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Juju the Cage-Bird™

A bird in a cage retrofits the cage and takes off on a series of adventures.

Welcome to Juju the Cage-Bird's Roost on the web

  • See the initial storyboards (Once I get a scanner!)
  • Send Juju images as postcards! (once I figure out how to set up email from this website)
  • Watch the movie! (OK, I have to clear the music rights first, and failing that, re-do the sound track. It needs to be shortened for the web anyway. It's 12 minutes long and the escape scene and courtroom scene can be tightened a bit.)
  • The Sequel! Featuring Bobo the Free Bird.
  • Buy Juju's autobiography: "Life's a Cage and Then you Fly" (coming soon - once matter with the Cage estate is cleared up).


This is the story of a bird in a cage who retrofits the cage so that the cage can fly with her in it, only for the bird to discover that the cage can fly without her just as well, and that she still has no clue what it is to have wings.

History of "Juju the Cage-Bird"?

The inspiration for the story of "Juju the Cage-Bird" was a poem by Jalal al din Rumi. Reading this poem led me to write an essay, which then became a 12 minute mixed claymation and live action movie (16mm, black and white film, non-synch sound) while I was at Cornell University. Allegedly, it is shown often at the student cinema at showings of "The Best of Student Film at Cornell", and has gained its own cult following there.

Shouldn't it be "Caged Bird"?

Ah! So you noticed. We say "cage-bird" and not "caged bird." There is a distinction between the two. A "caged bird" is a bird that is caged. The noun is "bird" and "caged" is a modifier, describing the noun.

A "cage-bird" in contrast is a word made up of two nouns joined by a hyphen. Each word has an equal weight in the identity. They don't modify each other, they are fused. A cage-bird is something that is both Cage and Bird. Where does the cage end, where does the bird begin? What happens when they try to separate? How dependent is one on the other?

It's like a person and a car. Where does the person end and the car begin? A car can't drive itself. A person can't move at those speeds without the car and would die trying to walk across the mojave desert in August. The association between driver and vehichle turns both into a loose form of cyborg. A cyborg is an entity that is part biological, part mechanical. But wait! There are more levels to this.

It's like body and soul. Your body has a rib cage and propels your consciousness around, but your soul/consciousness is often under-developed and you spend most of your life tending to and augmenting the body.

This is the sort of paradoxical identity tension we are going for by using "cage-bird" and not "caged bird."

And anyway, that's the phrase they used in the poem translation.

Juju the Cage-Bird Synopsis


The film opens with a bird flying up over buildings and into the sky. Intercut with a cage. Inside the cage is paper - a poem. And we keep leaning into the cage, like we are trying to get into the cage, get through the bars, close enough to read the poem. And with every lean into the poem, we get to read another line. The first line is: How should the Cage-Bird know about the air. It supposes gloomily "I have no wings." It's very meditative.

Cut to the interior of a fancy house, fabulous furniture, wealth and taste. Except we're looking at it through bars. Most of this film is Juju pov, through bars. We look around the room and hear the narration:

Consider a bird in a cage, doomed to a life of confinement and tedium.

This is the story of such a bird - acquainted with a cage since the day she was laid.

And here we insert a humorous scene in which her "owner" torments Juju, and Juju bites his finger.

But Juju was hatched and raised in a cage, so perhaps her perspective on freedom is a little different that most of us (cue a wild bird crashing into the picture window - THWACK). And Juju wasn't an ordinary caged bird. Juju was a special Cage-Bird, born mechanically inclined.

No-one knows where she got her materials, but she had recently been laying some rather large eggs.

And Juju took those materials and hatched a scheme to end all schemes. She worked and worked, until she had fitted the cage with all kinds of implements (airfoils, turbo thrusters, heat shields, etc.) and she was off!

Cue dazzling escape sequence: With the cage retrofit, Juju smashes through the glass of the picture window - successfully! In stark contrast to the many birds who smacked into the window before and failed to break through to the other side.

And she was FREE! Free to purchase petroleum products! Free to go where no bird has gone before! Free to push the envelope of bird territory - diving deeper under water than any buoyant waterfowl has gone, ascending higher than any eagle - clear to the moon.

Cue the moon landing sequence, air-force capture, arrest, courtroom trial sequence: Juju is in trouble with the FAA for violating federal aviation regulations while disguised as an alien. "Your honor, my client can't go to jail, he's already IN jail." Juju is sentenced to aviation ground school and five bird years of community service, during which time she writes a bestseller:

"Life's a Cage and Then You Fly".

