A caring and hopeful story about an endearing orphan.
My Life as a Zucchini
Director: Claude Barras
Screenplay: Celine Sciamma (Being 17), from Gilles Paris novel
Cast: Gaspard Schlatter, Sixtine Murat
Runtime: 1 hr 10 min
by John DeSando
“Many people, for many reasons, feel rootless - but orphans and abandoned or abused children have particular cause.” Christina Baker Kline
Stories about orphans such as Dickens’ Oliver Twist have a special place--they remind us of what a gift family is. Having loving parents and siblings provides safe haven from hunger of the stomach and the heart. Claude Barras’ moving stop- motion animation, My Life as a Zucchini, explores the plight of seven young orphans with emphasis on Zucchini, a name given to him by his drunken mother.
As he goes off to an orphanage, he discovers more challenges than being with his mom, whose memory he keeps by carrying around one of her discarded beer cans. The usual bully (Simon) is in residence along with some meek kids and with Camille, a saucy ten year old ready to take on Simon's cynicism and Zucchini's love.
As you can tell by the entrance of Camille, all is not lost at this homeless haven, much less the emerging sense of cooperation and compassion. The film gently approaches each major crisis with equanimity, relying not on easy solutions or catastrophes but on the emerging sense of cooperation and sincere love.
It's difficult to determine what makes this animation so human with its characters and their eccentricities; all I know is that I felt deeply about each orphan right down to the wicked aunt. The film is not sentimental, mind you, just powerfully humane and deserving its Oscar nomination for best animation.
Could it be the Keane-like big eyes, so expressively alive with emotion? Possibly so. At any rate, this animation will appeal to all ages and answer some age-old questions about the depth of loneliness and the salvation adoption can bring.
“Orphanages are the only places that ever left me feeling empty and full at the same time.” John M. Simmons
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com