A Chinese manicurist in Miami attempts to describe feelings she doesn't have the words for. “Agua Viva,” written, directed and animated by Alexa Lim Haas, is a gorgeous, melancholic portrait of a stranger in a strange land. As she quietly goes about her day giving manicures and pedicures in a Florida strip mall, Mei Mei wonders how she ended up here, so far from home, working an invisible job, relying on the whir of a portable fan to swallow up uncomfortable silences. Much of the poignancy in the film comes in the way Mei Mei (voiced by Mengda Zhang) struggles to communicate simple English words, and decipher their meaning (“words are so solid, but my thoughts are so fluid”), and the aching narration blends beautifully with the evocative hand-drawn and painted images of neon signs flickering to life, jellyfish swimming in tanks, and an intimate session of Mei Mei giving a body wax. It’s a stunning piece, unassuming but potent, about not being able to find the words.
Written, Directed and Animated by Alexa Lim Haas. Voice by Mengda Zhang.