By his own account, animator Yoram Gross’s signal creation—a gray-tufted, cheeky koala named Blinky Bill—is the Mickey Mouse of Australia. Most of us will have to take his word for that, and in Blinky & Me, Tomasz Magierski’s lovely and lovingly made portrait of Gross’s life and career, it is a great if often sorrowful pleasure to take his word for much more. Using as a point of entry a trip the longtime Australian took with his five grandchildren back to his native Poland, in Blinky, the 85-year-old Gross narrates his experience of World War II from the streets of Krakow and Warsaw. Magierski frames a too-common story of horror, displacement, and survival with singular warmth: Now a dear old man, Gross is uncommonly gentle with his grandkids, who hang on his every syllable, and the unlikely creation of Blinky Bill is shown to be a direct result and reflection of his suffering. Animations and archival footage add context and texture; best are the simple sequences intercutting Gross and his grandchildren telling one of his stories—from the mouse he befriended while in hiding to the rescue of his sister from German incarceration. All this suggests storytelling’s binding effect across generations and too many borders.
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