By Daniel Barnes
*Opens Friday, January 12, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.
This dark, bleak, Spanish-language animated fable premiered in 2015. However, it only now makes an American debut thanks to GKIDS, an essential distribution company that specializes in mature animated imports.
Often playing like an off-the-meds Adult Swim concoction, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children follows three adorable woodland creature children scheming to escape their post-apocalyptic island for a better life. A junkie child named Birdboy gets tormented both by gun-wielding authorities and by his own inner demons. Meanwhile, a self-aware alarm clock roams the scorched landscape, desperately seeking validation and affection. All of them try to avoid the wild, rodent-like trash-diggers known as “the forgotten children.”
Birdboy is like the Worker and Parasite version of South Park‘s “Woodland Critter Christmas” episode. Forceful images are scattered throughout the meditative miserablism, but the film is uneven and chilly to the touch. Rivero and Vázquez expanded their 2012 short film to create Birdboy, and although the final product is only 76 minutes long, you can occasionally feel it straining to fill the running time.