For my graduating film at Concordia University, there was one idea I wanted to explore: why do we give flowers to people as gifts, when flowers don’t last? When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, we received flowers regularly, for which I had to be their caretaker. These flowers died every time, because that was ultimately their inevitable fate. I began to question, why do we give flowers doomed to wilt as a means to wish good health?
I enjoyed them at first, of course. We received all kinds of flowers, from orchids, to lilies, to carnations, to roses. Even I gave my mother some flowers, too, at one point. Gifting flowers is a universal gesture and a ritual that has been around for centuries, and for a huge range of different occasions. But the bitter truth is that we ultimately throw them in the trash after they wilt.
Still from short film, Why Do Flowers Die.
That is what sparked the concept for Why Do Flowers Die? The film is an animated short about a young girl, named Rose, who must come to accept that the flowers she grew for her mother will not last forever. The world of Rose and her mother is a reflection of my own, where I have dealt with similar issues of accepting loss through nature’s impermanence. The story evolved to become about the relationship between a hardworking mother, who wants to give as much of her time as possible to her child, and her loving daughter, who simply wants to make her mother happy.
Writing and storyboarding this film was an arduous but exciting process. You have to answer the hardest questions about your work and completely hash out the story before it goes into production, after which it will be too late to make any major changes without losing time. What is necessary? What can be taken out? What is the purpose of each character, scene or element? I think for any filmmaker, the hardest part is to find that happy medium of including everything essential and still staying true to the original goal.
It was a long process of going back and forth from the original story. There were so many other elements I wanted to include that didn’t make it into the final cut. In the first version of the story, Rose gets injured while gardening and her mother gives her flowers as a get-well-soon gift, however, because her mother doesn’t have time to look after Rose, she only gets to watch them die. This was changed to Rose giving the flowers to her mother as a gift instead, to make the film more about their relationship rather than the death of the flowers.
When I watched my family take care of my mother during her hard times, I was utterly blown away by the capabilities of unconditional, familial love. My sister, who is my inspiration for Rose, showcased the maturity of a well-grown adult at the age of ten. Having completed the film, I look back and think about the days when I thought my mother would never be happy or healthy again. Now, she has been cancer-free for two years and counting. Rose and I have both learned the lesson that, in the passage of time, there will be unforgettable moments that make the entire journey worth it.
If anything, it is their impermanence that makes them more valuable. We cherish moments because they are fleeting. We cherish happy days because they are finite.The fact that there is an end is not a reason for despair; it’s a reason to enjoy these moments as they are.
Why Do Flowers Die? will be playing as part of the Transitions programme on August 12 for Toronto Youth Shorts.
Written by Annie Amaya for Toronto Youth Shorts.