Director – Germán Acuña – 2019 – Chile, Brazil – 99m
Nahuel is afraid of the water. This is a problem since he lives in a coastal town and his single parent father – his mum died before he knew her – is a fisherman who’d like him to help him on the boat. Whatever his dad asks him to do, he can’t seem to get right. For example, he never gets to the boat in time. If sent to the market to buy eggs, they get broken on the way home. To make matters worse, a couple of local bullies pick on him too.
One day he’s exploring an abandoned house an discovers an old book of spells. The old, blind man who lives there and who possesses strange powers – including a walking stick that sports an eye – appears to be some sort of guardian for the tome. That doesn’t stop Nahuel sneaking out of the house with it. Soon, he’s being followed by crows in the service of a sorcerer who wants the book for his own evil purposes. And Nahuel has removed it from the protection of its guardian…
This is most effective as a horror movie, although there’s nothing in it I personally wouldn’t want an eight year old child to see. Striking visuals are built upon a strong script with well rounded characters making a skilfully made movie look like an easy feat to pull off. There are twists and turns aplenty to keep the audience guessing and a gargantuan sea monster in the climatic reel which takes place at an abandoned wharf.
The movie is Chilean and the version shown at Annecy was in Spanish with (festival) subtitles. Japanese animation is hugely popular in many parts of the world and this movie feels like it wants to be a part of all that as it’s very similar in style to anime. Which suggests that it ought to be able to find an international audience fairly easily. It’s a solid and hugely enjoyable piece of work which deserves to do exactly that.
Nahuel And The Magic Book plays in the New York Intl Children’s FF 2021 as its Opening Spotlight on March 6th followed by a Q&A with the director. It previously played Annecy Animation Festival 2020 special online edition when this review was originally written.
Opening Spotlight on Saturday, March 6th at 7pm ET followed by a Q&A with the director.
Annecy Animation Festival special online edition:
Monday, June 15th to Tuesday, June 30th.