WINDOW HORSES: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming
Director: Ann Marie Fleming
Screenwriter: Ann Marie Fleming, Maryam Najafi
Cast: Voices of Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ellen Page Sandra Oh, Navid Negahban, Nancy Kwan, Omid Abtahi
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 12/21/17
Opens: September 29, 2017
If you don’t like poetry because you cannot understand its meanings, you’d do fine by watching “Window Horses.” Ann Marie Fleming’s animated creation evokes poetry in the exotic scenery, and the verses read especially by the awkward Rosie Ming (Sandra Oh) are as clear as good writing can be. This is animation created for adults, although responsible children can surely profit from watching and hearing from the stick figure of Rosie and the more elaborate designs of all the others. The story would be found particularly poignant by people whose fathers had abandoned them, and when Rosie discovers the real reason she was lost to her dad, you may find sympathy for the man who left his daughter through no conscious fault of his own.
Rosie Ming, who is half Chinese and half Iranian lives in North Vancouver with her supportive grandparents, who, upon hearing that she is invited to a poetry festival in Shiraz, Iran, have mixed feelings. They know that she loves Paris, though she has never been there, and try to persuade her to shift her travel plans—but at the time she had no invitations to similar festivals in the French capital. Rosie’s best friend Kelly (Ellen Page) did not know even that Rosie was a poet, though Rosie explains that “it’s nothing,” an indication of her self-denigrating posture.
Arrival in Shiraz wearing a black chador—whose symbolic meaning she probably does not know—she is encouraged by people she meets that she has no real need to dress that way. She makes friends with a scruffy German, Dietmar (Don McKellar), fascinated that the fellow with a straggly beard lives in the city of her dreams. Warmly met by fellow poets and by the festival’s cultural ambassador Mehrnaz (Shohreh Aghdashloo), she reads on two occasions from her poetry. When the festival’s MC Cyrus (Camyar Chaichian) tells her the reason for her father’s disappearance, her principal fear (that she was not wanted) and hostility (how could he do such a thing?) melt away.
Criticism of the present government of Iran is so subtle that one might expect that country’s censorship people to OK the animation, at least for export. Political satire is hardly the point of the 89-minute film by Ann Marie Fleming who directs her first feature since 2003, but there is no small feminist message throughout. We learn something of the history of Persia, a glorious chapter in the world’s record of the past, the brilliance of a fourteenth century’s beloved Persian scribe seemingly snuffed by a government that cares more about arming terrorists in Hezbollah than in reflecting on the country’s humanistic past.
Unrated. 89 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – A-
Overall – B