Ann Marie Fleming’s Window Horses forays into personal identity

By Kristi Alexandra

Ann Marie Fleming’s latest film, Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming, has all the trappings of a children’s movie: it’s animated, it’s told through the lens of a relatable young woman, it touches on themes of self-discovery. In real life, however, our moments of self-actualization are very adult. And between childhood and adulthood is where we meet our protagonist Rosie Ming.

In the feature-length film, Rosie (voiced by the iconic Sandra Oh) is a young Canadian poet of Chinese-Iranian heritage. Consistently capped in a beret, the closet poet dreams of Paris when she learns she’s been invited to Iran to perform at poetry festival. Unbeknownst to even her best friend Kelly (Ellen Page) and her over-protective Chinese grandmother Gloria (Nancy Kwan), Ming’s published poetry catches the attention of the thriving poetry community in Iran.

“There’s this whole thing that women have, this imposter syndrome, that we have to do something so many times before we can confidently say it,” Fleming offers on her stick-girl-inspired character’s modesty.

Window Horses (Trailer) from NFB/marketing on Vimeo.

“[Poetry] is something that was very personal to her, that she had the gumption to do, but it was this secret life that she had. She didn’t even tell her family.”

Struggling between artistic self-discovery and her foray into her own cultural background, Rosie is the personification of the interest versus identity paradigm.

“As an artist, it’s something that people roll their eyes at,” the Vancouver director empathizes. “When you’re trying to change and break out of your past, you meet a lot of resistance. It’s a human issue, that the people we’re trying to grow into, the people who know us best are the most resistant to that kind of change.”

During her trip to Iran, Rosie runs into all the people who eventually hold a mirror to her own experience, including her own estranged father, helping her identify with her own roots.

“Rosie is somewhere in her 20s,” Fleming explains. “I feel, in their 20s, is when a lot of people start to think about their roots. You took everything for granted up until a certain point and then when you  become an adult, you start to wonder more about these things and do these explorations.”

Fleming herself is from Eurasian descent, and the film touches on the identity quandaries she herself has faced. “I’m totally embedded in her discovery, and we’re kind of going on this journey together,” she admits.

What’s captivating about Window Horses doesn’t lie just in Rosie’s story, however. Lending to the film’s allure is its engrossing art-style. Senses are punctuated by fantastical animation, wherein music and emotion are visibly alive.

“Of course, it’s also through her point of view and she does look at the world through these rose-coloured glasses,” Fleming says. “I made it animated because really that made it possible. All of these beautiful things come out of it: it is a point-of-view film, so I was able to work with all of these artists and it’s all represented in a completely different style as Rosie’s view of the world expands.”

Along with Rosie Ming and Window Horses, Fleming has travelled to Toronto, San Francisco, Copenhagen, Honolulu, Istanbul and more.

Window Horses made its theatrical debut on March 10 and is currently showing at Vancouver’s International Village theatre.


Kristi Alexandra is an unabashed wino and wannabe musician. Her talents include drinking an entire bottle of cabernet sauvignon, singing in the bathtub, and falling asleep.