Julia Morizawa’s captivating animated short film DRAGONFLY, Oscar Qualified, tells the story of a young girl who learns of her mother’s survival of the Tokyo Firebombing on March 9-10, 1945 through the eyes of her brother’s spirit. The film was a finalist in the Animation Short Competition at the LA Femme International Film Festival last month and also screened at the HollyShorts October showcase.
The film is inspired by the little-known lives of Morizawa’s maternal grandparents, whom she never met. In addition to increasing awareness about a tragic time in history that many adults today do not know about, Morizawa hopes that the film inspires audiences to go home and talk to their parents and grandparents. The invaluable importance of learning one’s family history is often realized far too late when the sources are no longer around. Making DRAGONFLY has inspired conversations between Morizawa and her own mother, who is the little girl in the film.
The short film is part of a much larger story Morizawa has been developing for over 15 years about her family heritage. She knew if she wanted to see it come to life on the big screen in the near future, she’d need to self-produce. So she adapted a segment of the larger story – the most emotional segment – into a short. “I felt it would be unlikely I could self-produce the firebombing as a live-action short and realized animation would be more attainable. It ultimately served the story in more ways than I initially imagined,” said Morizawa. The childlike, simplicity of the animation style creates an impactful juxtaposition against the fierce horrors of war.
The film’s core creative team consists entirely of women of color. Morizawa made a point to interview women during the search to fill out the team. As a producer, she believes it is her responsibility to provide opportunities for artists who have been traditionally underrepresented in film and animation.
The script was awarded Best Short Screenplay by Scriptation Showcase and Screenwriting Master in 2019. It was also a semifinalist or quarterfinalist in several other competitions, including the Austin Film Festival, Slamdance, and WeScreenplay Diverse Voices.
Julia Morizawa is a writer/producer/actress whose work spans all media. Her improvised feature film, JesusCat (or How I Accidentally Joined a Cult), won Best Comedy Feature at the Asians On Film Festival in 2014 and the Movie Heroes Rising Star Award at the Action On Film Festival in 2013. She earned a Best Female Filmmaker nomination at the Action On Film Festival in 2007 for her short, Sin & Lyle. Her play Twenty-Two premiered in Los Angeles in 2010, and her audio drama American Comedy Horror Story: Orphanage, is available worldwide on most podcast apps. Her acting career highlights include Judas Kiss, Scandal, SEAL Team, Masha No Home, Without Annette, Galactic Galaxy, and Star Trek: Odyssey. She is best known for playing the titular Dr. Bright on the hit podcast The Bright Sessions for five seasons and two spin-offs.
DRAGONFLY is written, produced, and directed by Morizawa. Executive Producers are Brian Sturges, James Babbin, John Titchenal, Lucas A. Ferrara, Derek Kolterman, and Christopher Luk. Maria Marta Linero was the Animation Director, with Eva Benitez as Lead Animator. The music is composed by Aiko Fukushima and the Sound Design is by Giorgia Garcia-Moreno. Morizawa, Erika Ishii, Miya Kodama, and Thomas Isao Morinaka lend their voices.
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