Winnie Cheung’s animated short, Albatross Soup, is a fascinating combination of animation and documentary. A group of 50 people were tasked to answer a riddle, which is asked by a god-like narrator: “A man gets off a boat. He walks into a restaurant and orders albatross soup. He takes one sip… pulls out a gun, and shoots himself to death. So…why did he kill himself?” As the subjects work their way through the riddle, trippy illustrations animate each question and attempt to construct the narrative. In just a few minutes, we are taken on a psychedelic ride about a man, a bowl of albatross soup, and an island.
Albatross Soup pulls you in and has you playing along with the brain teaser, which feels more like a choose-your-own-adventure story with a complex narrative arc. Fiona Smyth’s illustrations and Masayoshi Nakamura’s animations flow seamlessly together, creating a fluid experience that replicates a stream-of-consciousness logic that matches the attempt to solve a riddle.
Cheung, a Brooklyn-based filmmaker, talked with me over the phone about creating such a unique hybrid documentary, why she chose this riddle, and what it takes to work with animators.