- Ayyam-i-Ha is a Baha’i festival that is joyously celebrated in countries and territories all over the world. It is a time of hospitality, generosity, and caring for the needy. This year Ayyam-i-Ha runs from February 26-29.
Another World is a poignant and thoughtful short film about how children are coming of age at a time when humanity is also struggling to come to maturity. The film is based on a poem by Esther Maloney and between June and December 2020, she, along with a small team of creators from Winnipeg, Toronto and New York, regularly met and brought the poem to cinematic life.
The film’s team includes Esther, as its creator and narrator; Josefina Hernandez, illustrator and animator; Laura Friedmann, director of photography; Kyle Schmalenberg, camera operator; Jordan Bighorn, editor; Cameron Britton, score and sound designer; Liam Moore, colour corrector; and Yeshua Clavijo Villada, Sonya Francis, Maya Francis, Ilan Mostmand, Kalila Mostmand, and Blair Schmalenberg as its actors with additional voices from Shayan and Junayna Rushdy.
Esther, Laura and Josefina graciously shared how it all came together. Here are their words:
Baha’i Blog: Could you tell us a little bit about the film?
This short film combines live footage with illustration and animation. We first meet a young boy who loves to draw and has grown up on a boat, illustrating aspects of his childhood and observations, particularly those things that are unjust. Throughout, we hear his mother reading him a poem about the challenging time they are living through. Her words continue as the boat begins to sink and he escapes to land, where he joins other children venturing out together to build a new world. The live footage and animation capture both the daily activities of life as well as the mystical forces that lead both to the moment of crisis and the ways they can rebuild. For example, the part in the poem where she says, “this ship was built with pride and force, when love is what creates, of course”.
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to create this film?
The feeling that the world was ending! Back in April of 2020, my three-year-old son was really fascinated by the way huge ships can sink, and we watched and read a lot about the Titanic. Like a lot of parents, I spend a lot of time in his bedroom waiting for him to fall asleep, answering his questions while scrolling the news. As I was telling him about these boats sinking, I was thinking “the same thing is happening with the world”…that it seems like utter collapse. I wondered how children can come to know that the disintegration they are experiencing in the world right now is linked to forces of integration, which are often harder to notice. Baha’u’llah wrote, “soon will the present day Order be rolled up and a new one rolled out in its stead.” The poem (and now film) Another World draws on the metaphor of a sinking ship to explore this same dynamic.
Esther reached out to me early last year with an early draft of her poem asking if I was interested in illustrating it. I was immediately inspired by it and the tender way in which Esther captured this difficult moment from the point of view of a mother. This is a unique time where everything is falling apart but yet we must keep hope and work on building something better.
Baha’i Blog: What did you learn in the process of creating this film?
I knew it might be challenging to take a poem like this, which was both conceptual and had a story and translate it into visuals…particularly blending both illustration and live footage. And especially during COVID, when it was particularly challenging to film outdoors and assist each other with the logistics. I think I learned about how grounding it is to have a protagonist visually, and the importance of being in agreement as a team in terms of style. Working on this project called on all of us to be patient both with each other (and the many demands on our time), as well as with the steps we needed to take for the vision to become clearer, so I think that tenderness throughout the process is something I’m always learning about.
First of all I have to say that I feel really proud that a team like ours, many of us parents/single-parents who are working and homeschooling during the pandemic, were able to put together a film at this time. The challenges and obstacles were there and I think that what helped us was the spirit in which the group approached the work. We all wanted to create something beautiful that would uplift others at this particularly challenging time. Something that made things easier was that many of us had previously collaborated on projects, so there was a rapport and a genuine excitement to once again work on something inspiring together. I personally experienced some technical issues with my equipment which affected the editing process. I was reminded that even when things feel dark and difficult, seeing things from a higher perspective and remembering our higher purpose and vision can help to ground us and realign ourselves with our goals.
I learned about collaboration and achieving a unity of vision where each contributor’s talents and capacities were used in striving for excellence.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope viewers will take away with them, long after they’ve finished watching?
The image of those children in the forest at the end: it’s cold, it’s a bit barren, but they are building, they are beautiful and they are united.
I hope that they can see that even when there’s a crisis or when things seem like they are at their worst, there are still hopeful and positive things happening. There is duality in everything and it helps to see the light in the darkness. In the film the ship was sinking, but it opened an opportunity for other things to be built, grow and emerge.
That there is always work to be done, and as things get hard, the work of building a better world becomes even more indispensable.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you, Esther, Laura and Josefina, for sharing these insights with us!
You can watch ‘Another World’ here:
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