Unless it’s an animation specific festival like Annecy or Animation is Film, animation tends to be ignored and left out of most festivals. However, this year at the SXSW Film Festival they had some unusually strong entries particularly in the Animated Shorts category. The big feature film release, Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood by director Richard Linklater received rave reviews. Unfortunately it was not made available to virtual attendees, so I will have to wait to offer my review until it is released in theaters April 1st or screened for critics.
But let’s talk about the shorts! This year’s Animated Shorts Program includes 12 shorts and I enjoyed all of them (which is kind of rare for a festival. Usually the shorts are too pretentious at festivals!). I thought it would be fun to rank all 12 shorts and give a few thoughts for each of them. If you get a chance to see them please let me know what you think:
- Steakhouse- I don’t want to spoil the experience of this short but the ending had my mouth agape at what I’d just seen. It’s the kind of movie experience you want to talk to friends about because it is so nuts. It’s hard to explain but basically it’s a revenge story and that’s all I will say.
2. Angakuksajaujuq – The Shaman’s Apprentice- this short by Zacharias Kunuk tells the story of a young shaman in training who travels with his sled dogs for a spiritual quest to control his fear. the animation is outstanding in this short especially any time the dog is on screen. So realistic yet still artistic and beautiful.
3. Bestia- We already talked about Bestia at rotoscopers when I had the privilege of interviewing its animator Hugo Covarrubias. This stop motion short tells the story of a female secret police agent during the military dictatorship in Chile and her eclectic life with her dog. I’m a sucker for stop motion animation and this one is charming. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up winning the Oscar this year. Either Bestia or Robin Robin.
4. Les larmes de Siene- I loved the look and feel of this unique stop-motion animated short coming out of France. It chronicles the Algerian workers protest against a mandatory curfew imposed against them in 1961. This short is raw and real and I really liked the music. Very well done.
5. Life is a Particle Time is a Wave- This film stands out most for its stunning visual style. It combines pencil sketches and watercolor to tell a Dali-esque tail about a clockmaker who gets lost in time after his wife passes away. The click, click of each moment he’s away from her is animated so beautifully and it makes for a wonderful experience.
6. Local Middle Schooler- If you weren’t a big fan of Turning Red like me you might appreciate this short, Local Middle Schooler, more. It does many of the same things but it’s much better. It’s about a little girl named Anagha who gets the power to make wishes with her eyelashes. Her first thought is to wish away her acne which some say- why not wish for world peace? I get Anagha because middle school is just that brutal. This short is funny, sweet and will connect with anyone who survived growing up.
7. Tennis Ball on His Day Off- Like the last short, this short about a tennis ball taking one more day of vacation is simply cute. I loved the CG animated style and how much personality they got out of a simple tennis ball. I also love the use of purple and animator Julian Glander’s visual palate.
8. Something in the Garden- Sometimes creating the right atmosphere is just what you need for an animated short to work. This is the case with Marcos Sánchez’s Something in the Garden. It’s about a typical suburban neighborhood that has a big blue Alien-like creature slinking about. I really loved the animation in this film!
Soft Animals- It’s amazing what animators can do with charcoal and sketches to tell a story. In this short we have 2 exes who meet at a train station and as they reconnect they mesh into each other and tell a passionate and angry tail.
10. Five Cents- There’s not a ton of story to Five Cents, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It’s a pencil drawing that goes through his day making purchases with actual coinage like a nickel (hence the title Five Cents). It was a cute animated short.
11. Wet- My favorite part of Wet was the visual style and color palate the animators use. It will make you want to relax and get a massage! There’s not a ton of story but it was enjoyable to watch.
12. Anxious Body- I must admit this is the one short I didn’t really get. It’s basically about getting a hangnail, which while unpleasant isn’t really enough for even a short film. I did like the color palate and visual style but I just didn’t see why it couldn’t have been used in an actual story.
So there you have it! If you saw any of these shorts I would love to know what you think and how you would rank them. Also if you are any of the animators I would love to talk with you about your work as I have many of your peers. Congrats on a great festival!