Between the Shadows with Animator Chun Chun Chang

Between the Shadows

If you want to change your world, you likely need to approach it with a different perspective. For animator Chun Chun Chang, this was her tactic both in making the film Between the Shadows and with the story itself. Best described as a modern fairytale which communicates the origin of the moon itself, Between the Shadows offers an unusual premise for how we see our surroundings. Chang has masterfully created a tale that is both epic and lighthearted, no small feat for a film in present times considering the often chaotic state of our world. Whether intentionally or not, this film brings a momentary respite from the massive obstacles facing so many of us these days. This film’s ability to enchant audiences is proven with awards and recognitions from the Los Angeles Animation Festival and ARFF Around Films International Film Festival Barcelona, as well as Official Selection status at such events as the Athens International Film and Video Festival, Carmarthen Bay Film Festival, Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, and numerous others. In its creation, Chun Chun Chang displays more than the technical skill of a gifted animator but also the insight of a whimsical storyteller.

  Between the Shadows is the filmmaker’s own mythology of the appearance of the moon. In the same way that creative minds have always found the means to explain the forces of nature and heavenly bodies, this film does so in the most entertainingly playful manner. In this animated tale, a woman chases a beam of light around the elegant and massive interior of a structure. The pursuit makes its way up and down, untethered to the forces of gravity or other constraints. The train of the long robe she wears eventually covers the glowing orb, transforming it into the moon which we know in its present form. The explanation offered here does no justice to the mood which Chun Chun attains with her animation. The shades of blues and blacks which color the architecture and silhouette of the woman who chases the moon serve as a translation of night but also heighten the contrast of the luminous quality which this female protagonist herself possesses. While the architecture within the building is vast and highly realistic (with a 3D presentation), the style which Chun Chun Chang has chosen for the woman evolves into bright colors and a softer fantasy style that communicates a warmth and lightheartedness. Strong contrast is an essential element of the visual language of this film and it plays exceedingly well. It’s nearly halfway into the film that you recognize the laws of physics do not apply in this world but the subtlety with which this developes makes it almost unnoticeable. Chun Chun describes, “I decided to make the structure of the building remain straight up and made the character be the upside-down one. While the camera followed her going up to the pillar and the roof, it was time to present the ‘upside-down’ concept. Her below was above and her above was below. From her perspective, she was falling down to the moon, but from our perspective she was floating up to the moon. I think this creates a magical and mythological vibe, which fits the idea that I want the film to be a mythology of the creation of the moon.”

  Often found in the animation films of Chun Chun Chang is the absence of dialogue. As with Between the Shadows and others, the connection between the musical score and the storyline is profound and requires no words to communicate the journeys of her characters. The enchanting score of composer Sturdivant Adams heightens the dreamlike qualities of the animation style and story itself. Strings, vibraphones, and bells give a coating of whimsy to the already playful motion in the story which the filmmaker herself concedes was inspired by her own love of Tango. Animation has evolved in many ways in the past two decades but the story at the heart of each film relies on an artist who has a compelling vision for delivering the story. Noting the support and insight she receives from others in the animation community like director Bruce A. Block as well as Michael Patterson and Candace Reckinger (Grammy and MTV VMA Award Winners for Paula Abdul’s Opposites Attract, MTV VMA Nominee for A-Ha’s Take on Me) for her work on Between the Shadows, Chun Chun states, “This film has special meaning to me. It’s kind of like a milestone in all my short films. Before Between the Shadows, my films mostly focused on being funny. After I finished Between the Shadows, I realized I was way more connected to the elegant stories.”

Writer: Coleman Haan

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