Naaman Azhari’s The Sunshine Boy captures the difficult moment when two worlds collide, and a mother realizes her son is not exactly who she thinks he is. Inspired by true events, this animated short provides a slightly different perspective on a school shooting.
The Sunshine Boy real strength is its play on the dichotomy of idealization and actuality, demonstrated through a voice over monologue that directly contradicts the images on screen. What we see is the typical interpretation of what happens during and after a school shooting. We see the boy’s diary, and how he struggled with depression and anger toward the world. We see his altered mentality through the distortions of his face. We see him shoot the people around him, and then himself. Then we see the pain this causes his parents.
Over the top of all of this, we hear the mother, talking lovingly about her son. Her son, who was artistic and caring. Her son, who liked the colour yellow because it reminded him of his hair and of the sunshine. Almost ironically, she says her son is destined for big things, that only the sun, the moon, and stars can stop him. Her loving anecdotes make her discovery of his diary that much more hard hitting.
The visual representation of the blood on her hands from her failure to recognize the inner turmoil her son was experiencing and her tangential responsibility for the shooting makes your stomach turn. Is she innocent for not noticing what was going on within the confines of her sons head? Could she have possibly known what he was planning?
Azhari raises a lot of relevant questions about mental health, especially to whether or not terrible events like these can be avoided. Is it a failure of parents or society that people experience extreme depression and rage? Azhari doesn’t offer any clear answers but instead offers a diving board for dialogue with The Sunshine Boy.