At the beginning of October, I was deep in the middle of my Vancouver International Film Festival experience and I kept hearing the patrons around me talking about an animated film called Window Horses. Having a full schedule already, I opted not to fit it in and by the end of the festival, I was kind of kicking myself because it ended up winning two awards, Best BC Film and Best Canadian Film. Made here in Vancouver, Window Horses is a film that offers a simple beauty in its animation style and a story that packs an emotional wallop as it evolves into the third act.
Drawn as a stick figure with no discernible features besides eyes, a mouth and a triangle as her dress, Rosie Ming is a Chinese Persian striving poet living in Vancouver, living with her Chinese grandparents. Dreaming of Paris and even self-publishing a book of her odes to the city, Rosie enters a poetry contest and ends up winning a ticket to perform in a festival, but not to the country she desires. Instead, she is selected for a festival in Shiraz, Iran, which, for a woman who has never left her comfort zone let alone city, opens up a whole new world to her in many ways.
Window Horses went down many avenues that I really didn’t expect from it but the secondary title of the film, “The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming”, is just a taste of how deep this epiphany goes. Directed and written by Ann Marie Fleming and produced the by lead voice star, Sandra Oh, the film moves Rosie through her emergence as a confident poet by giving her a look at what inspires the international array of poets, the daily life in Iran and then deepening to her own familial connection to the country. The way Window Horses explores Rosie Ming’s story moves through inspiring channels, first through her art before reaching in and repairing her soul, make this a truly inspirational film.
There’s so much about Fleming’s approach to this film that resonated with me. At first, when Rosie arrives in Shiraz, the fact that it isn’t her dream trip to Paris seems to weigh on her a bit but she strives to make the situation work, no matter how uncomfortable she is with it. Slowly, through the artfulness and beauty of the city, she begins to romanticize it, much like she did with her original goal. This might also be the counterbalance to one of her peers, Dietmar, an arrogant German poet who seems to get his kicks from calling out every insecurity that Rosie exhibits. For any struggling or fledgling artist, Window Horses shows someone on that level overcoming both their created adversities and deep-seated issues to become, not just successful but accepting of themselves as a tiny being on this spinning blue marble. Like I said at the top of my review, this film was a serious surprise and I found myself very engrossed by this award-winning animated film. 4/5