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Hana - B

Critic:

Helen Samuels

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Posted on:

30 Sept 2021

Film Reviews
Hana - B
Directed by:
Nabiatul Dania, Avrilian Olivia, Macgres, D-Ni
Written by:
Nabiatul Dania, Avrilian Olivia, Macgres, D-Ni
Starring:
Nabiatul Dania, Avrilian Olivia, Macgres

A teacher receives a mystery invitation to a Japanese film festival. She thinks it’s a hoax at first but eventually realises it’s not. She makes the journey from Malaysia to Japan and, seated in the film theatre watching one of the festival highlights, is reminded of the conflicted life story of a former student.

 

This classic redemption narrative, in the form of a rotoscope animation, centres on Rokiah, a troubled and rebellious student whose actions lead to a self-induced crisis from which she emerges renewed and ready to reassess her future. If this outline of the plot makes it sound a shade sentimental and simplistic, it is worth noting that the film is the work of a group of primary school pupils and, although any criticism at all might seem miserly, the levels of maturity and commitment implicit in the film’s production suggest that the team responsible would welcome a balanced review.

 

The rotoscope method, whereby the animators trace over motion picture footage and use computer software to create and manipulate artwork, allows the young filmmakers to explore a mixture of approaches. A strong and consistent overall aesthetic may be absent but there are satisfying touches, like the detailed rendering of colourful Malaysian batik prints against impressionistic backdrops. The storytelling is relatively sophisticated, requiring close attention as the action jumps between past and present to weave together the narrative strands.

 

Still in the festival auditorium, the teacher recalls how, in the aftermath of Rokiah’s brush with death, she gave the pupil a sketch book in an attempt to rekindle her creativity. Back in the present the crowd erupts. The film has won the big prize at the festival and it turns out that the director is none other than… No, let’s not spoil the surprise.

 

Hana - B celebrates the power of the special bond between a good teacher and a receptive pupil and the existence of the film itself, entirely the result of collaboration between young animators and their teachers, is a convincing testament to this dynamic. After the credits, a series of clips shows the incredibly youthful team at work. "We have to draw layer by layer. Can you imagine? One second consists of 12 layers!” says Nabiatul Dania, one of the animators. Hard slog, undoubtedly, but the girls also appear to be having great fun as they act and sketch.

 

Included in the Official Selection at the ENIMATION Festival di Slovenia, Hana - B is one of a series of shorts produced by the D-Mulsion team, guided by teacher D-Ni. His students come from rural Malaysia where access to technology is limited. It is hard not to be impressed by this initiative, which, given the success of another of their titles, ‘Batuh Bijanji’ (Promise Stones) at the Festival de Cinema Escola de Alvorada in Brazil, could have genuinely life-changing consequences for the girls.

 

On this form, who’s to say what the next mystery invitation might hold for the creators of Hana - B?

 

(A brief ‘disambiguation’: For anyone pondering the connection between the film in question ‘Hana - B’ and Takeshi Kitano’s acclaimed 1997 crime drama ‘Hana-bi’, there is none, except that, confusingly, the film-within-a-film in Hana - B is called ‘Hana-bi’. The word means ‘fireworks’ in Japanese and it is in this sense only that the two are connected. It is not the case that the schoolgirls’ heartwarming animation represents a veiled homage to the blood-drenched nineties noir.)

Animation