Humo keeps its childlike gaze throughout its haunting depiction of life for a little boy in a concentration camp. Rita Basulto’s film is a beautifully told yet sad tale that will affect you.
A boy, Daniel, travels by train towards a dark destination known as the Smokehouse.
No matter how many decades we move on past WWII, the atrocities that occurred will never be forgotten. Humo takes us on a journey through the life of a child captured and stuck in a concentration camp, and it is as harrowing as you can imagine. There is an enduring sense of sadness throughout Rita Basulto’s film. We already know the endgame for Daniel and his mother; an inescapable sense of doom lingers as we see his life get decimated.
No matter how many films you watch about this period, you do not get desensitised in those camps. It still strikes something deep within you, animated or not; you are affected by what you are seeing and with Basulto and her team’s efforts, what we see in Humo is just as mortifying as the first film or documentary. Perhaps it is because, this time, the story is centred around a young child who is old, well before his years, but something here just haunts you.
What makes you appreciate Humo more is how well the different animation styles work together. We have some hand-drawn 2D figures and objects that complement the stop-motion characters. It allows us to focus on the more prominent characters whilst showing us how the Nazis felt towards those they sent to their deaths. By filling the screen with greys and brown, desolation is all that comes forth, so when we do get those spouts of green from the grass and the brightness of the clothes, do we feel any warmth?
These combinations give Humo a captivating visual style; you are engrossed immediately in it, even as it rattles forward towards that dreaded Smokehouse. Back to the palette for a second, when that grey and dark palette is broken for those brief seconds, and we see Daniels’s memories at this point delusion, that you could be forgiven for thinking we have gone onto a different film in the same animation style. There is life filling the screen; things move around. Yet at the camp, other than the people, everything is so still and cold—just fantastic work from Basulto.
The story moves forward almost like a book, with the animation coming across at times like a pop-up one. A scene where the shacks that housed people in the camps come up from the ground in almost a childlike way, but what it represents is far from that. From little research, Humo is actually an adaptation of an illustrated book, with Basulto keeping some of the same imagery in her film as in Antón Fortes and Joanna Concejo’s book.
Filled with poignancy, this is a hard watch and well deserving of the accolades it is currently collecting on the festival circuit. There is a heaviness that never leaves you, even in those brighter moments, for they are tinged with an eternal sadness of what we know is to come. Catch this if and when you get the chance.
The 19th HollyShorts Film Festival is running between 10th – 20th August with in person and digital screenings available through the 10th to 27th August.
For more information go to www.hollyshorts.com
Coverage of HollyShorts Film Festival 2023:
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