A Room Nearby (PBS)
Winner 2005 | Independent Television Service [ITVS]
“It seems to be evident that in our culture of prosperity, anywhere we might be, there will always be someone lonely in a room nearby,” Paul Fierlinger observes in A Room Nearby, an animated film he produced, directed, and wrote in partnership with his wife, Sandra Fierlinger, under the executive producer-ship of ITVS’s Sally Jo Fifer. What makes the film so special, apart from the Fierlingers’ inventive, fluidly metamorphic animation style and keen insights about human life, is that they’re also reporting. Their cartoons are set to a “soundtrack” of recorded interviews with real people who tell their personal tales of alienation and melancholy and the epiphanies they achieved. The stories include that of Domingo D’Achille who recalls how lost his sense of his true self in his teens, amassed and squandered a great fortune, lived a skid-row existence for a time, and found peace one night when realized he was just as insignificant and just as important “as the next speck of stardust.” Most powerfully, perhaps because he is so well known and successful, there is film director Milos Forman’s candid remembrance of the loneliness he experienced after the bizarre death of his closest companion, a beloved dog, and how in his grief and denial he played solitaire for hours on end. The Feirlingers’ creative visual interpretation, along with Jon Avarese’s original music, makes Forman’s story, like all the other segments, both poignant and whimsical. For thoughtfully addressing the universality of loneliness through animated shorts that are anything but gloomy ‘toons, A Room Nearby earns a Peabody.