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NFB Hothouse program highlights motherhood, a ravenous insect, urban development, extinction, sleep, and twins

Toronto animator and director Akash Jones created "Amma" as a tribute to his mother. Image courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada.

The National Film Board of Canada has released six short films from a diverse group of animators. These films were all selected as part of the 14th edition of the NFB’s Hothouse program, which attracted a record 401 applications.

The NFB calls this year’s theme “Small Things Considered”. As  part of the rules, each animator had to limit their production to one to two minutes.

Toronto animator Akash Jones delivered a positive message about parenthood with “Amma”, though it may not come across that way at the outset. However, by the end, it’s clearly a tribute to his mother. She instills life lessons about the importance of wiping the counter, turning off the lights, and praying to the Hindu god Ganesh before leaving the house.

It’s not the first time that Jones has done something like this. He honoured his immigrant dad with his earlier live-action documentary short, “A Tale of Two Regents”.

Jones, a recent graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University, has attracted more than 200,000 subscribers to his YouTube channels. He has also earned animation production credits with Amazon and Sony Pictures.

Another of the Hothouse directors, Mochi Lin, fled to Canada from Beijing in 2015. Her film, “The Last Tango”, depicts two insects courting. Moreover, she composed the music for “The Last Tango”, which has a surprising finale.

According to the NFB, the ex-Vancouver resident turned Montrealer explores themes of resistance and confinement in her work.

Lin’s earlier film, “Swallow Flying to the South”, made the 2023 BAFTA animation shortlist. It revolves around a five-year-old girl abandoned at a public boarding school in Beijing.

Meanwhile, another animator from Beijing, Halifax-based Jenny Yujia Shi, directed “Red Star Alley”. This Hothouse selection shows how an old vine takes root in old Beijing. Shi’s film also depicts massive and earth-shaking redevelopment.

Hothouse dystopian music video

A second Montreal animator, Bianca Shonee Arroyo-Kreimes, juxtaposes a colourful music video about amphibians with the reality of ecological collapse. The title is “My World, Your Melody”.

The Costa Rican Canadian grew up near a rainforest. Her homeland, Costa Rica, has the highest density of biodiversity on the planet, but deforestation is jeopardizing animals’ prospects of survival. With nearly five percent of all species worldwide, Costa Rica is a magnet for ecotourists.

A battle in the womb

Another film in the 14th edition of the NFB’s Hothouse program is “Unbending”. Michelle Ku, a Chinese Canadian animator from Calgary, draws on her own experience in addressing the difficulty of falling asleep for those with structural dissociation.

The sixth film in the series, “Not Enough Womb for the Two of Us”, is by Vancouver animator Cameron Keltke, The Emily Carr University of Art + Design graduate uses watercolours and pastels to depict a battle between twins in utero. A twin herself, Keltke’s short won the best Canadian student animation award at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in 2023.

NFB animation producer Maral Mohammadian, associate producer Anne Koizumi, and mentoring director Andrea Dorfman led Hothouse  14.

To learn more about the National Film Board of Canada, visit the website. Learn more about the communities that make up Canada on the Toronto Spark website. Follow the Toronto Spark on X @TOSparkOfficial.


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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Toronto Spark editor Charlie Smith has worked as a journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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