Can you solve this riddle?
‘A man walks off a boat. He walks into a restaurant and orders the albatross soup. He takes one bite, pulls out a gun and kills himself. Why did he kill himself?’
This is not your average riddle. It’s a thought experiment that encourages participants to develop their own tale, build on the riddle’s bare bones, fill in the gaps, create a backstory for its main character and to use their creativity solve the mystery in their own way.
Director Winnie Cheung’s Albatross Soup is an animated short film that visualizes the process of solving the riddle. An omniscient voice, who holds all the answers, is grilled by participants with a variety of questions and gives yes or no answers. Their voices narrate the film and the animated scenes play out the different possible scenarios until they come to the final conclusion.
Albatross Soup is a documentary layered on top of a surreal animated fantasy. It’s filled with bright, bold colors and shape-shifting scenes. It doesn’t ask the viewer to participate. Instead we’re just along for the ride. If you’re burning to solve the riddle yourself, do so beforehand then enjoy the psychedelic journey.
Over 50 participants were recorded for the short film and the audio was edited by New York Times audio producer Alexandra Young. The visual elements consist of hand drawn illustrations by Fiona Smyth and animation by Masayoshi Nakamura. Albatross Soup was screened at various festivals including Sundance, Fantastic Fest and the Fantasia International Film Festival.