Two polar bears are driven into exile due to global warming. They will encounter brown bears along their journey, with whom they will try to cohabitate.
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Directed by Hugo Caby, Antoine Dupriez, Aubin Kubiak, Lucas Lermytte, Zoé Devise
“A stellar student film from 5 young creatives out of the Pôle 3D school in France, Migrants is an emotionally affecting fable that dramatizes contemporary concerns surrounding climate change and refugees while wowing audiences with astounding animation designed to transpose the visual charm of handcrafted stop-motion onto a full 3D production. While its allegorical themes are seamlessly integrated into its storytelling, and its visual look has drawn acclaim from some of the most prestigious media arts organizations in the world, the film’s near-universal acclaim is due, in equal measure, to its ability to transcend its activist message and calling-card worthy technical execution and simply tell a concise, effective, and ultimately heart-rending story that will resonate with many kinds of viewers from all walks of life.
The student team of Hugo Caby, Antoine Dupriez, Aubin Kubiak, Lucas Lermytte, and Zoé Devise approached their graduation project knowing they wanted to create a film that addressed societal issues. Inspired initially by the story of the Aquarius, a watercraft filled with refugees that stirred global headlines when it was refused entry at Italian ports in 2018, they used that as a jumping-off point in shaping Migrants. The plot that they arrived upon centers on two polar bears who are cast adrift in the Arctic due to the ecological unraveling of their home. Following the current, they find deliverance when they wash ashore upon a verdant wooded forest. However, the pair soon encounter brown bears native to the area and their initial hopes of cohabitation are quickly dashed.
At 8min long, the film is not a sophisticated treatment on the issues it evokes, but it avoids preachiness via its unerring focus on the travails of its adorable protagonists, pushing the metaphors to the background and crafting a complete and heartbreaking narrative that will appeal to fans of tear-jerker animated shorts like Lost & Found. This understated approach proves effective for its politics, as it sneakily utilizes our vast well of empathy for cute, plushy animals to advocate for the real-life humans we somehow find easier to ignore. When the creative team finally chooses to bridge the connection and make its previously implicit message explicit in the film’s closing moments, the result is quietly devastating.
It’s hard to deny the
The film’s technical excellence and social issue themes are sometimes difficult to appreciate in the face of sheer empathy-inducing adorableness.
Migrants is the latest in a surprising mini-trend of flashy student animations that self-consciously address environmental issues. It now sits alongside Pascal Schelbli’s The Beauty, Hybrids, from students out of MoPA, and Gobelins’ Thermostat 6, among several others, as high-profile award-season contenders that have parlayed environmentalist sentiment into widespread acclaim at both festivals and online. The formula is clear—use viewer appetite for well-designed eye-candy to smuggle in weightier issues. Yet, Migrants is, to my eyes, the best of the bunch, as its didacticism, while obvious, is still forced to take a backseat to genuinely compelling drama. We care about these polar bears! And the stakes they face make the film that much more appealing to varied audiences beyond animation enthusiasts.[Continue reading on shortoftheweek.com] – S/W Curator Jason Sondhi
Producer: Carlos De Carvalho
Editing: Hugo Caby, Aubin Kubiak
Animation: Aubin Kubiak, Lucas Lermytte
Music: Yann Menou
Sound design: Juliette Beha, Felix Vigne
Audio mixing: Thomas Rouvillain
Reproduced on this channel with the permission of the filmmakers.