Tuzi is an animated short that’s anything but joyful. Through scathing sarcasm and dark undertones, the seven-minute-long film examines the issue of domestic violence.
The film is a graduation project created by Han Yeming, Tang Ruofan, and Chen Siyue, three students of the China Academy of Art. Their story was originally planned to be a cathartic tale about a child escaping his abusive upbringing. However, as the script developed, the story took a different direction. The completed script still features a child raised in a violent home, but there isn’t exactly a feel-good resolution—the protagonist instead grows up to become someone that’s not unlike the father who he so despised, a person who terrorizes others.
“Not every child who grew up in these types of environments is rescued,” says director Han Yeming. “And not all wounds can be healed.”
The use of a rabbit as a symbolic device wasn’t originally planned, but once the idea came about, it felt like a perfect embodiment of innocence, and its mutation into a blood-thirsty monster, in turn, depicts the corruption of innocence that can result from growing up in a violent environment.
The short’s ending is purposefully ambiguous. The protagonist, having been subject to abuse for much of his life, seems to want to wreak vengeance on society. But in the final scene, when he sees himself as a monster in the mirror, he seems surprised. The film concludes with the monster alone in frame smashing its reflection in the mirror.
Is he vowing to conquer the monster within? Or does he accept the monster as his true self?
“There isn’t a clear conclusion to Tuzi; you could say it was all a dream, an epilogue, or part of an unending cycle,” says Han. “The true ending of Tuzi is whatever the viewer wants it to be. Our goal is to invite the audience to think, and for their interpretation to contribute to the completion of this work.”
Han and his team believe that animation shouldn’t only be about presenting beautiful things; it also has a responsibility to present the unpleasant parts of life. “We want to show people the reality of things,” says Han. “And also prove that animation isn’t just for kids. It can be darker fairytales meant for adult audiences.”