Animated short film ‘Back Home Again’ revisits the Fort McMurray wildfire

An animated short film highlighting the mental health of Fort McMurray following the Horse River wildfire can now be viewed at the TELUS World of Science in Edmonton.

Writer, Director and Creator of the film, Michael Mankowski says ‘Back Home Again’ tells the story of Fort McMurray residents who were forced from their homes during the 2016 wildfire, and how they came together as a community.

“I think of this not as a disaster story, more of a story of community and what it took for us to come back together,” Mankowski said.

He explained that there were many times while working on the project when he felt he would never be able to create the film.

“After a year into it I thought it was impossible, I hired a company and they weren’t able to complete it, and kind of disappeared on me,” explained Mankowski. “That was when I made the decision to sell my home and go to animation school.”

Content for the short film was derived from Mankowski’s countless conversations with residents returning home after the fire.

“I was given a gift of hearing many people’s emotional stories and I thought, I really want to make a tool for mental health,” says Mankowski.

He said that he also wanted something that better represented the community in which he was raised. “I struggled a lot of times with how the media represented my community, and I thought this was a great way to showcase Fort McMurray.”

The story is told through the eyes of woodland creatures that inhabit Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo and call it home, which Mankowski says was a way to soften some of the heavy stories and help to share them with children and people of all ages.

Many well-known actors lent their voices to the project such as Jeremy Renner, Martin Short, Kim Basinger, Eugene Levy, Norm Macdonald, Catherine O’Hara, Michael J. Fox, Howie Mandel, Lorne Cardinal, Gordon Pinsent, Mena Suvari, Bill Burr, Tom Green, Tantoo Cardinal, Marlon Wayans, Harland Williams, Sherri Shepherd, Scott Thompson, and Ed Asner.

Current showings of the film are on May 3,4 at 5:30 p.m. and on May 7 at 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. at the TELUS World of Science in Edmonton.

Michael said that they are working with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo to have a showing in Fort McMurray, hopefully by June.

“It’s been my goal since the start of this to show it in Fort McMurray.”

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