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Tin House Reels: Sarina Nihei

Sarina Nihei’s Love-Hate Relationship is a story sent from the non-verbal, netted unconscious but is beautifully drawn by a conscious hand.

The thin pen drawings in this film —colored-in with what looks like magic markers—launch a child’s story. But the color scheme, with its browns, yellows, and reds, feels bruised by the stories of human beings, and emotions are sunk in a family trauma that plays out in scenes of oral fixation: An old man offers up the door code for home with his tongue, a half-naked couple threateningly suck a cigarette in the hall, a mother slugs from a wine bottle even though a glass is handy. Mom— her lipstick, her rouge, and her fiery hair, all in red—gives her son a last oral fix he seems too young to drink, a coffee that overflows. Pain seems swallowed, and talking heads march over the pages of books like they do in The Play of Independent Heads (a previous film from Nihei).

Nihei’s brand of visual storytelling is likely to make more strictly verbal writers long for the freedom of animation: her pictures speak her insides with immediacy. Nihei said that a teacher in college liberated her style: “There was an encouraging professor called Mr. Katayama, who sadly passed away when I was in the third year. He encouraged students to do hand-drawn animation rather than working digitally because the students in the graphic design department at Tama Art University had been through tough entrance exams for design skills. He wanted to see how the art students who didn’t know about the technical aspects of animation could own their brilliant imaginations. He showed us art animations from all over the world, which was fascinating for me. He didn’t teach us to animate or to build up a story. We could do whatever we wanted to make by our hands.”

The result is a short story distilled into hand-drawn images with the power of a Rorschach test.

Sarina Nihei is an animator and illustrator who lives in London and is currently completing her MA in Animation at the Royal College of Art.

Tin House Reels is a weekly feature on The Open Bar dedicated to the craft of short filmmaking. Curated by Ilana Simons, the series features videos by artists who are forming interesting new relationships between images and words.

We are now accepting submissions for Tin House Reels. Please upload your videos of 15 minutes or less to Youtube or Vimeo and send a link of your work to tinhousereels@gmail.com. You may also send us a file directly.

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