Juju serves her time and is, um, free again. But by now, the stresses of life in a fast cage are catching up on her. Juju's own voice and muscles are wasting away from lack of use, and each day, with each upgrade the cage grows stronger and more impressive, a distinct entity from the bird inside.

"Look! In the sky! It's a bird! It's a cage! It's a bird that retrofitted its cage! No, it must be remote control! No, see the little bird has opposable wings and…It's Juju! The Amazing Techno-Wonder Bird!

But where does Juju end and the cage begin? One day, Juju sets the Cage to auto-pilot…

Cue stunning film climax - amazing flight through the graveyard sequence. And then THE CRASH! Amazing stop motion sequence of the cage recovering from the crash and flying off, while Juju, so skinny and atrophied that she was flung through the bars on impact, is left sitting on a gravestone unable to catch up to her creation. Unable, for that matter, to fly.

And we're back to Rumi's poem, full circle. "How should the Cage-Bird know about the air. It supposes gloomily, 'I have no wings'. "

The Philosophy Behind the Story

The story of Juju was inspired by the Sufi poet Rumi, who asked "How should the cage-bird know about the air? It supposes gloomily, "I have no wings." To which the Western bred Juju responds "Oh, yeah? Well not if I'm a Techno cage-bird!" Juju poses many deep questions about the nature of freedom in a world of barriers, limitations, technological promise and dependencies. But Juju isn't just another morphin' power ranger robo-creature. Juju is a classic metaphor for our times. Despite the freedom that comes from the techno-lust and cage retrofit, Juju still does not know about the air, and "supposes gloomily she has no wings." The story of Juju is inspiring, funny and philosophical. It shows you there is a time to be technological, and a time to be spiritual, and a time to go out on the faith of your own limitations and not hide from them.

Reviews of Juju Cage-Bird

Marilyn Rivchin - Sr. Lecturer, Filmmaking, Department of Theatre, Film & Dance, Cornell University:

"As a filmmaking student in my 16mm course at Cornell in the Spring of 1993, Rezwan made a wildly imaginative final project entitled "Juju the Cage-Bird". It's a kind of free-form fable, non-sync, with part animation, part live-action narrative with clever voice-overs, etc., involving the history, imprisonment and escape, flight and trial of Juju. Suffice it to say, it suggested Rezwan had special talents in writing and visualizing a wacky narrative with many tones and colors. Hers is a very unique style of comedy, with a multi-cultural edge. Even though it was made several years ago, I often still show it in classes and in compilation exhibitions of student films at Cornell, where it has become a cult classic."

"ReRe" from NY says: Although I saw Juju many years ago I am still haunted by his image. The film left quite an impression. I think he is an important symbol for people everywhere who feel trapped or who need inspiration to think their way creatively through change, through empowerment. The imagery and animation of Juju is equal to the message of Juju. They are both a tribute to and an example of the beauty and power of creativity.

"Juan" says - OK, I have been there...looked for Juju but it is still somewhere in cyberbirth (it must be traumatic to break out of a shell and still be in a cage), looked for Jonah but he is being digested by some cyber whale, looked for the fellows at the bug juice factory but they are feeding off each other. What to do? I need my fix! (From the other side of the screen....)

Related Products:

We plan to package Juju the Cage-Bird as a series of children's books or cartoon adventures that adults will also find fascinating. Toys based on Juju the Cage-Bird will be fun and educational, as the building blocks of Juju's Cage are actual functional machines. We are going to release a DVD soon (once the music rights are cleared or the music is re-done). For now, the only products available are T-shirts, mugs and that sort of thing. Buy some now!

But wait! You say. I don't care about Juju, I want cages! Well, if you would like to incorporate cages into your life, here is a good place to start:

The Amazing Waterworks's Etoile Freestanding shower, "modeled on fin-de-siecle shower cages, has 76 water sprays to massage your body, plus a toe tester. Note that its $26,000 price tag might be a drop in the bucket next to the cost of retrofitting your plumbing to accommodate a water heater that can produce 20 gallons per minute." Not the most environmental, but fun to think about. When Ajaban opens its spa/salon based on principles of the Persian Bath House, we will throw one of these in for good measure. Everyone should experience it at least once. I'm not sure if any more are available, but if you really want one, and can afford it, I'm sure you'll find it.



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