JWR Articles: Film/DVD - NFB Animation (Directors: Jonathan Ng, Lillian Chan, Howie Shia, Kevin Langdale, Thea Pratt, Megann Reid, Amy Lockhart, Marielle Guyot) - November 21, 2006
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NFB Animation

No rating No rating

Portions reviewed for the 2006 Reel Asian Film Festival
A pair of shorts & Hothouse 2

Asthma Tech
Four and one-half stars
Jonathan Ng
Canada (2006)
7 min. 9 sec.

Creation from adversity

All the kids can breathe easier

Jonathan Ng’s Asthma Tech speaks with fun and personal conviction about the plight of those amongst us whose health isn’t “normal.” With Luigi Allemano’s snappy score and stellar sound design truly in sync with a very talented animation team, the dilemma of young Winston’s ailing lungs lifts off the page and into young minds with style and ease.

The medicine-is-my-heavy-backpack metaphor speaks volumes; gasping to play the tuba is a bit obvious (no flutes or drums for the near-breathless boy?); the laugh that triggers a coughing-fit punch-line works better; but nothing can compare to the marvellous expression of recess purgatory that confines Winston to base while his classmates frolic outside.

But before you can say “necessity breeds imagination,” the ailing wheezer draws himself out of the blues by creating a superhero whose kryptonite is over-exertion. Soon the secret artist’s work is exposed then unleashed as the pencil shifts into overdrive and all of the kids find a role to play in Winston’s fantastical drama. Even the red-head four-eyes morphs into X-ray boy!

Ng’s talent is infectious and has inspired the whole team to produce a wonderful miniature whose message should go far beyond its primary-school target audience. JWR


Jaime Lo, small and shy
Four stars
Lillian Chan
Canada (2006)
7 min. 48 sec.

The facts of separation

Immigration Blues

Countless families endure the pain of separation when one member works in another land. Happy endings often occur but the risk of a permanent split is great.

What to do? Take a page from small and shy Jaime Lo’s sketchpad: if Dad can’t come home, then just picture the family together!

Lillian Chan has crafted a charming portrait of a young girl’s solution to an economically led separation. Her script is a marvel—not just the words, but their rhythm is at one with the pulse and pace of the computer rendered animation. Alexandra Lai’s voice realizes the tenor and tone perfectly. A big assist also comes from the well-balanced trio (John Roney, piano; Dave Laing, drums; Luigi Allemano, bass). Allemano also penned the score, remarkable for its unmistakable ode to David Clayton Thomas’ “Spinning Wheel.”

Lonely kids of all ages will find this wee prescription diminishes their angst and may inspire similar artistic remedies as well. JWR


A single tear Ice ages Glou Glou

HOTHOUSE 2

Six animated snippets (2004)

Three cheers to the National Film Board for keeping the art and spirit of anything-goes animation alive. From pitch to post production, six filmmakers were given 12 weeks to bring an idea to the screen. They were supported by NFB staff (David Verrall, executive producer, Michael Fukushima, producer, Janet Perlman, mentoring director) and the creative energy of Andrew Johnston’s composing and sound skills (largely realized with viola, cello and bass—many thanks for “real” music). Quality was the goal.

“Short cuts generally look really bad,” says Howie Shia in the “Inside the Hothouse 2” extra on the DVD. His diligence is apparent, right from the eerie tone and purposeful palette of blue, black-and-white that frames his Ice Ages. Despair drips into consciousness as sure as the ice melts in the highball glass.

Ice also looms large in Kevin Langdale’s Bones & Boats. Traversing the Northwest Passage is seen for both the danger to its inhabitants and those who would force their way through. Spectacular is the deep-green sea.

More water abounds in Thea Pratt’s Eaude. This beautifully sculpted diver (moving in what is surely another Ode to Norman McLaren’s framing ground-breaking technique—cross-reference below), tellingly breaks the surface as the sunset is complete. Megann Reid takes us into her warm tub in Immersion. The healing power of our most abundant liquid is savoured, but with the added caution of keeping her head barely above the honey-bubbled shoreline.

A Single Tear comes from an unlikely source in Amy Lockhart’s brief allegory. What fun that a shiny diamond (perched on a dirty cloud) inhales a fish then spits out a boot. Will the sequel bring about a pair?

Finally, Marielle Guyot’s Glou Glou takes us on a magical journey into the sea. Following a quick “A” and “curtain up” we’re awash in a performance of carousel fish and birds. The notion of ecology on a thread comes through prophetically as an oil tanker breaks its bond and slips to the bottom. JWR

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