Animation, as a medium and an art form, can be powerfully profound, especially when it delivers a universal message through an intensely personal story. Dustin Grella’s short film about September 11 achieves just such a synthesis. His sad story, sparely told, is perfectly complemented by the simple beauty of his drawings that are, at once, both ephemeral and unforgettable.
“People keep looking at our shoes and boards in a weird way. They think that they are attached to the boards through some sort of magnetic field.” So says 17-year-old Afghani Murza, a young teenager from Kabul who has found his oasis in a place called Skateistan. Directed by former professional snowboarder Orlando von Einsiedel, the film Skateistan documents how a physical action as simple as skateboarding can help to dissolve barriers between boys and girls and empower children to believe in their ability to create positive change, even in a bomb-scarred country.
Aki Ra was handling weapons by age five. By age ten, he was shooting people. Kidnapped as a child and conscripted to serve in Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army, it was kill or be killed for the young boy. After surviving two decades of wartime soldiering, Aki Ra is now living a very different life. First introduced to Mountainfilm audiences in 2003 with Richard Fitoussi’s short film, Aki’s Story, a fuller and updated version of Aki Ra’s quest for redemption is presented in A Perfect Soldier. To date, Aki Ra has, almost single-handedly, removed an estimated 50,000 land mines and ordnance from the Cambodian countryside. No matter the number, he can never remove mental images and memories of his haunted past—the faces of his victims, their last anguished cries for help, his unending struggle to make sense of the atrocities he has experienced.