In modern-day Cinderella adaptation Year of the Fish, award-winning filmmaker David Kaplan transposes the fairytale's archetypical characters to a vibrant urban setting: a massage parlor in New York's Chinatown specializing in 'happy endings'.
An optimistic young girl travels alone to New York City where she hopes to earn money to send home to her ailing father. Expecting work in a beauty salon, the girl is instead delivered into the hands of her father s distant cousin, an embittered woman who runs a seedy massage parlor. The girl surrenders her passport as collateral for her 'debt' and is informed of her duties. When she refuses to do the requisite sex work, the girl accepts her fate as the operation s browbeaten servant, her only solace a magical goldfish given to her by a sidewalk fortuneteller.
Once the shooting and live-action editing were completed, the animation began. Following in the footsteps of Richard Linklater's Waking Life and Scanner Darkly, the production was shot and edited on miniDV and then rotoscoped in post production to create a high-definition animated feature film. Kaplan's film, however, has a very different aesthetic than his precursors, less like the flat colors and clean lines of a graphic novel and more like a living, breathing painting brought to life. Some shots resemble watercolors; others look like oil paintings. The colors move and dance and spill into each other.