by Brittany Crowell
One of the most beautiful things to come out of our global quarantine has been the intersection of various art forms and the media through which we are able to view them. One product of this, Hamid Rahmanian’s elaborate shadow-play, Feathers of Fire, is most elaborately and magnificently translated.
Rahmanian, a 2014 Guggenheim fellowship winner, collaborates with 8 actor-puppeteers, 160 intricately crafted puppets (some even worn by performers), 137 animated backgrounds, and 1,163 audio/visual cues to build the live animation theater-on-film experience.
A true epitome of the multi-hyphenate, “Feathers of Fire,” a co-production of Fictionville Studio and Banu Productions was conceived, designed, and directed by Rahmanian, in collaboration with Larry Reed and ShadowLight Productions.
Even through the digital lens, one can’t help but awe and wonder at the feats accomplished through puppeteering; the use of perspective and proportion, the clarity of the movement vocabulary of the performers in full shadow puppet attire, the use of color and light, and the layering of puppet on animation. While viewing as an animated film, the experience of watching “Feathers of Firer” reveals a paralleled craftsmanship behind the creation of each intricately designed puppet and expressly timed movement.
Based on the Shanameh, or “The Persian Book of Kings,” an epic poem written by Ferdowsi in the late tenth century, the story of Feathers of Fire contains equal parts myth, love, and adventure. The story centers around Zāl, a boy who is outcast at birth for his white hair, and the death of his mother in childbirth. He is raised by Simurgh, the bird-goddess, until his father returns for him. Upon re-entering the world of humans, Zāl falls in love with Rudabeh, daughter of the Serpent King, and must overcome all odds to build his life with her.
Family friendly, this story contains many familiar themes and some moments of humor that are sure to make the kiddos giggle. The tone of narration shifts between serious, epic, and silly, honoring the heavy themes, but keeping the hour-and-twelve-minute piece light enough to hold a child’s attention. Rahmanian has done a wonderful job of parsing the epic into easily digestible bits told through simple dialogue matched with beautifully crafted music, animation, puppeteering, and movement.
CONCEIVED, DESIGNED and DIRECTED by Hamid Rahmanian;
In collaboration with Larry Reed and ShadowLight Productions;
FEATURING: Aureen Almario, Ya Wen Chien, Rose Nisker, John Riddleberger, Fred C. Riley III, Mohammad Talani, Lorna Velasco, and Dina Zarif;
Original Music by Loga Ramin Torkian and Azam Ali; Produced by Hamid Rahmanian, Melissa Hibbard and Nasim Yazdani; Coproducer, Ahmad Kiarostami; A production of Fictionville Studio and Banu Productions.