Gabriel Ponniah, Editor In Chief
Austin Alternative Screen Scene
The films at AniFab share one common thread: they are all “animal stories.”
Some stick to that distinction more closely than others. While a great many are conservation-oriented with direct calls to action, particularly the documentaries, some narrative films enjoy more creative freedom in their implementation of the animal angle. The Man Who Forgot To Breathe is one of the more tenuous qualifications at AniFab 2021, but nevertheless tells an interesting story.
Over the course of this Iranian film’s 15 minutes, we see a man staring abject solitude down the barrel as his wife prepares to leave him with their child, his anxiety rendered visually with the aid of his daughter’s pet goldfish by the metaphor of breathing. Writer/director Saman Hosseinuor cultivates a patient and methodical approach with carefully-framed, pensive cinematography and vacuous sound design that saves its flourishes for only a select few moments. It’s long for a short film, but never does the filmmaking lag. Without a word, his cast communicates so much through simple, yet effective looks, and Zanyar Lotfi gives us more still through his editing choices. Reinforcing the breathing motif by capitalizing on the respirator masks which so dominated the past year (and admittedly before then in more air-conscientious countries) is just icing on the cake.
While it’s not likely to pique the interest of an animal advocate ahead of its AniFab contemporaries, The Man Who Forgot To Breathe is a quiet, subtly excellent character study more in line with traditional film festival fare. For those who tend towards more pensive, artistically-minded short films, this should be right in your wheelhouse. And who knows, perhaps Hosseinuor will expand upon his good instincts in future work. I certainly would be eager to see that come to fruition.