During the weekend of the Animation is Film Festival in Hollywood, I received an troubling email from Brazil. My friend was troubled by the developments in his home country and the pressure of voicing opinions that countered the people in power percolated in between each sentence.
Fear had come out of the darkest nightmares and into the bright daylight. Immediately following the festival, on a Tuesday, the CNN New York headquarters was being evacuated because of a bomb threat. Other bomb threats were being reported–the Clintons, the Obamas and an office is Fresno, California. We seem to live in a time of growing fear.
“Tito and the Birds” could not be more timely. It is both a film with adult themes and one that can easily be understood by children of any age and surely spark a discussion. Brightly colored, the movie shows us scenes that at times are being painted before us with unseen hands and brushes. The bold strokes are expressionistic and the color vivid. It begins with a quote: “Of other floods I hear a dove” (Ungaretti).
At first, we enter a history that begins with a cave and crude paintings on the wall. One of those images breaks free–a bird takes us on the rest of a journey through history, from an ancient tall man-made tower, to great ships from the distant past with white sails and a large, centered red cross symbolizing the entry of Catholicism and the white men. We’ll later learn that this is part of Tito’s recurring dream.
Tito Rufus is the eldest of two sons of a scientist, Dr. Rufus. The younger son, Buiu, has two bulging eyes, as if always infected with fear. Both are of medium skin tone. Tito’s friend, Sarah, has dark skin and the rich kid Teo Souza is a blonde brat. How these young friends and frenemies interact and end the movie says a lot.
Tito’s narration tells the audience, “My father told me the world’s biggest problem was fear” and that “fear had become contagious like a disease” but warns Tito “You catch fear from ideas.” “Tito and the Birds” is about “how fear contaminated the world.”
Dr. Rufus believes that if he could understand the language of birds, the birds could save the world from catastrophes. And a catastrophe comes: A disease that turns people into fearful blobs.
This is a beautiful, colorful tale about how a young boy and his friends save the world by listening to the sounds of nature. “Tito and the Birds” is suitable for children and adults of all ages. In Portuguese with English subtitles. “Tito and the Birds” made its world premiere in France at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival and made its US premiere at the Animation Is Film Festival. No release date has been set.