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NFB Hothouse program highlights a ravenous insect, urban development, extinction, motherhood, sleep, and twins

Hothouse
Mochi Lin composed music for her short, "The Last Tango". National Film Board of Canada image.

The National Film Board of Canada has released six short films from a diverse group of animators. These films were all selected as part of the 14th edition of the NFB’s Hothouse program, which attracted a record 401 applications.

The NFB calls this year’s theme “Small Things Considered”. As  part of the rules, each animator had to limit their production to one to two minutes.

One of the directors, Mochi Lin, fled to Canada from Beijing in 2015. Her film, “The Last Tango”, depicts two insects courting. Moreover, she composed the music for “The Last Tango”, which has a surprising finale.

According to the NFB, the ex-Vancouver resident turned Montrealer explores themes of resistance and confinement in her work.

The Vancouver International Film Festival and Vancouver Asian Film Festival each screened one of her earlier films, “Swallow Flying to the South”. Next month, the Sundar Prize Film Festival will also feature it at its inaugural event in Surrey, B.C. “Swallow Flying to the South” revolves around a five-year-old girl abandoned at a public boarding school in Beijing.

Meanwhile, another animator from Beijing, Halifax-based Jenny Yujia Shi, directed “Red Star Alley”. This Hothouse selection shows how an old vine takes root in old Beijing. Shi’s film also depicts massive and earth-shaking redevelopment.

Hothouse dystopian music video

Another Montreal animator, Bianca Shonee Arroyo-Kreimes, juxtaposes a colourful music video about amphibians with the reality of ecological collapse. The title is “My World, Your Melody”.

The Costa Rican Canadian grew up near a rainforest. Her homeland, Costa Rica, has the highest density of biodiversity on the planet, but deforestation is jeopardizing animals’ prospects of survival. With nearly five percent of all species worldwide, Costa Rica is a magnet for ecotourists.

In contrast, Toronto animator Akash Jones has delivered a more positive message with “Amma”, though it may not come across that way at the outset. However, by the end, it’s clearly a tribute to his mother. She instills life lessons about the importance of wiping the counter, turning off the lights, and praying to the Hindu god Ganesh before leaving the house.

It’s not the first time that he’s done something like this for a parent. He also offered a tribute to his immigrant dad with live action and animation in “A Tale of Two Regents”.

Jones, a recent graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University, has attracted more than 200,000 subscribers to his YouTube channels. He has also earned animation production credits with Amazon and Sony Pictures.

A battle in the womb

Another film in the 14th edition of the NFB’s Hothouse program is “Unbending”. Michelle Ku, a Chinese Canadian animator from Calgary, draws on her own experience in addressing the difficulty of falling asleep for those with structural dissociation.

The sixth film in the series, “Not Enough Womb for the Two of Us”, is by Vancouver animator Cameron Keltke, The Emily Carr University of Art + Design graduate uses watercolours and pastels to depict a battle between twins in utero. A twin herself, Keltke’s short won the best Canadian student animation award at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in 2023.

NFB animation producer Maral Mohammadian, associate producer Anne Koizumi, and mentoring director Andrea Dorfman led Hothouse  14.

To learn more about the National Film Board of Canada, visit the website. Follow Pancouver on X @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.