The Belief, Directed by Amir Vahedi
The Belief, an animated film by Amir Vahedi, explores the sudden and enduring violence of war – from the perspective of a pair of army boots.
The film starts in darkness accompanied with air raid sirens and the sound of exploding bombs. A door opens slowly, revealing a barren room with the flooding of a hallway light through the doorway. We are indoors, seemingly safe from the explosions. On the floor, illuminated with light, lie two soldier boots in disarray.
Now upright, their laces move of their own accord, tying themselves into tight bows that vibrate with the impact of the surrounding explosions and quiver as the strapped boots take heavy steps. They are now in the battlefield.
These are not ordinary boots. Director Amir Vahedi infuses them with a human sympathy that is difficult to describe without the imagery itself. The bow-tied laces peer around the dangerous landscape like ears, or eyes, or just as a conscious presence experiencing the destruction. The boots breathe like a terrified human preparing for battle. They run and jump and duck in the desert sand.
From the boots’ actions we glean that there is in fact a human wearing them, but he is invisible. Amidst bombs exploding all around them and ominous shadows of bombers gliding across the sand, he raises a fallen flag, replacing it into the shifting sand. He runs and the earth shakes with bombs that grow closer with each step, and when he ducks to the ground for cover, his boots do the same, flying through the air attached to invisible human legs.
The movement of the animated camera view articulates the chaos when it, too, shakes with each explosion, falling to the ground, going in and out of focus, its view obscured by flying debris, smoke and displaced sand.
At just over two minutes, this short film manages to communicate an enormous amount of heavy metaphorical meaning usually possible only with greater plot development over longer periods. The chaos plays out very quickly, and Vahedi packs each image in turn with rare metaphorical potency. The infusion of humanity into a pair of warring soldier’s boots is a skilful accomplishment in moulding a two-dimensional animated space into a wrenching human narrative; one can sense disbelief, terror, determination, anger, and resignation from their expertly-rendered movements, their subtle quivering, and their too-human responses to the horrors around them.
The choice to have boots stand in for a human creates a sense of anonymity and invisibility. The specifics lose significance in this purposeful anonymization of combat: the wearer of the boots could be anyone, in any place; the bombers and the bombed are indistinguishable. When the invisible protagonist raises his fallen flag, its colours are unrevealed, and all we see is its waving shadow on the sand. When he stumbles upon a battlefield littered with mangled boot remains, the image is horrifying precisely because Vahedi has led us to understand the reality of what it represents.
With the perspective of the anonymous soldier, The Belief challenges narratives of valour and nationalism, presenting the realities of war through powerful, sympathetic metaphor enabled by accomplished animation. ■
Runtime: 2 minutes
Genres: Animation, Short
Find out more
Learn more about this film from its website and its page on Facebook. The film’s writer, animator, and director is Iranian independent filmmaker Amir Vahedi. He has received numerous awards for his animated films. One of these films, The Life and Nothing Else (2010) has been awarded no less than five awards, including the First Prize for Two-Dimensional Animation at the Pray Short Film Festival in 2013, Third Prize at the Rain Short Film Festival in 2012, the Honour Diploma at the Resistance Short Film Festival in 2012, and First Prize at the Khorasan Short Film Festival in 2010 – all in Iran. He has also been recognised as Best Director at the Growth Short Film Festival in 2010, Best Animator for his animated film Smokey (2009) at the Evil Dream Short Film Festival, and has also been awarded with Honour Diplomas from the Iranian Fly Cartoon Festival and international cartoon festivals in China.
This critical review was commissioned and sponsored by the filmmaker.
Featured Image: A scene from ‘The Belief’. The Belief.