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Stars: No stars (no dialogue)

Director: Gints Zibalodis

Precocious 26-year-old Latvian animator Zibalodis is a man who does it all himself. There are almost no credits at the end of this dreamlike cartoon adventure because it's all the work of one man - he even contributed the sound and effectively droning music, as we drift through a sometimes enervating - you have put up with watching virtually the same shot for a minute or more - but often suspenseful story.

The films opens on a shot of a teenage boy dangling from the straps of his parachute after a plane crash, and finding himself on an alien island. He is soon swallowed by - and escapes from - a black, amorphous giant with white eyes who rolls himself into a fluctuating ball and absorbs his prey.

The film divides itself into chapters - The Forbidden Oasis, Mirror Lake etc - and it's at the oasis where the boy meets his only companion - and eventual salvation - in the shape of an exhausted yellow bird struggling to fly. The boy gives the bird water and an orange fruit growing there, and they set off across a mysterious alien island, using a satchel, a motor-bike and a map, all found by the oasis.

All the time, as the boy speeds though continuous arches and miniature monoliths, they are pursued by the trudging giant, including one particularly thrilling encounter at a rickety plank and rope bridge.

Some of the visuals here are beautiful - the animation is basic but wonderfully clean - especially the oasis with its lily-pad trees, and a spiral well where a colony of cats go for water, but the film is undeniably lethargic and will not appeal to very young children, who will either go to sleep or ask when it ends. For the rest of us, the film, despite its faults, maintains its grip and we do want to see whether the boy survives at the (rather abrupt) end. It'll be interesting to see what Zibalodis does next.

David Quinlan

Latvia 2019. UK Distributor: Munro Film Services. Colour (unspecified).
75 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 28 Aug 2020