Window Horses is an animated feature that follows a young Canadian girl of mixed descent who has grown up believing that her Iranian father abandoned her to a poetry festival in Iran. There she discovers the wide world of international poetry festivals, her own ability as a poet/performer, and that what she has been told about her father is not the truth. See WindowHorses.com.
Do you have a personal connection to Iranian culture?
Honestly, it was love that sent me down this long exploration of Iranian culture. I am mixed race myself, and an immigrant, and have always been interested in personal histories and the intricacies of cross-cultural collaborations. When I came back to Vancouver after a residency in Germany, I found a large Iranian community there. Listening to stories of the Iranian diaspora, I was struck by not only how little I knew about it, but also by how much it resembled stories of immigration that I’d heard in Germany and from all over the world.
I moved the story to Vancouver and then to Iran, because that was where I am now, and I made it animated because that made it possible. Animation is the perfect medium for expressing poetry and the endless possibilities of the imagination. I put my avatar stickgirl in it, and made her half-Persian so I could make this as personal a tale as possible.
Rosie gathers emotional gravity as the story goes on. How did you choose to manifest that?
The creative process is an amazing thing, and for narrative film, of course you are going to have transformation and growth (unless you don’t). First, you have the idea, then the script, then you add the character designs and then the actors. Every artist adds something more to the story.
I absolutely wanted the audience to have an emotional experience. Rosie is on a voyage of exploration. She starts off very naive and sheltered. She has had her hopes and dreams and troubles, but she keeps it pretty light. In Iran her world expands, and she is forced to confront how she really feels and to understand the point of view of others while she is being totally overwhelmed by all this information about poetry, about this different culture, and about her own history.
Poetry is a remarkably universal phenomenon, but its centrality in the lives of people from other cultures is not always something a North American audience considers. Was that one of the motives for putting this story on screen?
Yes! It’s exciting! Certainly there are other cultures where poetry is more a part of daily life — Iran and China to name the two I feature in the film. Words and thoughts written a thousand years ago are still learned by school children and are passed on to other cultures through continual adaptations because they are still relevant today. It is like a great code that connects us across the millennia. Maybe not everyone in the United States can quote Thoreau or Dickens or Walker, but most everyone knows a line from Bob Dylan, and he just won the Nobel Prize for his poetry.
What do you hope for the film? And for Rosie?
This is a small film with a big and urgent mission: to foster some compassion and understanding between cultures. Be open, stay curious. Listen to one another. It’s about love. We need more love.
It is travelling all over the world in festivals, and will be released in Canada this spring. I am hoping for wide distribution, especially in the United States. These are complicated times and there is a lot of fear out there. A lot of artists are making dark images that reflect the times, and that totally makes sense, but this film is trying to shed a little lightness out there, through art.
Peace through poetry! Stickgirl has been interested in exploring astrophysics next, and how the laws of the universe are similar to the laws that seem to govern our personal relationships.