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An Animated Short Film by Martin Smatana Explores Loss Through Lighthearted Symbolism

December 27, 2022

Kate Mothes

A brisk wind takes a young kite-flyer on an unexpected voyage with his grandfather in a poignant short film by illustrator and animation director Martin Smatana. The narrative of the stop-motion animation addresses the concept of death and loss through metaphor that is accessible to children, using the kite, weather, and materials as symbolic ways to broach a difficult yet important topic. “It explores the relationship between a little boy and his grandpa and shows that death is a natural part of life, but it doesn’t have to mean the end of our journey,” Smatana explains. He continues:

They are both made out of layers, which symbolize their age. The boy has many of these layers… he has all his life before him. But grandfather, on the other hand, has already lost most of his layers, and he has only few left. As he gets older, he also gets thinner, and at the end of his life, he is as thin as a sheet of paper. One day, the wind just softly blows him away and takes him up to the sky…

Smatana and his team scoured second-hand shops in his hometown of Prague to collect textiles and other materials to build the sets, employing different patterns and color palettes to represent the four seasons. A quilt-like landscape created from numerous pieces of cloth references a patchwork blanket that the artist remembers sleeping under when he visited his own grandparents’ house.

Created for the artist’s graduation project at FAMU Film School three years ago, “The Kite” has won more than sixty international awards, was nominated for the semifinals of the student Oscars, and is included in the film library of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Explore more of Smatana’s work on his website, where he also shares behind-the-scenes footage of how “The Kite” was made. Follow updates on Instagram.

 

A still from the short film "The Kite" showing a young boy and his grandfather sitting on clouds.

All images © Martin Smatana, shared with permission

An animated excerpt from "The Kite" in which a young boy and his grandfather fly up into the sky with a kite.

A still from the short film "The Kite" showing a young boy and his kite from the perspective of his grandfather holding his hands.

An animated excerpt from the short film "The Kite" portraying a young boy visiting his grandfather and being given a kite.

A still from the animated short film "The Kite" showing a patchwork countryside and road with a school bus on it.

A still from the short film "The Kite" showing a darkening sky and a young boy holding onto his grandfather who appears to be floating away.

 

 

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