×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming’

Director Ann Marie Fleming's rudimentary Stick Girl character uses poetry to cross xenophobic barriers in this whimsical cartoon.

With:
Sandra Oh, Ellen Page, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Don McKellar, Omid Abtahi, Navid Neghaban, Nancy Kwan, Eddy Ko, Payman Maadi, Jun Zhu. (English, Chinese, German, Farsi dialogue)

A mixed-race Canadian poet travels to a poetry festival in Iran and discovers her own voice while opening herself to those of others in the whimsical, animated coming-of-ager “Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming.” Tapping a host of fellow animators to create a visually rich tapestry, director-writer-animator Ann Marie Fleming creates an entertaining, educational, and poignant tale about identify and imagination that is filled with stories and poetry. Overall, the film provides a counterweight to our xenophobic times, proving that human beings are more alike than unalike and that poetry can be relevant across millennia. Mongrel Media will give this popular fest selection a theatrical release across Canada in March 2017.

The only child of a Chinese mother and an Iranian father, Rosie Ming (voiced by Sandra Oh, also executive producer) has been raised from the age of seven by her over-protective Chinese grandparents (voiced by Nancy Kwan and Eddy Ko) in a series of Canadian cities following the death of her mother and the disappearance of her father. Now a naïve twentysomething, she works at a fast-food restaurant and writes poetry that she sings while playing the guitar. As the story starts, Rosie, a beret-wearing Francophile, has just self-published a book, “My Eye Full, Poems by a Person Who Has Never Been to France.”

Although Rosie thinks France is the land of her soul, another country, one where almost everyone is a poet, is destined to claim it, as she discovers when arriving at the international poetry festival in Shiraz. On the narrative level, Fleming completely nails the overwhelming quality of Iranian hospitality that foreigners experience and the great potential for gaffes because of cultural differences. On the visual level, her use of different animation styles and techniques capture Iran’s entrancing colors, sounds, and tastes. For instance, as Rosie opens the window in her hotel to the resonant sound of the morning call to prayer, little flying carpets of color shoot ecstatically from the minaret.

While the narrative of the film is presented in one particular style, the visuals accompanying the poems and the histories of Iranian poets Hafiz and Rumi were created by different artists. They both accentuate and blend the myriad of differences in cultures, philosophies, time frames, and poetry. The variety of styles and techniques also inject humor, such as the “degenerate art” style visualizing the inappropriate poem recited by the arrogant young German poet Dietmar (excellently voiced by Don McKellar).

At the festival, Rosie finds connections to both sides of her heritage. The exiled Chinese poet Di Di (Jun Zhu) provides her with lessons on both recent Chinese history and poetic style as well as the fateful difference between being a simple poet and a political man. Meanwhile, the many Iranians she encounters seek to prove to her that a Persian father could never have willingly abandoned his daughter.

It may be distracting to some viewers that the other characters are more fleshed out visually, while Rosie remains a “stick girl,” but once Rosie dons her black chador, her body is no longer an issue. Stick Girl is a character that Fleming created while in art school and she has appeared in a number of Fleming’s short animations and as an avatar for the director in “The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam,” an animated biography of Fleming’s magician great-grandfather. In a sense, Stick Girl’s unformed quality is perfect for the character of Rosie, who has been kept so isolated from life experience and even from the truth about her own parents.

The powerhouse voice cast assembled by multi-hypenate Fleming also includes Shohreh Aghdashloo as a Tehran U. professor who offers Rosie some wise advice and Payman Maadi (“A Separation”), who delivers a masterful interpretation of Rumi’s Masnevi. Even real-life contemporary poet Taylor Mali contributes a poem that he reads via his toon avatar. The gorgeous Middle Eastern soundtrack from composer Taymaz Saba sets the perfect mood.

Film Review: 'Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming'

Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival, Oct. 3, 2016. (Also in Annecy, Toronto, Busan Film Festivals.)  Running time: 89 MIN.

Production: (Animated - Canada) A Mongrel Media release of a Stickgirl Prods production in co-production with The National Film Board of Canada with the support of Telefilm Canada Feature Film Fund – Development Program, Creative BC Project Development Fund, Canadian Film Centre, Perfect Circle Productions, Joe Cruz, Rock-It Promotions, Indiegogo, Akademie Schloss Solitude. Produced by Ann Marie Fleming, Shirley Vercruysse, Michael Fukushima. Executive producer, Sandra Oh.

Crew: Directed, written by Ann Marie Fleming. Editors, Fleming, Ileana Pietrobruno, Jean-Denis Rouette; animators, Fleming, Kevin Langdale, Janet Perlman, Sadaf Amini, Bahram Javaheri, Dominique Doktor, Elissa Chee, Michael Mann, Jody Kramer, Kunal Sen, Louise Johnson, Lillian Chan, Younger Yang, Joe Chang, Ian Godfrey
Nathaniel Akin, Jester Coyote Animation Inc., Jesse Cote, Brad Gibson, Chloe Liu, Eben Sullivan, Patrick Dufresne, Prajay Mahta, Jacyntha Cadwell.

With: Sandra Oh, Ellen Page, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Don McKellar, Omid Abtahi, Navid Neghaban, Nancy Kwan, Eddy Ko, Payman Maadi, Jun Zhu. (English, Chinese, German, Farsi dialogue)

More Film

  • Black Panther

    'Black Panther,' 'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Westworld' Among Costume Designers Guild Winners

    “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24. “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” are up for the Oscar this year, along with “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “Mary Poppins [...]

  • WGA Writers Contract Talks

    Talent Agents, WGA Achieve Progress in Second Round of Talks

    Hollywood talent agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved some progress at their second negotiating session over agency regulations, according to sources close to the talks. The two sides met Tuesday, two weeks after their first meeting resulted in both sides criticizing each other, followed by the WGA holding a trio of spirited [...]

  • Aaron Paul

    Film News Roundup: Aaron Paul Honored by Sun Valley Film Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, Aaron Paul is honored, Bruce Berman is re-upped at Village Roadshow, and Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher get a book deal. FESTIVAL HONORS More Reviews Berlin Film Review: 'Flesh Out' Berlin Film Review: 'Marighella' The Sun Valley Film Festival has selected Idaho native and three-time Emmy winner Aaron Paul as [...]

  • Olivia Munn]EMILY'S List Pre-Oscars Brunch, Inside,

    Olivia Munn Says Brett Ratner Called Her Before His 'Howard Stern' Apology

    Olivia Munn is setting the record straight about standing up to “Rush Hour” director Brett Ratner, whom she alleges sexually harassed her over a decade ago. During a panel discussion at the Emily’s List pre-Oscars brunch at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills Tuesday morning, Munn revealed that Ratner called her in 2011 after he denied [...]

  • Flesh Out review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Flesh Out'

    Ignore the awful English-language title: “Flesh Out” is an emotionally rich, sensitively made film about a young woman in Mauritania forced to gain weight in order to conform to traditional concepts of well-rounded beauty before her impending marriage. Strikingly registering the sensations of a protagonist living between the dutiful traditions of her class and the [...]

  • Marighella review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Marighella'

    Does Brazil need a film that openly advocates armed confrontation against its far-right government? That’s the first question that needs to be asked when discussing “Marighella,” actor Wagner Moura’s directorial debut focused on the final year in the life of left-wing insurrectionist Carlos Marighella during Brazil’s ruthless military dictatorship. For whatever one might think of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content