In a Heartbeat is receiving the exclusive treatment at the inaugural edition of (yet another) new Montreal Festival, ANIMAZE! While some animation festivals in North America will not show this short, or any LGBTQ subject matter – Montreal’s ANIMAZE is not one of them.
Running from August 17-20th, the Montreal International Animation Film Festival (MIAFF) presents the finest gems in animation. MIAFF is a festival of discovery, a conference where leading experts and emerging talent and content creators in animation film and technology converge and have a dialogue.
Like many queer stories, In a Heartbeat starts in hiding
The short, called In a Heartbeat, is a simple yet enduring story, a heartwarming fable of young love and all the irrepressible butterflies that come with it. It also just happens to be about two boys, which despite the ascent of LGBT characters in film and television is still rarefied in animated or children’s cinema.
In just about as long as it takes to microwave a cup of ramen noodles, Bravo and David’s film tells the sweet, intimate story of a boy named Sherwin, who has a crush on his classmate, Jonathan. His heart is, literally, jumping out of his chest when the object of his affection walks by, spinning an apple on his fingertips like a basketball, so Sherwin dashes behind a tree to try to contain it. Of course, Sherwin’s reluctance is about so much more than being nervous to profess young love; he’s also, as the film’s description says it, “at risk of being outed by his own heart”.
Animation, in this particular case, allows for the admittedly absurd anthropomorphized heart to come across as insightful, even pointedly progressive. Sherwin’s heart, viewers see, is alive. It bounds, it brims, it breaks. The film, via this core conceit, offers a poignant expression of the quiet anxieties that characterize a budding gay crush—the he-loves me/he-loves-me-not debate. By zooming in on queer emotional internal conflict, the film pushes back against the homophobic line of reasoning that suggests that queer love is unnatural—that it has nothing to do with the heart. Here, his heart has to force Sherwin to reveal his true feelings; and it pulls into focus the potential rewards in being forthright with one’s feelings in spite of outside obstacles.
In a Heartbeat is, in its own small way, a masterful piece of subversive storytelling
When Bravo and David, both computer animation majors at Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida, started work on the film in January 2016, it wasn’t a gay romance. “A friend of ours was pitching ideas to us for potential projects,” David, 21, told me over the phone. “It was her idea to show a person with their heart popping out of their chest, chasing down a crush. But initially, it was about a boy and a girl. It wasn’t until Esteban and I decided to switch it to a same-sex crush that the film started to feel like a personal story that we were invested in. It was the kind of story we wish we had seen as kids.”
Bravo, who’s 24 and now an animation intern at Blue Sky Studios (the company behind the Ice Age franchise), added: “It still makes sense when it’s a boy and a girl because that doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t be afraid to disclose their feelings. But when it’s put in the context of LGBT characters, there were so many more layers to explore, and we could infuse the story with our own backgrounds.”
Huge congratulations go out to the 2 innovators, Esteban Bravo and Beth David, who created this short film. Best Kept MTL is inspired by their work and very excited to see In a Heartbeat get the exclusive treatment here in our backyard.
Happy Pride Month, Montreal!