Frieden: The Tree of Peace

by Alina Chau, Hiu Fan

Download a Quicktime movie of the film, Frieden: The Tree of Peace by Alina Chau, Hiu Fan. 1.1 MB

Editor's Note: Ron Diamond, publisher of Animation World Magazine, discovered Alina Chau, Hiu Fan and her film Frieden: The Tree of Peace at a recent screening of student works at UCLA. Moved by the plight of children in war torn countries, Alina made this remarkable film as a gift to the United Nations.

Frieden: The Tree of Peace. © 1998 Alina Chau, Hiu Fan.

"Children in many nations continue to be victims of adults' wars - losing their parents and their homes, losing their childhood and their opportunity for education, losing their limbs and their lives to the machinery of violence. The Convention seeks to protect children from these worst manifestations of adult failure." - The Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF

Developing My Idea
The original meaning of the word "Frieden" means "peace" in German. In the film, I adapted the word "Frieden" to be the name of the young heroine. Frieden is a little girl, who lives in an unstable country; a place where war takes away her childhood, her happiness and the people she loves. The only time she can escape her cruel reality is in her dreams. She dreams to have a paradise: a peaceful world, where she can play and share her happiness with other children; a world where children of different races respect each other's differences.

The film starts with beautiful fantasy sequences.
© 1998 Alina Chau, Hiu Fan.

I always wanted to make a short animation for the United Nations (UN) because I deeply admire their contribution to world security. However, when I first started developing the story of Frieden, I did not intend on making this particular film for them. My first initial idea was to make a story based on my childhood happiness and fantasies. Therefore, I started the story with the fantasy sequences: flying unicorns and reindeer, funny fragments of fireworks and even a huge tree in which children play. I like to climb trees a lot. Even when I was a small child, I liked to climb trees, so, the tree has quite an important role in the story. After I finished developing the fantasy part, I needed an ending. At first, I did not want to have a tragic ending after the beautiful dream sequence, but I couldn't think of any happy endings for this story. A happy ending would have made the story look like "Alice in Wonderland." Therefore, I decided on a sad ending, a war scene came into my mind. Since this ending creates a very strong statement, I resolved to end the entire film with a war scene. In order to make the dream and war sequences merge together, I gave the tree a more important role and added a symbolic meaning to the image.

Frieden is unable to sleep due to the war going on outside her window.
© 1998 Alina Chau, Hiu Fan.

A Child's Right
Several people have asked me whether I have experienced war myself. I was a lucky child. I never experienced a disaster in my life. My childhood was a very sweet, peaceful and happy one, but I know that there are many children in the world who are not as fortunate. Many children live in unstable countries, like Frieden, and become victims of war. I believe that all children should have the right to enjoy a happy childhood, go to school, make friends and play. All children have their dreams and wishes. I strongly believe that as animators we can use our "magic" to give them the courage to fight for their dreams. But, how can a child fight for his/her dream, if he/she needs to fight just to survive every day?

When I finished the storyboard for Frieden, I knew that this film was the one to be made especially for the United Nations. Every time when I held the pencil, I told myself, "You must make this a good film. This film is not for yourself, but it is a gift to all the children in the world."

I hope Frieden can carry an educational message not only to our future leaders, the children, but also to adults and politicians, the most significant group of people to influence the world's security.

Alina Chau, Hiu Fan is an international student from Hong Kong. She is in the Master of Fine Art (MFA) program majoring in Animation at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

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