Directed by
Elly Stern

In a trash-filled city, a homeless woman's encounter with a fish takes an unexpected turn.

Elly Stern is a mixed media animator who's lived in a plethora of places across the world; Elly was brought up in Tel Aviv, then Toronto, graduated in Massachusetts and is now based in Vancouver. Her thesis film Waste Away is a surreal stop motion short about a homeless woman who becomes pregnant with a fish. The responsibility of motherhood gives her the strength to fight for  survival, while the forces of nature threaten to overtake her. The setting of urban neglect emphasizes the pervasive alienation between people, and humanity’s destructive impact on their environment. Relevant to today’s crisis, at a time when nature is undermining our position as its ruler, this animation tells a vivid story of disaster and rebirth.

Stern "Waste Away was my BFA thesis film at Massachusetts College of Art & Design. The film was born from an image that mysteriously appeared in my mind one day, that of a homeless woman digging into her belly to reveal a live fish in her uterus. I was intrigued by the absurdity and surrealism of that initial image, which made me want to develop that idea further and turn it into a story of its own. While I was exploring the ideas for this film, I was thinking a lot about climate change and our neglect and mistreatment of the world. The notion of motherhood is what helped me connect the initial mysterious image to my concerns for our planet. So, Waste Away became the story of a homeless woman who finds the strength to survive by mothering a fish which symbolizes the environment, both of them mistreated by the world.

Using stop motion to create Waste Away gave me the amazing opportunity of experimenting with materials that helped bring the environmental themes in my film to life. I made most of the props and sets in my film from found objects and garbage: the buildings out of styrofoam and wood, the bicycle out of plastic cutlery, the dumpsters out of recycled cardboard, and the water (and bodily fluids) out of plastic wrap. As Waste Away was a student film, it was completely a solo project, (other than music and sound help in post-production) so I fabricated all my sets and puppets by myself. It was a rather intense 10 month journey!"