-How Did the Kids Take It? By Mike Boone, The Gazette, Montreal, December 23, 1998
-Film Focus on How Divorce Affects Kids By John Griffin, The Gazette, Montreal, March 21, 1998
-Film Focuses on Children and Divorce By Heather Solomon, Canadian Jewish News, Montreal, September 4, 1997
By Mike Boone (Tv and radio critic)
The Gazette, Montreal, December 23, 1998
Joyce Borenstein offers her visitor a tour of Illumination Magique’s “corporate headquarters.”
It is a large room in the rear of a ground-floor apartment in one of those grand, Rosemary’s Baby-style buildings in Montreal. Borenstein, who makes animated films under the corporate rubric of Illumination Magique Inc., has packed the room with a drawing table, a desk, a television set, a computer, a climbing pole for her cats and paintings by her late father.
Sam Borenstein was the subject of THE COLOURS OF MY FATHER, a 1991 animated film nominated for an Academy Award. Bric-a-brac in her home studio doesn’t include a gold Oscar statuette, but Borenstein’s breakthrough film won nine awards, including an Oscar nomination and a Genie.
ONE DIVIDED BY TWO, Borenstein’s latest, has won only three awards – but it is still early in the game. The film, an innovative combination of animation and interviews, is about to make its television debut.
ONE DIVIDED BY TWO gets its first telecast on the holiday weekend. CFCF-TV will air the 24-minute film on Sunday afternoon. Vision TV, the other broadcaster that gave Borenstein the commitment she needed to get a production grant, will air ONE DIVIDED BY TWO in March.
Borenstein’s target audience isn’t football fans idly switching channels on a Sunday afternoon. ONE DIVIDED BY TWO, which took four years to progress from original proposal to final cut, was made to help families cope with the trauma of divorce; and since a public-screening premiere in March, it has been used by therapists, high-school guidance counselors and other professionals who work with kids whose parents are splitting up.
“I have a bit of the social worker in me,” Borenstein says over coffee. “Had I not had artistic talent I might have gone into that sort of helping field.”
But she is abundantly talented. So Borenstein put her pencils, pastels and paintbrushes to work on a film that helps parents, children and mediators understand how divorce affects kids.
ONE DIVIDED BY TWO is an excellent film – heartwarming, informative, pleasing to the eye and ear (Borenstein, a classical musician, chose lovely pieces by Maurice Ravel to accompany her animations).
ONE DIVIDED BY TWO is a product of a fruitful collaboration among three. Borenstein’s inspiration for making the film was provided by her cousin, Edeet Ravel, who had written three short stories about children and divorce. Psychotherapist Rhona Bezonsky-Jacobs was a consultant on the film and conducted the interviews with the kids who appear in ONE DIVIDED BY TWO.
A field of 80 children was winnowed down to the eight who appear in ONE DIVIDED BY TWO. The kids were chosen based on how well their personal stories dovetailed with the themes of the film, which explores several aspects of divorce.
“We didn’t want to include kids who were really suffering and whose pain would come out on film,” Borenstein says. “The kids who were chosen for the film, have survived divorce and can be thoughtful about it in interviews. I didn’t want to expose children who are hurting – although that part, I think, comes through in the animation sections, which are the more emotional part of the film.”
ONE DIVIDED BY TWO includes seven minutes of interview segments (edited down from 2 ½ hours of Bezonsky-Jacob’s conversations with the kids) and 16 minutes of animation – which works out to about 10,000 drawings produced, in 60-hour work weeks over 16 months, by Borenstein in her small studio (with colouring by assistants, working in the guest room of the apartment.)
Disney Studios it isn’t. And although Borenstein would like to afford digital animation technology, she does not yearn to work in a high-tech cartoon assembly line. “I wouldn’t want to join a big corporation and not do what interests me,” she says. “This film was motivated by idealism. The film wasn’t made with a huge budget, nor will there be a huge profit from distribution. For me, helping to make the world a better place is much more important than the financial returns.”
