I’ve always been drawn to animated films; they seem to captivate and comfort me in a distinctive way. I find myself admiring the craftsmanship behind the handmade figurines or frames of any medium, and noticing how animated works evoke dimensions of emotion in me that live action can’t quite capture.
The Animated Shorts collection of this year’s Adelaide Film Festival brought together 11 new short animations from around the globe (for one screening only, unfortunately!). Curator in residence Emma Hough Hobbs undertook her role with skill, selecting a range of films that varied in tone, style and pace without appearing too disjointed when screened together. In retrospect, the selection also adhered fairly well to its intended theme of ‘boundaries’. Whether physically or conceptually, through each film we were moved to attain or comprehend something just out of reach. This collection lived up to my expectations for the most part, allowing me to indulge in my love of animation and leave the theatre satisfied. Here are my top five shorts from the night.
5. Manivald (Chintis Lundgren | Estonia/Canada/Croatia, 2017)
Manivald is uninspired and timid, a 30-something fox who still lives with his overbearing mother. But when sexy plumber Toomas comes to repair their household washing machine, Manivald’s life is given a much-needed shake-up. Though at times it seemed as if its creators tried to insert every joke they could think of into the film, ultimately Manivald’s illustration of the freedom that can follow a heartbreak was a serious, uplifting one. Plus, I’m a big fan of animated foxes (see Fantastic Mr Fox or even Pablo, the wistful theme song of which haunts me to this day), they just work.
- Coyote (Lorenz Wunderle | Switzerland, 2018)
Coyote is the bold and surreal tale of a coyote who is granted a chance to avenge his family from an ominous Bison spirit. Involving artwork evocative of the styles of Joan Cornellà and the creators of BoJack Horseman, Coyote fuses vivid colour with visceral imagery on top of an appropriately metal soundtrack. I enjoyed the level of detail in this work as much as I did the atmosphere of primal rage and desperation it oozed. A thunderous and playful nod to the Wild West. Also a prize winner at the Aspen Film Shortsfest.
- Barbara (Lasrissa Behrendt, Marieka Walsh | Australia, 2017)
Barbara was one of the two Australian films featured in the collection, and one which nearly brought me to tears. The understated animation, probably produced through rotoscoping, was apt in conveying the film’s story and its stark injustice. Barbara is an Indigenous grandmother who tells us of how her granddaughter Tiara was taken from school by welfare workers. A 7-month long battle between Barbara and the authorities to have her granddaughter returned ensues, in which she is finally victorious. However, the consequences of the removal on the family are ongoing. Framed by statistics regarding the rise in the number of Indigenous in and out of home care since Rudd’s apology, Barbara highlights disgraceful and ongoing faults in the Australian welfare system which lead to events reminiscent of the Stolen Generations incidents.
- Inanimate (Lucia Bulgheroni | UK, 2018)
Katrine is a lady living a normal life with a nice boyfriend and apartment in an ordinary city. Suddenly, her world begins to break apart before her very eyes, and she realises forces beyond her own perceptions may be guiding her every move. Inanimate is ingenious in its self-awareness as an animated film. It is simultaneously an ode to stop motion animation and an allegory for the human experience, the forces that predetermine how we live and experience our lives. The way this aspect of the film is portrayed is really what makes it so worth seeing (and so not worth spoiling). Thinking about the creativity and logistics involved in the making of Inanimate, I’m spellbound. Also a prize winner at Cannes this year.
- Étreintes (Embraced) (Justine Vuylsteker | France/Canada, 2018)
Étreintes (Embraced) feels like a tender, sensual memory. This beautifully melancholic film was remarkably made using one of the few remaining pinscreens capable of producing animation. Following the remembrances of a woman through her thoughts, which appear in the dark clouds outside her open window, the film paints a poignant picture of what it feels like to both reminisce and be passionately embraced. The gorgeous shadows of the visual component of Étreintes are elevated by a soundtrack that combines pensive piano and violin with whispers as gentle as raindrops. Watching this film is a rare and precious experience.
Overall, I give the 2018 AFF Animated Shorts Package 3.5 out of 5 stars.