________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 4 . . . . October 15, 2004


Chris Hinton: Before and After.

Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2003.
38 min., VHS, $99.95.
Order Number: C0103 005.

Subject Heading:
Animated films.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Deborah L. Begoray.

** /4

This compilation of short films by Chris Hinton offers an overview of his work. While viewing all the pieces may be of interest to students of film (with, perhaps, a special interest in Canadian film makers), only selected shorts from this collection will be appealing most audiences.

     There are 8 films included: Flux, Twang, X-man, Watching TV, Blackfly, Giordano, Blowhard, and Lady Frances Simpson. The first three are experimental in design. Flux is a number of child-like drawings accompanied by sounds (no words or music). Twang, in similar fashion, is also a peculiar collection of images--this time of tightrope walkers interacting with a rope. For example, they fall off (complete with blood) for one kind of 'twang' and floss their teeth for another. The third in this first group is X-man. It features music and abstract art. There are no narratives in any of these pieces. They might serve as discussion starters in an art education classroom or as a model for film study students.

     Two of the other films are Government of Canada advertisements of less than a minute in length. Giordano presents information on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and might serve as an opening to a Social Studies lesson. Lady Frances Simpson presents the very brief story of the arrival of the first piano in Lower Fort Garry, Manitoba. It would also be useful in Social Studies or History classes. Both of these films could be used as well to serve as models for students interested in animation or cartooning as part of the viewing and representing requirement of the language arts curricula.

     Finally, there are three more completely developed short animated films. The first of these, Watching TV, is a good example of the film maker as social commentator. It is a persuasive essay in visual form in which Chris Hinton presents his anti-television perspective. He finds television content to be senseless, rapid, devoid of meaning and filled with violence. One series of images shows a gun shooting a variety of things (shoes, lamps, cows, people, moon) until only a television is left floating through space. This film could be used as an example of a visual response to an issue, or to begin an oral or written discussion on the place of television in our society.

     Blackfly is the animated short film of the Canadian folk song which includes the chorus "Blackfly, the little blackfly, always the blackfly no matter where you go. I'll die with the blackfly picking my bones in North Ontar-i-o!" The song was written in 1949 by Wade Hemswatch and is sung on this film by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. It is catchy to listen to and fun to watch. It would show students how a song might be illustrated, or could motivate a discussion on Canadian summers, camping or even debates on the use of pesticides!

     Blowhard is a very clever fable on the use and abuse of resources. It concerns a fictional kingdom with a large population of dragons but no source of heat. Enter JB and his Eastern partners who propose that the dragons be used as a cheap energy resource. They found a company called Consolidated Dragon, but alas the dragons are overworked. What happens next will engage students and teachers interested in resource management, environmental lobbying, capitalism and profiteering. It might also be used to illustrate social commentary in visual form and be paired with Watching TV (discussed above).

     In sum, Before and After offers a couple of gems–Blackfly and Blowhard--mixed with six pieces of very limited interest.

Recommended with Reservations.

Deborah L. Begoray is the Chair of the Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction, Faculty of Education, at the University of Victoria in Victoria, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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