The closing film of the DOXA Film Festival is the locally-produced A Brony Tale. Filmmaker Brent Hodge follows Vancouver voice actor Ashleigh Ball, also the singer of local band Hey Ocean, as she learns about a peculiar fanbase that has become enraptured with a show she voices characters for – My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. For those who are unaware, a very brief backgrounder: “bronies” are adult male fans of My Little Pony. And they love this show – a lot.
“Your first instinct hearing about the bronies is to be cynical, but it doesn’t let you stay there and gives you an honest look at these people,” said Dorothy Woodend, DOXA’s director of programming. “It’s a very good-hearted film.”
By framing the film through Ball’s perspective as she learns about who the bronies are, the audience is gracefully led down the veritable rabbit hole of brony fandom. There are also quite a few characterizing scenes with Ball alone, cycling to work, in respite with friends before heading to her first brony convention – she becomes more than a vessel for the narrative, and the audience gets a glimpse into her personality. There are also interviews with many of the bronies themselves, and these add such perspective to the strangeness of an obsession with a show aimed at little girls. The over-arching message of both the show and the documentary is one of acceptance and love.
While it may have tainted what Hodge sent out to accomplish with his documentary, the film did suffer slightly by not including any discussion of the darker, seedier aspects of the brony fandom. While most of the fans are shown as gleefully, innocently enjoying the wonderful storytelling of the show, there is actually a huge portion of the fandom that is interested in My Little Pony on a sexual level, creating pornographic fan art and fan fiction. It’s unpleasant, and would have taken away from the “bronies aren’t as weird as you think they are” perspective of the film, but failing to include certain facts or aspects feels a little sloppy and neglectful. However, it’s a fun, cheerful, uplifting film and definitely worth a viewing.
A Brony Tale will be shown at DOXA’s closing gala, at the Vancouver Playhouse on May 11th at 7 p.m. The filmmakers will be in attendance.
By Carly Rhianna Smith