By John Griffin (Gazette film critic)
The Gazette, Montreal, March 21, 1998
Midway through Joyce Borenstein’s exquisitely balance new documentary ONE DIVIDED BY TWO: KIDS AND DIVORCE, the camera closes tight on a child with the look of an angel. The credits say his name is Terry, but make no mention of his golden curls, his ageless face or the tragedy in his matter-of-fact statement. When asked about his parents’ split or the tension that came before, during and after their decision to separate, he stares with the directness of innocence at the lens and says, “Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I watch TV to get it off my mind.”
Terry is one of 13 young people between the ages of 8 and 18 bearing witness to what happens when almost half the marriages in North America collapse. Taken on their own in this Genie-winning, Oscar-nominated Montreal filmmaker’s 24-minute video, they would represent the undeniable truth of the matter, and some pretty heavy sledding for the viewer. Kids unjustly punished for the flaws of their elders is no easy thing to take sitting down.
But Borenstein and her collaborators Edeet Ravel and Rhona Bezonsky-Jacobs offset the trauma of real-life separation with fanciful animation that illuminates the dark corners and darker humour of these painful situations.
What surfaces with Borenstein’s even touch – a touch brought to her lauded 1991 film COLOURS OF MY FATHER – is both the resilience to ride out change and an optimism no parent can snuff out in a child. ONE DIVIDED BY TWO works neatly through the issues without hitting us upside the head with psycho-jargon, stats or touchy “I feel your pain” sentimentality.
The film had its premiere last fall and was well received. Tuesday night Borenstein brings her film to Cummings House for a free screening open to all. “I feel it’s a film that can touch everyone. If it’s not you who has suffered through divorce, it’s someone you know.”
By Heather Solomon (Art critic)
Canadian Jewish News, Montreal, September 4, 1997
Animator Joyce Borenstein knew a film was in the making when all the pieces for it fit together like a preordained puzzle. In November 1993, Montreal novelist Edeet Ravel handed her three stories she’d written on divorce from the point of view of the child. Rhona Bezonsky-Jacobs, a psychotherapist for children of divorce came on board, too, as a consultant and writer of the accompanying study guide. Finally, a Canada Council grant fell into place, followed by even more comprehensive funding from Quebec.
ONE DIVIDED BY TWO: KIDS AND DIVORCE is a 24-minute gem expressing children’s innermost thoughts on the subject. It paves the way for healing, counseling and possible prevention. Borenstein animates Ravel’s stories about how parental conflict sets off the ball toss effect of joint custody. The film also deals with the burdens parents place on their children when they lean too heavily on them for emotional support. Then there’s the anger and confusion arising from complex step-family relationships.
The animator’s drawings are whimsical and richly artistic. The nightmare sequence set in an inferno is one example of how Borenstein visualizes each emotional situation, taking it beyond simple narrative and into accessible symbolic commentary. Parents’ angry voices metamorphose into lightning bolts. The child is twanged back and forth between mother and father on a giant elastic band. King Solomon mediates. And Father’s Day greetings to a faraway dad travel by bottle in the ocean, while an eventual long-distance telephone call sparks fireworks at both ends of the line.
Though the emotions Borenstein raises are sincere, she drives them home with even more force using 13 live, unscripted interviews with children whose parents have split. The hurt, the anger, the quiet strength that many of these children have developed from growing up too soon, all hit the viewer with the force of truth. Borenstein promises them the healing of time, as cyclical shadows and seasonal changes move over her animated landscape.
“Divorce is a very controversial subject” says Borenstein. “Although I’m careful not to point the finger at any one person, parents get so concerned about their own welfare, emotional stability and finances, they forget about the child who ultimately suffers the most. My film tries to get parents to focus on their children and also attempts to get kids talking about the fact that they’re hurting and why they’re hurting. One of the things you come away with from this film is that the kids in the film are miraculous. They’ve survived major traumas and are able to talk about them with wisdom.”