If we wait long enough everything will change. Our perception of self, love and family will all have greater meaning. Of course, one needs to be open to the notion that life is rarely what it appears to be. It is this inner journey towards understanding that marks the visual splendor of Ann Marie Fleming’s Window Horses (The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming).
For Rose Ming (Sandra Oh), the stick figure looking protagonist of Fleming’s tale, part of this self-reflection comes through embracing the fact that her past is more complex than she perceived it to be. Working at a fast food chain to help fund her self-published book of poetry, Rosie is excited to discover that her book landed her an invite to a poetry festival in Iran. Having never stepped outside her home city of Vancouver, Rosie – whose late mother was Chinese and her estranged father is Persian – does not hesitate to accept the invitation despite her grandparent’s apprehensions.
While her loving grandparents fear for her safety, Iran proves to be an eye-opening experience for the young travelling poet who carries a romanticize view that Paris is the hub of artistic expression. Immediately self-conscious about her appearance, and her lack of knowledge of the culture, Rosie soon receives acceptance and guidance from other poets at the festival. Most notably the wise Mehrnaz (Shohreh Aghdashloo) who not only shows her that Iran has a long history when it comes to appreciating the art of poetry, but also that the country holds the key to better understanding the father Rosie never knew.
A seemingly simple coming of age tale on the surface, Window Horses reveals its intricacies through its creative use of animation. Frequently changing its visual style from watercolour to silhouette to mosaic, and everything in between, the film feels like an epic poem brought to life. Just as the musical notes jump of the page in the film, the viewer often feels as if they are dancing in a colourful fountain that consistently offers a new and pleasant surprise. The experimental nature of the animation draws the viewer in to the historical aspects of the film, specifically Iran’s deep political and artist past, far more than one would expect. It helps that Window Horses keeps a joyous tone throughout, offering plenty of wit to go with the emotion.
Fleming pulls together a stellar group of Canadian and international actors to provide the voices to the eclectic cast of characters in the film. Aside from Oh, who brings a wonderful sense of vulnerability and humour to the role, and Aghdashloo, who is great in everything she touches, the film features the likes of Ellen Page, Peyman Moaadi, Eddy Ko and Don McKellar to name a few. Each actor provides an unique and entertaining layer to their given roles.
Do not be fooled by the simplistic premise of Window Horses (The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming), the film is a wonderful exploration of family, history, art and the immigrant experience. Similar to the poetry that severs as the film’s backdrop, it is hard not to feel inspired and energized after soaking in the beautiful creativity that Fleming’s film displays.
Wednesday, January 18, 9:00 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Thursday, January 19, 3:15 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets can be purchased online at tiff.net