An extraordinary new resident brought attention to the small town of East River, Nova Scotia, in the summer of 1967: Balakrishna, an Indian elephant. In Hindu and Buddhist culture, the elephant is a sacred symbol of good luck and prosperity, so when an Indian businessman opened a new factory, he brought Balakrishna as one of the guests – alongside the President of India – to attend the auspicious occasion. After duly making the lengthy sea voyage from his native land to Halifax, Balakrishna was loaded onto a train and taken to his new home. Soon after, people came from miles around to see the magnificent beast and, of course, to feed him all the peanuts he could eat. No one was more in awe of the exotic creature than thirteen-year-old local boy Winton Cook. His fascination led him to hang around Balakrishna’s trainer, and over that splendid summer he learned all about elephants and helped to look after his mammoth new friend.
A wonderful cross-species affection grew between Winton and Balakrishna, who would purr with pleasure whenever the boy was with him. But the start of school meant Winton could no longer make his usual visits – and the coming of the unfamiliar harsh Atlantic winter soon took its toll on the displaced animal. Seamlessly told through painterly animation, photographs, and old home-movie treasures, Balakrishna transmits all the heartfelt wistfulness of cherished childhood memories, while evoking themes of love, friendship and loss, the complexities of immigration, and the highly topical issue of elephant conservation.
In August, even more new works will be available free on NFB.ca.