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Mother Tongue (2003)

  Directed by: Susan Kim
Written by: Susan Kim
Starring: Anita Beckman
Links: Mother Tongue on the IMDb
Genre: Cartoon/Animation
Awards: AFI Awards: Best Short Animation 2003 (nominee)

This movie gets: 8.00 (1 rating) Ranking: not yet ranked (awaiting 2 ratings)

Mother Tongue (2003) is also mentioned in pearly's review of Driving Home (1999).

"Great example of 'write what you know'" - a review by pearly

When she was a young girl, Susan Kim's father moved to Australia, leaving her behind with her mother and brother until he was properly established. During the time spent apart, Susan's mother recorded cassette tapes every day to be sent to her father. In them, Susan spoke to her father in her mother tongue. The tapes spoke of everyday things, like their struggles to learn Engligh, but there were also little songs or poems, with words like "under the biggest chestnut tree...".

In this autobiographical animation, Susan tells her story. She weaves together snippets of the actual recordings made by her mother along with a voiceover which explains that she does not know what is being said in the tapes, as she can no longer understand her mother tongue. To her, the cassettes are like other people speaking; they no longer seem to belong to her. Having only ever spoken one language, this is a concept which I find amazing: just that simple concept that you could have said something in the past which you are no longer able to understand.

Mother Tongue is the perfect vehicle for this concept, and when the animation is combined with the audio, it becomes bigger than what it began as; it's like a metaphor for so much more of Susan's life, and the life that she has now largely forgotten. Although she cannot speak the language, Susan is clearly still influenced by her roots. Her animation is gorgeously eastern in style, and it's really pretty to watch. I loved hearing Kim's story, and I wonder how she can top it with her next effort.

At a special screening of this (along with some of Kim's other work) film at ACMI, Kim spoke about the film. She said that as her parents still don't speak English very well, and she has lost her mother tongue, visual communication is a very important aspect of her life. This is evident in her animations. Kim also spoke a little about the animation process, revealing that this film was created and edited digitally (with programs including Painter and Photoshop). I found this particularly interesting as it is very similar in style to her earlier film Driving Home (1999), but that film was all done by hand.

pearly gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review last updated on Mon 19 Jul 2004

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