A Tale of Two (well, kinda three) Films

On the last day of my first week of school, I was faced with a conundrum:

Song of the Sea


How to Train Your Dragon

Do I stay on campus for a free afternoon screening of “How to Train Your Dragon” 1 and 2, as was recommended by my professor that morning, which was enticing an audience with the promise of free pizza OR do I head out on my own to Toronto to visit the TIFF Lightbox to watch the Oscar-nominated but not widely distributed “Song of the Sea”?

The problem came up because earlier in the week, the Tuesday morning professor recommended we catch “Song of the Sea”, which was already on my radar. I had caught the same team’s first feature film, “The Secret of Kells”, at both the Ottawa International Animation Festival and the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema. I knew that despite the critical praise for Kells, it took quite a while before a distribution deal could be reached. I don’t think it had a chance to hit big screens in North America outside of the festival circuit.

I was concerned that “Song of the Sea” might be in a similar position. It seemed to be screening in just that one theatre, which means its status week to week would be based on audience attendance after a certain point.

My viewing window was limited and I determined that catching it early Friday evening was the best fit for my schedule. I put out a notice to my classmates to find out if anyone else wanted to make the trek.

On Friday morning, after a class watching a documentary about cinematography our professor brought it to the class’s attention that there would be a free screening of both Dragon films that afternoon in the auditorium. He strongly suggested we should go.

This was the first I’d heard about it (apparently I’d missed the posters all around campus) so I asked about how I could stay on top of these sorts of screening. It turns out it wasn’t put on by the Animation department, they would have contacted us directly.

So I had a choice:

Do I stick with the plans I made 4 days before to see a movie that I would have limited opportunity to see another time?

Or do I stay to watch two films for free on a big screen that I had previously watched?

After much deliberation, and noting that I didn’t get a commitment from any of my classmates for the Toronto screening or any sign that anyone was staying past the morning class to wait until 5 pm for what was sure to be a packed house, I made my decision.

I’d rather go see the movie I’d been anticipating all week by myself in a mostly empty theatre than watch two movies I’d already seen surrounded by strangers.

“Song of the Sea” turned out to be the right choice.

It was a beautifully done film. The theme of the sea trickled down right to the use of watercolour for textures on the characters as well as the backgrounds. The design style was as strong as with Kells, which was one of the things I loved most about it. The story was new to me and strongly told. It was the kind of holistic storytelling in a movie that has made me want to make my own.