Sand is many things: a potential nuisance, a decent way to pass an hour, a goldmine of bottle caps and loose change. To add another feather to its cap, Guaxuma, written and directed by Nara Normande, has come along to prove sand’s effectiveness as a method of animation. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, considering that we’ve all seen sand move in the wind and have been quite mesmerized by it. But can that same natural beauty be captured and appropriated for the purposes of a story? I suppose that partially depends on the story being told.
Guaxuma isn’t a Koyaanisqatsi situation, mostly because there’s a narrative and significantly less chanting. The movie functions as a sort of photo album, walking you through what I presume to be an autobiographical coming-of-age story, but that doesn’t matter. Just because a story is personal doesn’t mean anyone else in the world will care or should care. But, because the story’s packaged in the quaint use of sand animation, it gets a pass. The simplicity of the story being told lends itself well to the experimental style. That’s not to say there isn’t a slight feeling of being imprisoned on a sofa beside an old lady who really wants to show you pictures of her grandchildren—grandchildren whom you’ve never met, nor will ever meet.
“…the story’s packaged in the quaint use of sand animation…”
Now that I think about it, the animation is all the movie has going for it—the narration about friendship and loss that guides us through the story comes off like the diary entries of a teenager. The inflating gut of a sleeping hippie and a naked person floating just above water are among the movie’s most memorable images—all done with sand, I assume, unless there were some added effects. There’s also a nightmare sequence that looks like a sentient Etch A Sketch traveled to hell and is trying to describe it to us the only way it knows how. In addition to the sand animation, there is some real-life photography—occasionally featuring literal photos—and that all functions perfectly well as a form of punctuation.
Guaxuma won’t cause your jaw to hit the floor. It won’t even cause you to look at sand a little differently—with a tinge of respect, as opposed to general indifference. That said, its unique approach to animation works well within the medium of a short film since its novelty doesn’t have time to be run into the ground. By the time you’re bored with it, the movie thanks you for your time and shows itself out.
Guaxuma (2019) Written and directed by Nara Normande. Starring Nara Normande.
6 out of 10 stars