Directed by: Abel Goldfarb
Written by: Gaston Gorali
Inspired by the real life story of Ian, a young boy who was born with cerebral palsy, Abel Goldfarb’s animated short film about the titular boy is a sweet and profound revelation, even for a child’s perspective, where its strength lies. It tells of a boy’s struggle to make friends at the playground, using unique stop-motion animation and CGI to bring Ian’s obstacles, the mobile and emotional, to life. It’s a push for awareness through universal imagery and only invites kindness into the world around it, as portrayed in Ian’s will to connect. Just shy of ten minutes, this endearing short film is of the firm belief that misconceptions and stigmas, especially at a young age, can be diminished in the face of benevolence.
Discrimination to Ian’s incapacitation and bullying keep him at bay when all he wants is to play with the kids in the gated off playground. He musters up the courage to integrate himself with the others, hanging by shyly, until he’s suddenly whisked away into the wind and back through the gates, shattering into little blocks and reforming back to his wheelchair. This happens a few times, Ian will peek the chances to feel normal, be perceived by the kids as such, and play with no limitations, but inclusion doesn’t need to come at a cost to Ian’s identity.
Eventually the kids, one by one, begin to notice him and lend a hand so he can stay without his wheelchair (before getting pulled toward the fences once more), but that’s far from the point of what the animated short is trying to communicate. It’s not exactly Ian’s determined bravery that finally wins the other kids over, but it’s the integration of putting yourself out there and freeing yourself of those doubts, not to be overshadowed. This closely works as a teaching moment for the younger audience as it smoothes out the social divide kids sometimes make around that age. This film means so much more when it comes to the mentality of young children. It’s easy for them to pick sides, brush others off, be occupied with their own matters and games, and so Ian’s ability to socialize and play with his able-bodied peers suffers…but it doesn’t have to. When kids interact and spend time with each other, the companionship is equivalent to acceptance with no barriers.
And speaking of barriers, Goldfarb’s short is without spoken dialogue, a creative decision that welcomes the interpretation of other backgrounds. Produced by Oscar winner and two-time Emmy winner Juan José Campanella, this small story for a better tomorrow brings you down to the bare pillars of humanity, lending a hand of its own to shatter petty judgement worldwide. Lack of knowledge and awareness about the condition even in the country of Argentina raises action for change, backed by an organization that’s willing to plant the effort in.
A 2019 Oscar-qualifier for Animated Short, Ian is doing well to win the hearts of Academy voters and audiences alike. Released from Argentina with the help and funding of companies and nonprofits like Mundoloco CGI and Fundación Ian, an organization that raises awareness and further enriches the lives of children with cerebral palsy, the short film is all-embracing to understanding. In part due to its absence of spoken words, the short emphasizes to the viewers just how far kindness, understanding, and patience can cross the fences of discrimination and bullying, especially in the lives of our children who are so perceptive to these behaviors. The film’s description says it best: Inclusion is vital for our society, it makes us richer, more diverse and more just.