Film: Window Horses (2016)

September 15, 2016 | By

WindowHorses_poster_sFilm: Excelllent

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Genre: Animation / Drama

Synopsis: A Chinese-Iranian youth travels to Iran for a poetry festival and uncovers the mystery of the father who abandoned her as a child.

Special Features:  n/a





Based on Ann Marie Fleming’s own graphic novel, this animated film adaptation could have veered into melodrama and been just a tad manipulative, but with a focus on character and meticulous structure, this unique tale of a Chinese-Iranian girl visiting her father’s homeland in Iran for a poetry festival is a deeply affecting work that crosses cultural boundaries, pulling at the heartstrings for any child (and adult) struggling with an empty hole in their lives when tragedy and fuzzy identity are seething not far from the surface.

Rosie Ming (Sandra Oh, who also co-produced) is a would-be poet with musical skills whose work results in an invitation to visit Shiraz, an event that disrupts the stability of her life with guardian grandparents Gloria (Fate is the Hunter’s Nancy Kwan) and Stephen (The Martian’s Eddy Ko). When she’s given reluctant blessings to attend by Stephen, she soon discovers a whole extended family in a city where her father has touched the lives of many people.

Fleming’s gift in story structure lies in her amazing ability to hold back details, and like a sustained chord in a musical piece, rest on a mood until it’s time to reveal another sliver of Rosie’s past, exposing the tragedy of her childhood, and the events that led the young woman to dislike the father who simply vanished when she was 7 years old.

If there’s any overt subtext in Window Horses, it’s of seeing a people for their rich culture in place of politics, and the negative persona propagated by the media that demonizes without making substantive efforts to comprehend. Fleming’s tale does skirt away from overt political and religious aspects, but noted aspects of the Iran-Iraq War and life in a post-Revolution society are central to the event that shaped her father’s switch from poet to fighter pilot.

It’s not hard to see where the story will end, but Fleming makes sure melodrama is minimized, while romanticism continues to steep within the film’s 85 mins. as Rosie is taken on a cultural tour of her father’s hometown and learns several new perspectives on the worth, impact, and value of poetry.

The voice casting is perfect – among the veterans is 24’s Shoreh Aghdashloo – and Canada’s represented by Ellen Page (Hard Candy) in a small role as Rosie’s pal Kelly, and Don McKellar as pompous, dour, German poet Dietmar Langweilig (with his last name literally meaning “boring”).

Equally impressive are the various animation styles Fleming applies to the characters, the locations, moods, dreamscapes, and poetry readings; this is an extremely well-thought story that breaks its own visual style by transitioning between a variety of polar designs. Taymaz Saba’s score drifts through the styles and ably supports Rosie’s cultural journey and rebirth, with some fine vocal sections exploiting the film’s warm sound design.

The vivid character of Rosie also marks the first appearance of Fleming’s alter-ego Stick Girl, a humane, amusing soul who sets the film’s tone for musings, ruminations, sad reflection, and great humour; amid the drama, there is great humour that springs from the awkwardness of someone trying to fit in and deal with sometimes severe self-doubt.

Window Horses began as an Indiegogo production which ultimately found partners with the NFB and Mongrel Media, and an audience Q&A with Fleming and actors Oh, McKellar, and playwright Houshang Touzie, who lends his voice to a few characters, is also available via’s YouTube channel.



© 2016 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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