TITO AND THE BIRDS: On Profiting off of Fearmongering


Shown as part of the 2019 Wisconsin Film Festival, Tito and the Birds is one of those animations that can appeal to a wide range of audience. Its surface message can easily get to children, and at the same time, adults can pick up on the hidden images and deeper messages. But before getting to the messages, we should praise its visual style.

A combination of oil painting and computer graphics have given a uniquely dynamic and otherworldly look to this animation. The backgrounds and landscapes are especially very dynamic in the way that they smoothly transform to different images and become avant-garde pieces of work on their own. The curvy camera movements add to this sense of dynamism. There is unity between style and narrative, as one can easily find the narrative dynamic and otherworldly. At the same time, like how the paints and their movements on the screen give us the senses of materiality, realness, and immediacy, the narrative conveys the same qualities and the duality of strangeness and realness.

Tito’s dad was working on a project to understand what birds say, because he believed it has been birds that saved human beings through disasters throughout the history and our loss of communication with them can be dangerous. While working on the project, his machine exploded and injured Tito. Tito’s mom made dad to move out. Tito didn’t hear from his dad after that, but he became determined to work on the same project. A disaster comes in and Tito knows that the way to get out is to ask birds’ help.

But what’s the disaster? An epidemic hits the city that turns people into stones, completely motionless, but the only way to catch it is to be afraid of it. There are people who are making profit out of this epidemic though. They are making profit out of people’s “fear.” There are clear references to European colonialism and what that did to the native people of Latin America. At one point, during those montage sequences with fluid images, we see images of the colonialists’ ships (even though there is no mention of them in the film).

The disaster can only be overcome with the help of the “free and rejected” pigeons. Kids get the message that to overcome fear, we need to be strongly together and close to nature. What adults get additionally is a dark yet accurate image of what European colonialists did—that they invaded the native people, destroyed the nature, manufactured the fear from the native people, made everyone plagued of that fear, and made immense profits off of that. One can see that same events are still happening in more or less similar ways, especially now with the use of complicated media machine. The only way to get out of this post-colonial (yet still colonial) disaster: To overcome that manufactured fear, get together strongly, and get back closer to the nature. Is there any hope for that? Well, yes, in the film, but I’m not sure about the real world, unfortunately.


About Author

Hamidreza Nassiri

Hamidreza Nassiri is a PhD candidate in Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His dissertation examines the influence of digital technologies in media industries on democracy and social justice on local and global levels, with a focus on Iranian cinema. He also founded and directed the Wisconsin Iranian Film Festival for two years, was the programming director of the first Midwest Video Poetry Festival, and the executive director and jury member at the 3rd Globe International Silent Film Festival. Hamidreza is a filmmaker. His last short film, IMMORTAL (2018) became finalist and semi-finalist in several film festivals. He has taught film production and film studies for years, in college and in community. In 2019, after receiving the Humanities Exchange (HEX) Award, he ran free filmmaking workshops for underrepresented communities in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2021, he ran a free digital storytelling workshop for working class people of color in Madison. He was also the Educational Development Fellow at the Arts + Literature Laboratory, a non-profit dedicated to democratizing art and art education in Dane County, from 2019 to 2020.

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