Directed by Theodore Ushev, this 27 minute film, done in collaboration with the NFB, is having its coming out story at this year’s TIFF. Often shorts are overlooked by the filmgoing public and so it is nice to see that a festival as big and influential as TIFF still makes room for them. Especially since this is a Canadian product.
First off, you will notice that the father-son combo of Rossif and Donald Sutherland provide the voices for the short. Each has such a distinctive voice that it is sheer brilliance and a big plus for the film to get them. Most of the heavy lifting is done by the son with some “guest” appearances from his iconic father.
Next, each frame of the film has been lovingly hand drawn or painted. Despite the often dark nature/subject of the film it still manages to look beautiful because of the art work involved. He used a technique called encaustic painting for the look of his film. A really organic style which uses melted beeswax to which colour is added.
The story here was inspired by the novel by Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov. It is a heavy one which involves a man of Bulgarian origins tracking his life’s path(s) through his memories living in communist Bulgaria as a child and then emmigrating to Canada (Montreal) as a young man. It is an exercise done with the goal of figuring out who he really is. We work our way through his memories of a circus and falling in love with a young female acrobat, serving in the army in Bulgaria and finally his struggles to find a “place” in his adopted home of Montreal. It truly is a struggle. He wants to figure out his purpose in life and have a family. A sense of belonging somewhere is missing.
Director Theordore Ushev has previously earned an Oscar nomination for his work in the short Blind Vashya. This guy comes with some pedigree. And obvious talent. He did the painting himself using a technique developed by the ancient Egyptians and introduced to him by his father. It perfectly lends to the tone of the film really giving it a feel of exploration and the time honoured tradition of chronicling one’s life. All this adds up to a film which is deeply moving. Many out there will be able to relate to this feeling of being without roots or the search for some sense of creating a home. It is an experience which a whole generation of immigrants who have come to Canada (and other places) go through.