984. The Dam Keeper – Robert Kondo, Daisuke ‘Dice’ Tsutsumi

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SUMMARY: A young pig has the responsibility of keeping the town windmill in working order.

WHY IT’S HERE: For many, it was a surprise that Robert Kondo and Daisuke Tsutsumi’s ‘The Dam Keeper’ did not win the Oscar for its year. The story of a lonely young pig who has the responsibility to keep a town’s windmill in working order to keep a dust cloud at bay, ‘The Dam Keeper’ is visually exceptional, with its mix of traditional and computer animation creating a stunning world. The emotional story matches the melancholy look and feel, telling the tale of an introverted pig who is rejected by his peers but sees the chance of friendship with an artistic fox. When this too leads to heartbreak, the pig takes out his frustrations on the town. There’s a surprising darkness to ‘The Dam Keeper’ and even as it lightens towards the end, I was left with a sense of slight dejection tempered only by the seed of hope planted by the final images. This emotional complexity left me not knowing quite what to think after first seeing ‘The Dam Keeper’ but, like the best films, it improves with each watch and even those who don’t like the story can revel in the stunning artwork.

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