Emptiness is a beautiful yet poignant animated story that introduces Gea (/hā-a/), a songbird who works tirelessly to build a cozy nest for her three birdies, until tragedy takes her by surprise—influencing a gut-wrenchingly search with a bittersweet ending.
Emptiness is a beautiful yet poignant 2D animated short film written and produced by award-winning Mexicana filmmaker Soco Aguilar. The story is a narrative metaphor for the hundreds of thousands of mothers and families worldwide with missing loved ones who continue searching for them, sometimes years after their disappearance.
Emptiness is directed and animated by illustrator and animator Ricardo Varela Ramos. Sofi Glyka is associate producer. Ale Cienfuegos Amo is the project’s art director and animator. Erik Alcantara scored the film and is responsible for the film’s original music and sound design. And more than 20 other animators worked on the production.
Emptiness will premiere on December 9, 2022, during a private screening at a to-be-determined Cinemex theater in Mexico City.
The story illuminates a timeline of the highly cherished moment when Gea (/hā-a/) becomes a mother of three passerine songbirds (swallows) nesting underneath the portico of a home in San Miguel de Allende. She does what moms do, providing them with security, nourishment, and affection.
One rainy day, she leaves the nest in search of food. While away, an army of fire ants maliciously attacks the nest. Gea returns to discover that her son Tut (/to͞ot/), daughter Lu (/lo͞o/), and son Spes (/spes/) are missing.
Confused and distraught, she struggles to understand the disappearance of her children and cope with her loss. After days of mindless flight, inconsolable, devasted, and exhausted, Gea locates her son, Tut, representing the hope that mothers have that someday they may find their missing.
The Emptiness filmmaking team is Mexican and motivated to tell their story influenced by the record number of forced disappearances in their country.
According to the BBC, Mexico marked a grim milestone in 2022, with the number of people officially listed as disappeared at more than 100,000.
This gut-wrenching data is paired with the gradual disappearance of agencies and organizations specializing in indigenous peoples (due to a lack of economic resources exaggerated by the pandemic). Thousands of women mark Mother’s Day in Mexico each year as the occasion to continue their desperate mission to discover what happened to their missing children.
“The scourge of disappearances is a human tragedy of enormous proportions,” said Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights.
“The film’s simplicity of story and illustration dramatically communicates the anguish and void that no news story could ever capture,” said Aguilar. “As a mother, it is your worst fear manifested. We thought animation was the perfect gateway to have these deep conversations about an issue involving loss, grief, denial, and hope for a solution to this crisis.”
“Emptiness is a powerful metaphor for so much that weighs on the chests of countless moms throughout the world. The film attempts to portray the beauty of parenthood and the resulting frustrations, indignation, fear, and sense of loss that violence perpetuates against children in Mexico, Latin America, and all around the world,” said Sofi Glyka, an associate producer of the film. “Our intent is to take advantage of our privilege and use Emptiness as a platform to illuminate and amplify this crisis in the hope of a solution.”
The initial idea for the film came from Aguilar, a mother of three, noticing the building of a nest in the outside portico of her home in San Miguel de Allende, a few meters from her work table. One morning she realized the birds were missing, only to discover that they had been attacked by fire ants and had fallen from their nest. She watched the mom confusingly stare at her empty nest, sometimes for hours, then flying off in search for them.
Aguilar was a documentary producer for PBS, BBC, the Discovery Channel, and a number of independent projects for nine years from San Francisco. She won the Ariel (Mexico’s equivalent to the Oscar) in 2008 for the best-animated feature production, La Leyenda de la Nahuala (which influenced a spin-off series sold to Disney in 2021). Universal Pictures Latin America distributed her two previous feature films.
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