“Distant Islands” makes waves by combining childhood nostalgia with animated art

that of Bettina Maylone Distant islands (1981) is a six-minute animated film about a young girl’s summer adventures off the coast of British Columbia with her parents. Childhood wonder and nostalgia guides the story as the narrator, the adult version of the young girl, recalls how these summers have been a time of exploration and family bonding.

Distant islands is part of a collection of classic Canadian shorts currently presented by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). The NFB produces and distributes works ranging from documentaries and animated films – like this one – to stories and interactive experiences. Others currently featured include William Canning and Donald Brittain’s king of the hill, a documentary for avid baseball fans, and The Drew’s The Dingles, which looks like a fun Beatles cover band.

Just after his debut at the Montreal World Film Festival in 1982, Distant islands was awarded the award for Best Overall Children’s Production at the Yorkton Film Festival 1982 and the Silver Dolphin for Best Children’s Film at the 1982 International Animated Film Festival in Espinho, Portugal. The film also received an honorable mention at the 1983 American Film and Video Festival held in New York.

Distant islands is Maylone’s second animated short. His first movie The hometown (1979) illustrates a song about a young girl’s hometown. His third film The magic quilt (1985) combines animation and live action to show multiculturalism and harmony.

Like all of Maylone’s films, a key part of Distant islands is his signature animation style. The use of embroidered tapestries and appliqués complement the warm imagery of the British Columbia coastline. I love the way the mismatched patterns and colorful threads fit together to illustrate the comfort of a simpler past. I can imagine the work involved in planning and stitching each frame together as well as editing the transitions as easily as possible.

If the visuals are the frame of the film, the common thread is the music of Ken Hemmerick. The light-up piano hops with the girl as she explores the islands. The movie has its sweet moments as well, and Hemmerick did a great job of transitioning between the girl’s curious excitement and the calm of the islands as they return home.

The main course of Distant islands is the memory of the narrator from his childhood. Memories often hit us in waves; some barely reach shore while others arrive like a tsunami. In the narrator’s case, her vivid memories of the boat ride to the islands, her parents spending time together, and exploring the wonders of the British Columbia coastline keep much of her childhood alive, even if it was only for a short time.

If you want a wellness movie with original visuals and music, take a look Distant islands to NFB website. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly want to sew or embroider your clothes after looking.

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