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NFB animation shines at TIFF

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Feature-length animation from Ann Marie Fleming and a multi-award-winning short by animator Theodore Ushev make up part of a stellar National Film Board of Canada (NFB) lineup at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), September 8–18, 2016.

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Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming – North American premiere/Special Presentation

Making its North American premiere at TIFF, Fleming’s Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming is a feature film about a young Canadian poet who embarks on a whirlwind voyage of discovery. Written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming, Window Horses is a feature animation about love—love of family, poetry, history, culture.

Rosie Ming, a young Canadian poet, is invited to perform at a poetry festival in Shiraz, Iran, but she’d rather go to Paris. She lives at home with her over-protective Chinese grandparents and has never been anywhere by herself. Once in Iran, she finds herself in the company of poets and Persians who tell her stories that force her to confront her past: the Iranian father she assumed abandoned her and the nature of poetry itself. The film is about building bridges between cultural and generational divides. It’s about being curious. Staying open. And finding your own voice through the magic of poetry.

The film’s voice actors include Sandra Oh (Rosie), Ellen Page (Kelly, Rosie’s best friend), Don McKellar (a young poet named Dietmar), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Mehrnaz, a professor at the University of Tehran) and Nancy Kwan (Gloria, Rosie’s overprotective grandmother). More than a dozen animators, including Kevin Langdale, Janet Perlman, Bahram Javaheri and Jody Kramer, worked on the film with Fleming.

Window Horses is co-produced by Stickgirl Productions (Ann Marie Fleming), Sandra Oh and the NFB (Shirley Vercruysse and Michael Fukushima), and distributed in Canada by Mongrel Media.
A long-time collaborator with the NFB, Fleming has been making award-winning films that deal with family, history, memory and issues of identity for over 25 years, including such NFB films as I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors (2010) and Big Trees (2013). She also adapted her animated feature documentary The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam into an award-winning graphic novel of the same name.

Read Skwigly’s interview with director Ann Marie Fleming here.

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Blind Vaysha – North American premiere/Short Cuts

The visually stunning Blind Vaysha, Ushev’s 13th animated short to date, has its North American debut at TIFF after an acclaimed European festival run. Blind Vaysha has received four awards to date, including the Jury Award and Junior Jury Award at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. The film was produced at the NFB by Marc Bertrand and executive producer Julie Roy, with the participation of ARTE France.

Vaysha is not like other young girls: her left eye sees only the past while her right, only the future. Blinded by what was and tormented by what will be, she remains trapped between two irreconcilable temporalities, unable to see the reality that exists in the present. In this animated short adapted from a story by acclaimed Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov, and narrated by Caroline Dhavernas, Theodore Ushev reaffirms his virtuosity in visual experimentation. Using an expressive and powerful style poised halfway between religious paintings and linocuts,Blind Vaysha is a captivating metaphoric tale about the difficulty of being in the here and now.

Born in Bulgaria, Theodore Ushev settled in Montreal in 1999, where he acquired a reputation as a prolific and talented animator thanks to such acclaimed works as his animated documentary Lipsett Diaries (2010), recipient of 16 awards—including a Genie Award for Best Animated Short—and named to TIFF’s list of top 10 Canadian short films of the year.

Read Skwigly’s interview with director Theodore Ushev here.

Learn more about this year’s TIFF at tiff.net

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