Ventana Sur: Cynthia Fernández Trejo Readies Ominous Animated Title ‘The Language of Birds’

In a village where children cease to exist and the adults in town are oblivious to their absence, young Natalia sets out to get to the bottom of the eerie phenomenon alongside her avian pal Darío. When she stumbles across a cave in the forest, she finds a dastardly creature reigns over the community’s forgotten youth.

“The Language of Birds,” (“El Lenguaje de Los Pájaros”) is written and directed by Mexican creative Cynthia Fernández Trejo, an alum of the country’s famed Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica (CCC) and co-writer of Amazon’s “How to Survive Being Single.”

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“As a child, I remember feeling invisible, sort of like I had a cape on that made me feel unseen. I remember being surrounded by adults who talk to each other and ignore my presence. I think this feeling has accompanied me in many moments of my life. It’s time to talk about the loneliness that children face in a present where everything happens so quickly that we’ve forgotten to look at their needs. It’s time to talk about how terrifying a world without children would be,” Fernández Trejo told Variety.

A nostalgic and macabre look at the world through the lens of that child overlooked and filled with morbid curiosity, the film recalls nostalgic titles from the ‘80s which trusted and challenged young audiences rather than wiping a sanitizing solution over the plot and aesthetic in lieu of a safe, more digestible romp through a theme.

“I like to think about the possibilities of the sinister, we want to bet on a cinema that trusts in children and their ability to enjoy a film that walks the border between the fantastic and horror. Today, more than ever, it’s urgent to look at childhood, to challenge young audiences and believe that they can access stories that come out of conventional genres. We must trust that they’ll know how to decipher and handle complex issues and stop underestimating them,” relayed Fernández Trejo.

Produced by David Flores Mendieta at Cinebandada, the project mixes 2D and stop motion animation techniques that introduce soft and endearing animated characters in their safe and vibrant abode next to the contrasting blight of the dismal town, dim forest, rustic playground and mystical cave Natalia happens upon on her journey to reestablish the neighborhood’s equilibrium. Dueling animation styles and textures work to coax the viewer further into the scenery.

“From the writing of the script, the idea of mixing animation techniques was developing, not only as part of an aesthetic proposal but, above all, as a way to enhance the narrative of the story I wanted to tell. Throughout the film, the protagonist travels through two worlds; one that has been left without children and another in which fantasy unfolds into the territory of the sinister. Initially, 2D was intended to represent that first world, a gray world inhabited only by adults, while stop motion was intended to make a fantasy world, inhabited by children, almost literally come to life,” Fernández Trejo admitted.

“Throughout a three-year process of testing and adjusting our proposal, we realized that this demarcation of worlds had to be less abrupt, more subtle, that the viewers had to enter that other world confident, letting themselves get involved like the protagonist, and when they realized that something strange was happening, it was too late. In that sense, we decided that the entire film would be in 2D and that the contrast of worlds would be done progressively, going from the traditional to the entirely traditional, always on watercolor backgrounds. In this way, as the protagonist delves deeper into that territory of fantasy and suspense, the viewer is invited to travel with their visual estrangement, the progressive decomposition of strokes, the predominance of sketch, through traditional animation,” she went on.

Coming out of Mexico’s robust and supportive animation industry, revered for backing burgeoning talent, Fernández Trejo and Flores Mendieta point to the project’s trajectory, from scholarship to film sector funds.

“The script was written thanks to a scholarship for young creators awarded by the National Fund for Culture and the Arts (FONCA) in 2018. Upon completion of the script, in 2020, the Mexican Institute of Cinematography (Imcine ) decided to give us project development support, with which we managed to put together a production portfolio and the first version of the film’s art. Later, thanks to this we were able to apply to an important fund that’s dedicated to animated cinema in Mexico, a Focine fund that made pre-production possible,” the pair stated.

“This year we were beneficiaries of additional support from Focine to start the production of the film itself, with which our project reached a first floor of reality that undoubtedly places the film in a much more consolidated place. Today we have practically half of our budget and we’re looking to establish alliances and co-productions to be able to obtain the remaining 50%,” they went on.

The project was included in Ventana Sur pitching sessions in 2020 and is back, chosen as a title competing within this year’s Animation! Works In Progress strand. A tentative release date is set for 2026 with the team aiming to launch a Kickstarter campaign to sustain production while continuing to consolidate other financial prospects.  Fernández Trejo and Flores Mendieta note that, while grateful for the head start, animators in the country could benefit from further initiatives.

“All of this has been a beautiful surprise. We never imagined that there would really be people who would believe in us, that we could access the support of funds like those mentioned. Despite the good fortune that’s accompanied our project, we know that in Mexico animated cinema continues to be one of the most precarious sectors of the film industry. Thinking about making an animated feature film independently is still, for those who decide to take the risk, a feat,” Fernández Trejo and Flores Mendieta agreed.

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