukushima Disaster is playing at this event!
I’m tempted to head over to see the film and make a weekend out of being in the big city. While I’m still deciding, I should also mention two other works in the shorts’ presentation, including Bride’s Dream and Galactic Canine Space Force!
Thankfully, ahead of their BC premiere screening, I got to preview TheNFB’s works, and have a quick review. Disclaimer: beware of spoilers.
Animated Shorts Program
Playing Nov 4, 9:15 pm at the International Village Cinema
88 W Pender St 3rd floor, Vancouver, BC
This very personal piece by Thao Lam is more than just a metaphor about why communities should not be treated like ants. Although they are very instinctual, the hive mind keeps them safe as one protects another in a myriad of ways. Also, the values taught here are familiar. It’s all about not doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Here, this narrator’s mother often rescued ants from being squashed. They would typically seek bowls of sugar and while we as humans want to smash them, perhaps it’s best to leave them alone. In terms of how they relate to the people who’d find them and rescue them, there’s a larger narrative, too. Here, it concerns the Vietnamese leaving the conflict which once plagued the country, and wondering if they’re losing themselves (and their cultural identities) by immigrating to another world.
Lam’s story is a lot more important than just admiring the mix of animation techniques to tell this tale. There’s something about the textures which reminds me of how ants soldier on, carrying the bits of leaves to their home to build their colony. As for what this filmmaker reveals, it’s a poignant piece. We learn about how her particular household made it to the promised land, and the sombre tone used reveals her concern regarding her kids when they ask where they’re from.
In my interpretation, this drama shows how resilient humanity is as a species. And in some ways, this tale reminds me of the things I asked my family when I was young. I, too, wanted to know more about my heritage, and my parents left China during a turbulent time too. What hits home in this work is a message for any immigrant to take note of, so no heritage is ever lost.
Bahram Javahery’s animated short is more than just another fable. Here, it’s about what the apple symbolises that goes beyond what folklorists know about this produce. According to the official synopsis, “When a young woman leaves her homeland in search of a better future, she brings with her a single memento from her past: a ripe apple studded with fragrant cloves.”
I was curious if this spiced fruit is eaten, but apparently it’s not supposed to be. I’d have to look into the origins some more, but to see it symbolise more than hope is rather enlightening! Likewise, because the unpinned area resembles a heart, I couldn’t help but smile. It makes me think this unnarrated short is about love.
Although I hoped for some dialogue or narration to further explain a few things, the story was fairly easy to follow. We see this couple meet, get engaged, learn about the culture they’re from in a flashback, and witness their life in some afro-futurist world. What’s presented looks like a Studio Ghibliesque type of film.
Visually, I really admired the medium to animate this piece. Everything is done on a slab of clay and presented like a bas-relief from some Mesopotamian archaeological site!
After an intense storyboard session to plan out and produce floating elements, each frame is meticulously drawn, wiped and redrawn. I suspect that some digital trickery is used to make some moments blur and float over one another. And there were times I wanted to reach out and touch my screen to leave a fingerprint upon that tableau!
And as for wanting to learn more about this culture, I suggest reading Atlas Obscura’s article, “Reviving the Romance of the Kurdish Clove Apple,” to truly make sense of it all.