Kyona (Emilie Lan Durr’s voice) is a young artist, showing promise of greatest in the sketchbook she carries with her. But for the most part, she’s a child still bearing the smallest flame of hope to see her parents again. La Traversee, then is about an older version of Kyona (Florence Miaihe, also the film’s director) making the memories of her younger self fresh, as she leaves her village and move from city to city, waiting to piece back her family together. The film makes viewers feel the hopelessness of the separation that feels permanent as minutes feel like days.
The aesthetic within this animation film changes enough while still showing consistency. It shows Kyona’s clothes, as well as the city where she lands, with deep pastel watercolours, reminiscent of, sorry, the way Jojo Rabbit uses colour for irony’s sake. That the colourful world around her doesn’t reflect how she feels. The film then transitions to detailed macabre when a smuggler, Jon (Serge Avedikian) sells her into forced adoption. The it shows the most blinding shade of white in depicting a wintry forest where she escapes. The animation here also has room for fantastical shapes, reminding us that Kyona is still young.
Kyona, by the way, also has a brother, Adriel (Maxime Gemin). He drifts away and comes back to her as the film progresses. Certain factors, like Jon’s eventual return to their lives, threaten to tear them apart again. Most refugee stories have a gray air about them, and there’s enough of that here. But the film’s maximalist approach feels exemplary here, as Kyona and Adriel have their share of outlandish pit stops. One of those stops happen to be a travelling circus. Running that circus is a Madame (Aline Afanoukoe) defending the children, her actions igniting empathy.
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