Animated Short ‘Back Home Again’ Revisits Fort McMurray Fire

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Poster for Homecoming

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

Screenwriter, director and film creator Michael Mankowski says ‘Back Home Again’ tells the story of Fort McMurray residents who were forced from their homes in the 2016 fire and how they came together as a community .

“I don’t see this as a story of disaster, but more of a story of community and what it took for us to find each other again,” Mankowski said.

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

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

The short’s content is derived from Mankowski’s countless conversations with residents returning home after the fire.

“I had a knack for hearing many people’s emotional stories and thought I really wanted to create a tool for mental health,” Mankowski says.

He said he also wanted something that better represents the community he was raised in. “I often struggled with how the media portrayed my community, and thought it was a great way to showcase Fort McMurray.”

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

Many well-known actors have 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 screenings of the film are May 3 and 4 at 5:30 p.m. and May 7 at 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. at the TELUS World of Science in Edmonton.

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

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

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