One of the first things you notice in Everything Is Upstream is the old tape noise. The nostalgia it evokes is in a way everything this film is about. But not quite.
Martin Ponferrada’s animated documentary focuses on dreams, on the surface. But the four Buddhist practitioners who narrate some of their most emotionally significant dreams, leave you with only a single conclusion.
Ponferrada presents their recollections in abstract form, of which Buddhist teacher Subhana Barzhagi’s is arguably the most conventionally drawn up (the other subjects are Boan Sunim, Jamnean Seelasettho and Tsering Tashi). But this too has a significant presence of Ponferrada’s abstract style. The rotoscope animation also has a stop-motion look to it, together creating an immersive visual style.
Perhaps what stands out most about Everything Is Upstream is the way it recreates the exhilarating boundlessness of dreams. This, of course, is greatly due to the stories themselves: that the boat floats above the water, instead of in it, captures exactly the essence of these vivid, fleeting experiences.
Ponferrada uses colour judiciously; while the colour scheme is kept mainly black and white, bright shades are incorporated to portray fire and light. In particular, the boat scene’s use of colour just as the boat tips over and begins to fly is brilliant imagery (on that note, the framing of the boat as a car on a roller coaster is a visceral moment).
Circling back to nostalgia, even the subtitles are in a retro font, in tribute to not a specific bygone era, but to memory itself. Again, this is not simply about nostalgia. The unassuming, humble piece of wisdom the film really leaves you with is mindfulness. It exhorts, ever so gently, to experience moments in their fullest, to appreciate the worth of fleeting experiences. And how fleeting all experiences are.
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Everything Is Upstream: Cathartic Portrayal Of Dreams