This week, when Oscar nominations came out, people were shocked by a number of things, namely the complete lack of diversity the Awards are still presenting, even when racial and gender debates are at an all time high. The Best Animation category, on the other hand, was not a big topic of discussion, especially since we all expect “Inside Out”, an amazing movie that talks about a number of important subjects, to win. However, there was one big surprise: “Boy and The World” , a Brazilian animation, managed to get a nomination in this category!
This was surprising for many reasons, but especially because the movie wasn’t well distributed here in Brazil, so a lot of people didn’t even know it existed. It also goes against what’s being done in mainstream animation, which is using the highest technology to achieve realistic effects. Here, we see hand drawn animation that mixes pencil and crayon to create an almost childish effect, which contrasts nicely with the story that’s being told, one about the devastating effects of uncontrolled capitalism and industrialization.
We first meet the boy in a rural setting, and the drawings here resemble a children’s book: colorful and clean. Even though the movie never establishes a time or a place in which it’s happening, there are a few nods here and there by which you can recognize when and where the story is set. The fact that the family is seen eating only rice and beans without any meat shows that they are poor, the father leaving to probably work in a factory and the existence of military on the streets sets the film around the 1960s, during the military dictatorship. However, the director actually intended for the movie to be set in another planet, which is why at a certain point you can see two moons in the sky. The little historical references can be seen as a form of social criticism, but not as an attempt to be accurate to the actual events that happened.
When the boy leaves to find his father and gets to the big city, the drawing style changes dramatically: suddenly, everything is darker and more complex, even though the colorful aspect of it remains. We see the boy in a favela, which is actually the place where many people who came to the city to work in the factories end up living, due to the lack of planning. Though the movie is not set in any specific time, it’s very current. Many of the issues it portrays can be seen still today, and were particularly evident with the 2014 World Cup and this year’s Olympics.
The film lacks subtlety at some points, especially during the fight between the colorful bird, representing the people, and the dark bird, which represents the oppressive state. However, the style of animation and the wonderful soundtrack that accompanies the movie makes it so these particularly unsubtle moments are still enjoyable and able to convey a larger message. Another aspect that makes the film unique is the almost complete lack of dialogues. The few that exist are gibberish, which is actually backwards Portuguese. For me, this really makes the film more approachable by wider audiences that do not have to use subtitles to understand it.
When I saw the list of nominees, I was really excited to see this movie there even though I wasn’t able to see it in theatres. The fact that a Brazilian film and director were nominated in a category that isn’t restricted to foreign films made me really proud. Every year we submit films (this year we submitted “The Second Mother”, which I’ve already talked about here) but we rarely make the cut, so this was a very pleasant surprise! I watched the film today and was honestly stunned by the quality of it, and I think you’d like it too if you gave it a shot! You can download a torrent here , and I believe that the movie will be distributed in the US soon.
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