Annecy 2018: Brazil's 'Tito and the Birds' is a Gorgeous, Anti-Fear Film
by Alex Billington
June 20, 2018
Some animated films are made for kids. Some animated films are made for adults. But some animated films are made for audiences of all ages, for everyone to enjoy, and for everyone to appreciate and learn from. Tito and the Birds (Tito e os Pássaros) is one of these animated films made for audiences of all ages, and it's an important film for the times we live in. Directed by three filmmakers – Gabriel Bitar, André Catoto, Gustavo Steinberg – the film comes from Brazil and is set in Brazil, telling the story of one young boy who saves the world. Not with any superpowers or clever tricks, but by using his brain, and by resisting the urge to cave to the paralyzing fear that pervades society these days. It's a gorgeous film, both in the way it looks and its story, and one that I hope finds a global audience as it certainly deserves the attention and acclaim.
Tito and the Birds is indeed about a boy named Tito, and his connection with birds, as the title suggests. At the start of the film, we learn that his father tried to an invent a machine to communicate with birds, but failed and fled leaving Tito behind with his mother. Tito has always felt like his father was on to something, so he tries to continue his work, believing that the birds have something more to offer us than just chirps and lovely songs. The real meat of the film focuses on how the media perpetuates the culture of fear, and it becomes so bad that people start getting sick and turning into rocks (literally). They're so paralyzed by fear and paranoia, they just shrink into nothing and don't do anything. This makes everyone even more fearful. Tito, and his two loyal friends, try to figure out why exactly this is happening and stop it before it's too late.
The film is created using oil paintings, an animation style that is rare and breathtaking to look at. We have seen films like this before, most recently Loving Vincent, but this one is special in its own way. The work here is spectacular, and I could stare at the frames for hours just admiring each and every little detail. In fact, it's transfixing because instead of painting in tiny details, they use brush strokes and entire swaths of color to fill in the detail. You don't see the crowd in a shot looking down on them, you see dabs of color and subtle strokes for each person. You see various shapes and figures in the background, and sometimes not even that. The main characters are seemingly computer animated on top of these backdrops, but it's still amazing to watch every last frame of this film. It's worth seeing this film just for the stunning visuals alone.
As for the rest of the film, the story is a bit muddled at times, but overall it's entertaining, engaging, and has the potential to connect with anyone of any age. There are some complex elements to the story, and some cheesy aspects as well, but it addresses a global concern that is not being talked about enough - fear culture. And how fear paralyzes us, and how it's perpetuated by the media, and how it's easy to let it take control of everything. It discusses this in a way that's understandable to everyone, and doesn't ever get heavy handed. The focus is on Tito, and his relationship with his family. The message is there at the core, worked into the story in just the right ways, reminding us that we have to stay strong and resist fear in order to keep moving forward. Please discover this gorgeous animated film from Brazil and let it inspire you to make a difference.
Alex's Annecy 2018 Rating: 9 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing