Ann Marie Fleming's new film Old Dog to screen at SPARK Animation Film Festival

Alum Ann Marie Fleming (BFA 1989) will have her short film Old Dog featured at this year’s SPARK Animation Film Festival in Vancouver taking place from October 29 to November 8. Old Dog reflects on how we care for our elders and our elderly pets.

This new film by Ann Marie has been selected for a number of Canadian festivals, from Halifax to Vancouver including Vancouver International Film Festival and FIN Atlantic International Film Festival.

As both writer and director, Ann Marie makes visible the tender work of caretaking in Old Dog. After losing his best friend, Henry the elderly pug must depend on his owner for help. Love isn’t always the stuff of hearts and flowers: sometimes it’s brushing matted fur, non-slip socks to keep out the cold, and a purple diaper.

“This film started off as a way of talking about aging, inspired by my namesake, Ann-Marie [spelled with a hyphen] Fleming, who I often get mixed up with in internet searches,” shared Ann Marie in an interview with the National Film Board [NFB] of Canada. “The other Ann-Marie has a company that makes technologies for aging dogs and also for their humans. I was struck by the compassion she has for these vulnerable animals, helping them navigate the latter stages of their lives, and by how much dogs have to teach human beings.”

Inspired by this connection and the experience of caregivers everywhere, Old Dog’s charming animation brings this relationship to life in a series of poignant vignettes.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, the way we take care of our elders and our most vulnerable is being exposed starkly, and our global values are being put to the test,” said Ann Marie. “Not just medical practitioners, but all caregivers are our frontline people. For the rest of us, the care we take of ourselves and of each other can mean the difference between life and death, sustaining or collapsing economies, mental and physical well-being. It has always been so, but now it is up front and centre.”

Small things—meals, bath time, and head scratches—offer warmth and support. The longstanding bond of these two souls, grown together over the years, is more than comfort and companionship; it is a love story. Pure and simple.

“Animation is the perfect medium to tell this story. It makes the experience of the human and the dog more universal. Animation allows you to come closer to a subject, oddly, because it is at a slight distance,” the director explained to NFB. “You don’t necessarily have personal memories associated with what or who you are seeing, which allows everybody into the story. It’s not this dog and that man, it’s the world of the possible.”

As part of International Animation Day, NFB is celebrating with 12 short films streaming free via the Get Animated! online showcase. All of the films will be available permanently in Canada for free viewing on the NFB site. Now in its 14th year, this annual event gives Canadian audiences the opportunity to explore a host of new works by Canadian and European filmmakers working in the NFB’s cutting-edge, internationally renowned studios. The rich 2020 selection puts women in the spotlight—both female directors and strong female characters—and features a wealth of different animation techniques.

Catch Ann Marie’s film during the SPARK Animated Film Festival or watch it online at NFB.ca

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