Self-sabotage is real, and Pixar’s latest short film provides a clear analysis of how it can make or break a person.
No stranger to creating timely narratives through coming-of-age stories like Turning Red or projects centered around acceptance and belonging like Soul, director Searit Huluf is back to tell the story of a 20-something searching to find her identity in a world foreign to her through Self.
“Self is short for self-sabotage. I wanted to tell a story about someone who’s self-sabotaging themselves to belong because that’s something I personally have dealt with throughout my life,” Huluf told Blavity’s Shadow and Act.
“If you watch a lot of Pixar films there’s always a mother-daughter or like a brother or friends. This was really about one’s relationship with themselves and how they see themselves in the world,” she continued. “So that was part of it and the other part was talking about the immigrant experience too. We don’t have it blatantly saying she’s an immigrant in the film, mainly because there’s not any dialogue in it, but when you look at her design she does have African markings. She has the cross, the two elevens on the side of her eye, which means she’s from the Tigray region of Ethiopia. She has three kinds of carvings on her neck as well. I wanted to tell a story about an immigrant experience of coming to an urban city and the struggles of belonging and also directly indirectly being forced to conform.”
What’s more, the film doesn’t have your typical Disney ending, which Huluf said was purposely done to showcase the reality of the dangers that can occur when one changes their identity to fit in.
“It really has more of an honest or satisfying ending,” she commented. “There’s a sense of self-love with the choices that she makes at the end of the film. But I do think that when you think about your relationship with yourself and how you see yourself in the world, it’s not something that can be done in a six or seven format like this film, so I kind of left the film purposely a little bit open-ended because we don’t know what her next steps will be in this life.”
The hope is that those watching Self understand and realize the struggles of people who come to an unfamiliar place and look to conform or fit in.
“When I’m given opportunities or am in spaces where I’m like the only one, I will play this game in my head of hiding parts of myself to seamlessly fit in thinking this will be a way for me to kind of like ‘make it,’ but then when I kind of go too far, I realize it when it’s kind of already too late so I suffer the consequences,” Huluf said, reflecting on what she learned from creating the short film.
The stop-motion animated film Self debuts on Disney+ on Feb. 2.