That Dragon Cancer: Animae Caribe

October is Cancer Awareness Month, which is an annual global campaign to increase awareness of the disease. But that was not the reason behind featuring a special animated documentary on the subject at Animae Caribe Festival this year. It just worked out like that, with an amazing spate of coincidences and a twist of fate. ‘That Dragon Cancer’ is a computer game created by husband and wife team Ryan Green a programmer and game developer and Amy Green a writer, speaker and stand-up comedian from Colorado USA. An immersive narrative videogame that retells their son Joel Green’s 4-year fight against cancer through two hours of poetic, imaginative gameplay that explores faith, hope and love. Joel was diagnosed at age one and eventually succumbed to Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (AT/RT) when he was four years old.

For 18 months, award-winning filmmaker Malika Zouhali-Worrall followed Ryan and his family as he created the game, documenting their daily life for this unusual work of art. Combining footage from both Ryan’s real and animated worlds, the documentary has turned out to be a thought-provoking portrait of one family’s determination to respond to an impending tragedy through artistic expression. The film challenges the stereotypical view of video games as superficial or violent, revealing a new movement within the gaming world to create projects that document profound human experiences. The film also tells a deeply moving love story of a husband and wife helping to keep each other afloat in the midst of a familial crisis. “We wanted to transcend the simple narrative of a family dealing with cancer, and instead examine the ways we handle grief, and the beauty and hope that can be found in art,” they say. “We saw how many people were profoundly moved by Ryan’s game, and how playing it often facilitated more, rather than less, social interaction. The fact that a video game was capable of awakening this sort of empathy astounded us, and we soon realized that Ryan isn’t only a developer, he’s also an artist — and programming is his paintbrush.” Filmmaker Magazine named Malika as one of 25 New Faces of Independent Film.

The Animae Caribe screening will be hosted by the imitable Keisha Butcher, a cancer survivor herself. For her this is a unique way for the issue to be addressed and made more accessible to the masses, especially here in Trinidad and the Caribbean as some consider this a taboo subject. “Cancer awareness’ means that we are being screened early, regularly and living healthy…until then we are not yet aware,” she says. Patrons can sample the game after the screening of the animated documentary which will be followed by Q&A with the director Malika Zouhali-Worrall at the UTT Academy for the Performing Arts on Wednesday 26th from 7pm.  For more information please check the website

The Vikings Are Coming- Animae Caribe

In 2010 an animated journey began when Andres Mänd, the head of the Animation Department of Volda University Norway was invited to be on the jury for CubAnima film festival in Havana, Cuba. There he met the founder and director of Animae Caribe Animation Festival Camille Selvon Abrahams. There was an immediate connection and discussion about creating synergies between the islands though each was from the opposite side of the Atlantic.  After five days of intensive jury work in Cuba, both University department heads realised that they shared a lot more in common. Both institutions ran the best animation schools and the coziest animation film festivals in their respective countries. They decided to look into possibilities for future collaborations.  There have been trips across the Atlantic both ways, many discussions about animation and life in general, sharing of knowledge, country and culture.

So yes, the Vikings are coming to Trinidad, but not to invade. Instead of swords and shields, they bring with them ideas, pencils and cameras. Mänd acknowledges that they are coming also to learn, to conduct workshops, to get inspired, and to enjoy the fabulous Animation festival.  However most importantly they are coming to sign a student exchange agreement between the University of Trinidad and Tobago and Volda University. “The main attraction on our team is Ms Anita Killi, a True Viking, former Volda University student, farmer, mother of four and world famous director of animated shorts. The rest of our crew consist Arne Humberset, Head of International Office of Volda University. The multitalented Dave King, who we stole from the British animation Industry seven years ago (sorry Britons!) and myself, the Head of the Animation Department at Volda University College”

This is a momentous time for the University of Trinidad and Tobago as it is set to launch a degree in Digital Media Arts with specialisation in Animation, Music Technology and Gaming in 2017. Ms Killi’s award winning film ‘Angry Man’ and her presentation will be screened at The Academy for Performing Arts on Wednesday 26th October 11am.