Exhibitionists·In Residence

The world's greatest love story...about a man with a jet engine for a face

Get a sneak peek at "Turbine," an NFB short by Alex Boya, this week's Exhibitionist in Residence.

Get a sneak peek at Turbine, an NFB short by Alex Boya, this week's Exhibitionist in Residence

Motor mouth? Still from "Turbine," a new animated short by Montreal's Alex Boya. (Courtesy of the NFB)

People are out there trying to make their dreams come true all the time — it's just that most of those dreams don't involve a dude with jet engine where his head should be. Still, it was sometime in 2010 when Alex Boya says he found himself dreaming about a mystery man who fits the description: a turbine-faced stranger who came to his bedside, whispering stories in his ear. When he woke up, it turned out his new pal's vibrato voice was actually the A/C unit — but still, an idea had been sparked. Now, the same eerie character features in "Turbine," Boya's latest animated film with the NFB, that'll premiere at the Ottawa International Animation Festival Sept. 27 before heading to the Vancouver International Film Festival in early October.

This week, CBC Arts: Exhibitionists is offering a sneak peek at the eight-minute film, a story that the Montreal-based animator describes as a romantic comedy of sorts — a love triangle between a lonely young wife, her fighter pilot husband (who's returned from combat with a turbine for a face) and a ceiling fan.

"She's the hero, the wife," says Boya. "And we follow her, the decisions she makes. Basically, although [the husband's] intentions are good, he can't communicate with her." (An engine where his mouth should be and all.) "So they live together, but they're just kind of co-existing." Without spoiling it, Boya says that everything ends happily enough for a soap opera involving this many spinning metal blades, though "it's up for debate whether it's a good ending or a sad ending."

It is a film about technology and the gradual invasion of technology in our lives.- Alex Boya, director and animator ("Turbine")

Communication is one theme of the story, as is technology, which is why Boya wanted to set the action in the Post-War era, when more and more gadgets were becoming a part of daily life. And while things like electric can openers and blenders aren't high tech compared to an iPhone or Alexa, they can seem just as indispensable — part of the first wave of "modern conveniences" that nobody could do without.

"It is a film about technology and the gradual invasion of technology in our lives," says Boya, "and next thing you know, it's actually your genome that's changing with technology, but it starts with the appliances."

"The [turbine man] went through the shock of an abrupt change, and it initiates the rest of the household to this new better existence."

Animated from more than 4,000 ink drawings in a style influenced by Boya's passion for medical illustration, the visuals — like a lot of his work — have a tumbling, stream-of-consciousness rhythm.

"What really motivates me in making films is the idea that you're documenting something," says Boya — and making "Turbine," he says, was like capturing the strange dream he had years ago about. "It felt like the film was a document of that character [...] that turbine person that invaded the dream."

"I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," he laughs.

Watch a preview of "Turbine."

Clip 1 from Exhibitionist in Residence's Alex Boya short film Turbine. 0:40
Clip 2 from Exhibitionist in Residence's Alex Boya short film Turbine. 0:37
Clip 3 from Exhibitionist in Residence's Alex Boya short film Turbine. 0:45

See more of Alex Boya's work on Facebook and Giphy. "Turbine" premieres at the 2018  Ottawa International Animation Festival as part of the Short Film Competition 2 program. Sept. 27 and 30. ByTowne Cinema, Ottawa. www.animationfestival.ca.

Stream CBC Arts: Exhibitionists or catch it on CBC Television, Friday nights at 11:30 p.m. (midnight NT) and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. (4 NT).

About the Author

Leah Collins is the Senior Writer at CBC Arts.