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Boat People

Thao Lam, Kjell Boersma,
2023 | 9 min 59 s
Hybrid of traditional 2D animation, stop-motion multiplane, and 3D rendering
Original English version

Awards and Festivals

  • Milos Stehlik Global Impact Award - WinnerChicago International Children's Film Festival, U.S.A (2023)

  • Helen Hill Award for Animated ShortNew Orleans Film Festival, U.S.A. (2023)

  • Audience Award for Animated ShortNew Orleans Film Festival, U.S.A. (2023)

  • Grand Jury Prize - Animated ShortCalgary International Film Festival, Canada (2023)

  • Best Canadian Animation Short Film AwardVancouver Asian Film Festival, Canada (2023)

  • Diversity Award - WinnerSPARK ANIMATION, Canada (2023)

  • Official SelectionClermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, France (2024)

  • Official SelectionSeattle Children’s Film Festival, U.S.A. (2024)

  • Official SelectionAnima Brussels International Animation Film Festival, Brussels (2024)

  • Official SelectionStuttgart International Festival of Animated Film, Germany (2023)

  • Official SelectionLes Sommets du cinéma d’animation, Canada (2023)

  • Official SelectionPalm Springs ShortFest, U.S.A. (2023)

  • Official SelectionBFI London Film Festival, UK (2023)

  • Official SelectionDOC NYC, U.S.A. (2023)

  • Official SelectionManchester Animation Festival, UK (2023)

  • Official SelectionInternational Animated Film Festival ANIMATOR, Poland (2023)

  • Official SelectionOttawa International Animation Festival, Canada (2023)

  • Official SelectionCinéfest Sudbury, Canada (2023)

  • Official SelectionNewport Beach Film Festival, U.S.A. (2023)

  • Official SelectionReelworld Film Festival, Canada (2023)



(Excerpt No. 1) The resilience of ants

(Excerpt No 2.) Turbulent waters

An interview with Thao Lam and Kjell Boersma



Ant colony leads Thao and Mom to safety

Grandma, Thao and mom soldier forth through darkness

Shattered family portrait

Family arriving to the shores of a Malaysian refugee camp

Mom protecting Thao

Thao and mother adjust to life at the refugee camp

Grandma saying goodbye to Thao’s father

Thao’s family and other refugees crossing the precarious waters of South China Sea by boat

A new start in Canada, father at the window

The real Thao Lam (co-director & writer), aged 3, at a Malaysian refugee camp. Courtesy of Thao Lam


Thao Lam

Photo : Kevin C. W. Wong

Kjell Boersma
Filmmaker, Animator

Photo : Chetan Tilokani

Justine Pimlott

Photo : Genevieve Caron

Jelena Popović

Photo : Stéphan Ballard


Directed by
Kjell Boersma
Thao Lam

Written by
Thao Lam
Kjell Boersma

Produced by
Justine Pimlott
Jelena Popović

Executive Producer
Anita Lee

Thao Lam

Design & Layouts
Thao Lam

Storyboard Artists
Cornelia (Li Shi Tong)
Miranda Quesnel

Jordan Kawai
Kjell Boersma

Miranda Quesnel
Simon Cottee
Adam Brown
Kjell Boersma

Animation Supervisor / Compositor
Kjell Boersma

Animation Consultant
Lillian Chan

Animation Assistant / Layout Assistant
Samantha Lucy Haslam


Sound Design
Olivier Calvert
Pierre Yves Drapeau

Production Supervisor
Marcus Matyas

Production Manager
Howie Shia

Senior Production Coordinator
Melissa Paduada

Technical Director
Martin Sulzer

Consulting Technical Director
Eloi Champagne

Studio Operations Manager
Mark Wilson

Studio Administrator
Andrew Martin-Smith

Studio Coordinator
Carly Kastner

Technical Coordinators
Kevin Riley
Shaghayegh Haghdoust Yazdi
Luc Binette

Technical Assistant
Q’mal Labad-Workman

Technical Support
Stéphane Simard
Sébastien Dion

Marketing Managers
Andrea Elalouf
Jessica Gedge

Marketing Coordinator
Michelle Rozon

Jennifer Mair
Nadine Viau

Legal Counsel
Christian Pitchen

Re-Recording Mixer
Jean Paul Vialard

Karla Baumgardner

Foley Recording
Luc Léger

Online Editor
Denis Pilon

Melanie Bouchard

Special Thanks
Hong Duong & Tai Lam Maddie
Ashley Barrey
Karen Boersma
Rick Boersma
Brennan Mercer
Camila Londono
Science Discovery Zone, Toronto Metropolitan University
Kyle Mowat

© 2023 National Film Board of Canada










Media Relations

  • About the NFB

    The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a leader in exploring animation as an artform, a storytelling medium and innovative content for emerging platforms. It produces trailblazing animated works both in its Montreal studios and across  the country, and it works with many of the world’s leading creators on international co-productions. NFB productions have won more than 7,000 awards, including seven Oscars for NFB animation and seven grand prizes at the Annecy festival. To access this unique content, visit NFB.ca.