Sundance Film Festival to screen Alberta-made short The Flying Sailor

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Two Alberta-based animators will be soaring with the news that their award-winning animation The Flying Sailor has been selected to screen in January at the Sundance Film Festival.

Amanda Forbis of Calgary and Wendy Tilby of Edmonton animated the short film that was produced by David Christensen at the National Film Board’s studio in Edmonton. The film has so far screened at 20 festivals, from Calgary and Toronto to Brazil and Cyprus, and has garnered nine awards and honours so far.

The Flying Sailor is inspired by the incredible true story of a young British sailor who survived being blown off the pier and out of his clothes on Dec. 6, 1917. That was when a vessel loaded with 2,925 metric tons of explosives collided with another ship in Halifax Harbour. The resulting explosion killed nearly 2,000 people and flattened more than 2.5 square kilometres of the city.

The sailor was blown high into the sky and landed 1.5 kilometres away. Somehow he was unharmed and landed wearing only his rubber boots.

That anecdote became the jumping-off point for The Flying Sailor, Forbis and Tilby’s third animated short for the National Film Board. While the film is less than eight minutes long, it also manages to be incredibly epic in delivering endearing animation and big philosophical questions about the frailty of life, the near-death experience and our place in the universe.

Tilby and Fortis received Oscar nominations for their earlier animated shorts, When the Day Breaks (1999) and Wild Life (2011).

The Sundance Film Festival runs Jan. 19-29, 2023.

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