________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 16 . . . . April 3, 2009

cover Hungu.

Nicolas Brault (Writer, Animator & Director). Michèle Bélanger & Julie Roy (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2008.
9 min., 10 sec. plus 12 min., 27 sec. bonus features, DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9908 202.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Naomi Hamer.

**** /4

Through a wordless audio-visual narrative, Hungu explores how a mother’s soul is resurrected and transformed in the form of the Hungu, an African musical instrument. This moving animated film presents the tale of a young son who must leave behind his mother as she lies dying in the barren African desert during a drought. Using the style of African rock paintings as his inspiration, Nicholas Brault has elegantly crafted this tale with a combination of 2D animation on a graphics tablet and sand animation. It is particularly impressive that Brault has created an emotionally powerful film using these visually simple images. The soundtrack is equally sparse, using only the sounds of sand and the bare, repetitive tones of the hungu to produce a hypnotic rhythm. As a result, the film feels like a meditation, a visual poem about family, memory and moving forward from experiences of death and trauma.

    In addition, the DVD includes two behind-the-scenes vignettes. These are also accessible on the NFB website. Both are of good use for teachers wanting to extend the study of this film, and they provide excellent supplements to the film itself. The first vignette is a “meet the director” segment that illustrates how the animation process was implemented and addresses how decisions were made in the production and design process. In addition, a short vignette explores how the hungu has evolved into the Brazilian berimbau used in the martial art/dance capoeira originally performed by African slaves predominantly from Angola and the Congo. It documents a discussion of the history of capoeira with an articulate capoeira leader as well as a presentation of the key moves and techniques of capoeira by a group of participants, including the director.

     Although younger viewers will enjoy viewing this film, I think that there is also great potential to use this film and its behind-the-scene vignettes in a secondary school setting. I highly recommend this film and its supplementary features for viewers of all ages.

     Hungu won first place for the Best Animated Short Jury Award and an Honourable Mention Award for Future Film Maker at the 2008 Palm Springs International ShortFest & Short Film market. Hungu was also screened at the Toronto Film Festival.

     Nicholas Brault, an award-winning short film director, produced his first films using a graphics tablet during his BA in graphic design at the University du Quebec a Montreal including L’Oeill (1999) and Vermino (2000). In 2000. he won the NFB Cineaste recherche(e) contest which allowed him to make Antagonia (2002) which screened at the Festival de Clermont-Ferrand and won an award at Portugal’s CINANIMA. He also directed Ilot (2003) a film about Inuit culture that won first prize at VIDFEST, Vancouver (2004).

Highly Recommended.

Naomi Hamer is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Research on Children, Youth and Media, Institute of Education, University of London, UK. She also has an MA in Children Literature from the University of British Columbia and has worked extensively as a drama and creative writing instructor with children and teens in schools, libraries and recreational programs.

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