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Friday, 20 March 2009

Christopher Hinton "Black Fly"







I have often remarked on the durability of good quality animation. Take away the date from Christopher Hinton’s Oscar nominated Black Fly (1991, as it happens) and it is as fresh as the day it was made. I have never been fortunate enough to visit North Ontario or experience the dreaded black fly, though I have been nibbled by their cousins in the Scottish Highlands. Hinton's portrayal of the struggle to build a dam in the province will do little to boost the tourism potential of the area though it enhances the reputation of Canadian animation. The action illustrates a 1949 ballad by Wade Hemswatch, sung by Kate and Anna McGarrigle, the chorus of which goes: "And the black flies, the little black flies/ Always the black fly no matter where you go/ I'll die with the black fly a-pickin' my bones/ In North Ontar-i-o-i-o, In North Ontar-i-o." Wherever the surveyer goes the little blighters track him down. The animation depicts the rigours of it all with flies signalling his arrival by telegraph, swarming out of his boiled egg, donning diving gear to get at him underwater and, in microscopic close-up, throwing a party for their fellows on the unfortunate guy's head. Produced by that sponsor of magnificent animation, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), Hinton's natural, flowing style suits the song and is inventive in the visual humour. It is entirely legitimate to laugh at someone else being bitten to near madness, something else entirely to be lunch.

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