Animator explores violence and anger with TIFF debut

Toronto-based animator Howie Shia is making his directorial debut at the Toronto International Film Festival with his short film, BAM.

Howie Shia finds inspiration from his grandfather

Toronto-based animator, artist and director Howie Shia is making his directorial debut at the Toronto International Film Festival by exploring people's darker emotions: anger and violence.

Howie Shia's directorial debut at the Toronto International Film Festival is for the animated short film, BAM. (National Film Board of Canada)

Shia's five-minute, animated short film, BAM, focuses on "a boy who is kind of a bookish, shy kid, who also has not only a violent temper, but also a talent for violence," Shia said.

The plot follows the boy trying "to sort out his life, trying to find a way to bridge the gap or control these two disparate sides of his personality". 

Born and raised in Saskatoon, Shia has had a successful career in film, art and music, having directed the animated shorts Ice Ages, Flutter, Peggy Baker: Four Phrases and now BAM.

He also collaborates with his brothers, Tim and Leo, on art, music and film projects. 

Tim and Leo scored the music for their brother's film, and edited its sound. 

Older family connections also played a role for Shia in making the animated short. 

"It's somewhat inspired by my grandfather, who was both a high-ranking police official and a traditional, Chinese man," he said. In addition to working with the police force, he was a calligrapher and poet. "Anytime I tell people that about him, people sort of say those two things are contradictory. But I think at the time, he was coming from a tradition of learned gentleman who also partook in violence one way or another."

Shia said he doesn't have expectations for particular reactions to his film. His intent is to observe that those two traits have become antitheses of each other: "I'm trying to find out what happened there, and bridge the gap of those two attributes," he said. 

He also noted he's inspired by the fact that rage seems to be more prevalent today: "people seem angry about a lot of things these days." 

Part of the film's purpose "is searching for the source of all this rage, and whether there is a source for it. [To see] if it's learned or if it's innate, or you know more primordial all together."

BAM screens on Sept. 16 at 10:00 p.m. EDT at Scotiabank theatre 13, and on Sept. 20 at 6:00 p.m. EDT at Scotiabank theatre 11.


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