Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying (2020-)
Animated short in production with the National Film Board North West Studio
Co-directed by Natalie Baird and Toby Gillies
Produced by Alicia Smith
Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying is a 6-minute animated documentary centering Edith, an 87-year-old Hungarian Canadian living in a personal care home in Winnipeg. Several animation techniques (rotoscope, hand drawn frame by frame animation, digital compositing) are woven with live action footage to interpret Edith’s thoughts on the inherent beauty and sacredness of the everyday world, the complexities of grief, and her capacity to live “a hundred lives all over again” – all accessed through the simple act of drawing.
Still from an interview with Edith in her personal care home (2019)
For nearly ten years, Toby and I have led an art program at a personal care home in our neighbourhood. The program is a way to tell stories and connect with residents while nurturing the development of expressive and personal visual styles. This is where we met Edith Almadi, a Hungarian immigrant in her late eighties. Through the years we have developed a unique friendship with Edith over many art making mornings, art shows, friendly visits and drawings made together.
Our initial motivation for interviewing Edith was to save memories for ourselves – we find the way she speaks fascinating and poetic. When Edith looks at her drawings, she sees her memories and fantasies. She is able to escape her physical circumstance, through entering her marker and watercolour worlds.
In 2020 we were surprised that when we returned to interview her, the drawings had a different meaning. Pushing art up against the window, Edith was seeing her drawings and life through the lens of her son’s recent death. In the film, Edith explores her own vitality in contrast to her age, reflects on her son’s passing, and finds joy in imagining being reunited with her child and family. The animations are an expression of our shared imagination, incorporating imagery from our minds, Edith’s words, and the drawings we made together.
In our time knowing Edith she has always loved sharing her outlook publicly. As we have developed the film we have shown Edith our progress along the way. She says “That’s me” and “That’s all I have to give” proudly. Facilitating art making in this personal care home has allowed us to meaningfully connect with many people in their last stages of life. As directors, this film gives us the opportunity to share this one particular experience of intimacy found through collaborative art making.
Natalie and Toby interviewing Edith at her ground floor window (2020)