Part of MailChimp Presents: Support The Shorts
Though this year’s SXSW in person event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the film festival has announced 2020 award winners, among them “Coup d’état Math,” the animated short film written and directed by Sai Selvarajan, which earned Special Jury Recognition: Texas Short. The festival described its decision to award the honor thusly: “Coup D’etat Math is an inventive and complex film about the struggles of the refugee community. The social realism captured in the film’s animation adds an element of vulnerability and rawness to the storyline. Sai’s intentional and thoughtful approach is illustrated in every detail of the film. It presents a rich visual tapestry of mixed media combining animation and live-action with gripping stories of pathos and human resilience.” The film is also a featured project on MailChimp Presents Support The Shorts.
The film depicts four immigrant stories — a fight to be born, a fight to survive, a fight to find your place, and the fight to maintain. In collaboration with fine artists Amanda Selvarajan and Olivia Saldivar, Selvarajan applied distinct visual language to each narrative and journey, for a truly unique viewing experience.
In his online acceptance speech, director Selvarajan thanked his collaborators for helping bring this labor of love to life, along with his appreciation to SXSW for the award. He further noted, “I’d just like to say to all the immigrants out there keep fighting, your struggle is our struggle. And lastly please everyone stay strong out there. Hope is a very powerful word. Keep hope alive.”
Selvarajan has developed a body of short film work that speaks to the truth of people that are often misunderstood and underrepresented. “Coup d’état Math” was conceived shortly after the Trump administration announced what became known as a Muslim Ban. In the face of the increasing demonization of immigrants, Selvarajan knew it was a pivotal moment to tell his story and others that help describe the journey people undertake.
Just as each immigrants’ story is unique, so too is each narrative in the short film. Watercolor paintings were created by Amanda Selvarajan with whom he collaborated on the short film “Sugarless Tea”; longtime friend Olivia Saldivar created the illustrations and wood cuts. Together, with the help of his colleagues at Dallas-based Lucky Post, where he is an editor, they united four narratives into one including audio with voices from different cultures that provide both distinctiveness and commonalities. The result demonstrates that the immigrant experience is not singular; it is connected by a fundamental desire to live without fear or persecution, to rise from poverty, and find a sense of belonging.