TIFF15 REVIEW: The Ballad of Immortal Joe [2015]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 6 minutes | Release Date: 2015 (Canada)
Director(s): Hector Herrera
Writer(s): Pazit Cahlon

“If you want my story I will proceed”

Written in memory of a family member, Pazit Cahlon‘s Western poem The Ballad of Immortal Joe sounds like a nursery rhyme but plays like a bittersweet romance of cursed love. Directed and animated by Hector Herrera, the short has an eye-catching aesthetic with dark palette and deep gradients atop playful characters straight out of the opening credits to Monsters Inc. Some figures have six eyeballs, others four legs, and all are a little left of center in an imaginative way to engage children with wild art while also touching adults with its melancholic tome. Music by The Sadies enhances the mood and we listen as Kenneth Walsh‘s narration shares with a stranger in the desert the titular hero’s tale of woe.

The lyrical nature of the work sticks with you as well as its message of being better for those no longer here with us. Flashbacks of why Joe wanders alone under the crescent moon weave in with a campfire of today as decorative script illustrates words from the deceased telling him to carry on his fight to defend the defenseless for all time. Sung in the tradition of Robert W. Service—of whom I am sadly not familiar—the piece hits you in the heart and soul before it’s done. There’s beauty to its sorrow and magic to its style, uplifting in its embrace of tragedy as a way towards redemption and honor. A hard-edged Dr. Seuss song with weight and drama, Cahlon and Herrera’s collaboration is one you won’t want to miss.

Courtesy of TIFF

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