Boat People

As a child in Vietnam, Thao’s mother often rescued ants from bowls of sugar water. Years later they would return the favour. Boat People is an animated documentary that uses a striking metaphor to trace one family’s flight across the turbulent waters of history. 


It's a question of karma: as a child in Vietnam, Thao's mother saved ants from bowls of sugar water. The tiny creatures will one day return the favor, guiding her desperate family out of the darkness and showing them the way to safety. In Boat People, illustrator and author Thao Lam undertakes her own creative rescue mission. Teaming up with animator Kjell Boersma, she recounts her family's spectacular journey through the tumultuous waters of the 20th century.

Theme(s): , Human Rights, Migration, War


Director | , Kjell Boersma, Thao Lam
Year | , 2023
Country | , Canada
Duration | 10 minutes
Original language | , French
Subtitles | , English



Kjell Boersma


Kjell Boersma is a writer, director and animator from Toronto. Kjell’s work includes short films, animation for feature documentaries, music videos and experimental works. His projects combine traditional and digital animation techniques in novel ways. He directed the short film Monster Slayer (2015) and co-founded the arts council Gallup Arts. He was also commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and TIFF Kids to write and direct DAM! The Story of Kit the Beaver (2017).


Thao Lam


Thao Lam is a critically acclaimed Vietnamese-Canadian children’s book author and illustrator. Her books include THAO, Wallpaper, My Cat Looks Like My Dad, Skunk on a String, and the multi-award-winning Paper Boat. Thao arrived in Canada with her parents at the age of three as a refugee from Vietnam. Learning English was difficult, and it was picture books that helped her understand this new world and ignited her passion for visual storytelling. She has an insatiable love for coloured and textured papers, which she uses to create her exuberant collages. 


Festival du court métrage de Clermont-Ferrand • Anima Brussels International Animation Film Festival • Les Sommets du cinéma d’animation • BFI London Film Festival • DOC NYC • Ottawa International Animation Festival



23 July 2024 at 20h45

Parc Médéric-Martin 

This film is included in screening Short film competition – Programme #2