It's a challenge to put into words just how wondrous Tito and the Birds (Tito e os Passaros),
an animated feature from Brazil, truly is. Suffice to say, the audience at its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival had the final say: about a third were children who "ooooh'ed" and "aaaaaah'ed" with delight, while the other two-thirds were adults reaching for the nearest handkerchief. It's a magnificent achievement. And even though there isn't a Disney, Pixar or Dreamworks attached to it, this film is a worthy contender for a Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination.
The of-the-moment tale follows a group of children who set out on a mission to find a cure for an epidemic of fear that is sweeping the planet and making people deathly ill. And the images—a blend of oil paintings, drawings and graphic animation—are as heart-warming as they are eye-popping.
"It took us eight years to make this film," co-director Gustavo Steinberg told the audience.
In fact, it also took three directors: Steinberg helmed the project alongside co-directors Gabriel Bitar and Andre Catoto. "I can't tell you how amazing it is to be here."
The hero of the story is 10-year-old Tito, who discovers that his now-missing father had been trying to build a machine that allows humans to communicate with birds. It's the birds, you see, that hold the secrets of how to battle the virus of fear.
"This film is about the most dangerous thing of our time. Yet, it's the least-discussed thing of our time, especially with our children," said Steinberg. "So, we made this movie for the children...for all of us."
The script is as richly textured as the artwork. Here's hoping that Tito and the Birds
wings its way into a North American cinema near you and, ultimately, into your heart.