Arts Review

Window Horses, Film Review by Marc Glassman

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Window Horses
Animation feature

Ann Marie Fleming, director and writer
Starring the voices of: Sandra Oh (Rosie Ming), Don McKellar (Dietmar), Nancy Kwan (Gloria), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Mehrnaz), Navid Negahban (Mehran), Ellen Page (Kelly), Kristen Thomson (Caroline), Omid Abtahi (Ramin)

Directors are dreamers. At their best, they put magic on the screen. Director and writer Ann Marie Fleming’s great-grandfather Long Tack Sam was a magician, on whom she based a previous award-winning film. She has followed in his footsteps with the graceful and gorgeous Window Horses, creating a land of poetry, where a girl can find her lost family and heritage. That land is Persia, present day Iran, which Fleming transforms in her beautiful animation feature into a place that lives, breathes and honours the poetic impulse.

Window Horses tells the emotionally resonant story of Rosie, a Chinese-Iranian-Canadian teenaged poet who is invited to read her work at a festival in Iran. She seizes the opportunity, despite her grandparents’ objections, to go to the country, where her father had returned, shortly before her mother died. Following the classic structure of the quest, Rosie learns more on her journey than she expects. She discovers a world of poetry, of metaphors that embody truth, of stories that are more important than reality. Rosie learns to appreciate her gift for language and the beauty of even exploring a few words in Farsi.

Window Horses is designed in a vivid cinematic style, with the faces of the characters—Rosie, her family and fellow poets—predominating in a landscape that is often quite abstract. Iran effectively turns back to its mythical past as Persia, thanks to Fleming’s culturally sensitive  style and the effective spoken art acting of such seasoned performers as Sandra Oh as Rosie, Don McKellar as the German poet Dietmar and Iranian icon Shohreh Aghdashloo as Rosie’s friend Mehrnaz.

When Rosie finds out the reasons for her father’s departure from Canada, she is able to reconcile with her large and loving Iranian family. She also begins to become the poet she desires to be. Fleming has created a tale in which love and poetry prevail over  ignorance and hatred. It is her attempt to “add a little peace, love and understanding to our increasing complex and conflicted world.”

Full disclosure: I’ve known Ann Marie Fleming for over 25 years and am happy to say that we’re friends. But I’m a film critic. I wouldn’t be telling you this if I didn’t believe it’s true: Window Horses, the winner of the BC film award at the Vancouver International Film Festival and the best Canadian film at the Reel Asian Festival, is a lovely piece of art cinema. You should see it.

Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus

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