Dir. Mohamad HouHou, France, 2018, 6 min.

Despite being just under six minutes long, Director HouHou’s animated short “The Ostrich Politic” has a lot to say. The piece begins with poetic narration that sets up a world in which ostriches live as humans, working in offices and drinking in bars. All of them do so with their heads covered — usually with bags — and go about their day to day lives, even ignoring catastrophic events like a building exploding outside their office.

The birds live routine, formulaic lives until a scientist discovers that the established notion — that ostriches like to bury their heads — is actually false. A new law forces the birds to live with their heads uncovered, wreaking havoc on the carefully balanced, happily ignorant society that had been in place.

At the end of the film, when ostrich society reverts to its old ways, live images of deforestation, bishops, strippers, pollution and missile testings flash across the screen.

“I wondered how come they never picked up the truth and upon us bestow it, or is it already within us, but we’re terrified to show it?” asks the narrator. “So we wander around bleak with a spark of our soul lit. If poetry lies its way to the truth, we’ve been lied to, and you know it.” 

Using striking visuals that at times call to German expressionism and propagandist art, “The Ostrich Politic” poses pointed questions to the audience about science and truth versus complacency, about accountability and action.

It’s a quick ride, and one that leaves spectators uneasy.

‘The Ostrich Politic’ screens in Winston-Salem on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at UNCSA Main and April 13 at 4 p.m. at UNCSA Gold.

— SM

You may also enjoy these Riverrun 2019 reviews:

The River and the Wall: This visually stunning documentary tracks a group of friends who travel from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico on a 1,200-mile journey to document the border and investigate the looming impacts of a wall on the natural environment.

This Changes Everything: This star-studded documentary explores how film and television promote narratives that marginalize and render girls because women are denied the opportunity to tell stories as producers, directors and actors.

Find the full list of reviews here.

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