MIFF 68½ – Animation Shorts (presented by HP & Storm FX)

Flesh [Carne] (2019)

Written & directed by Camila Kater (The Black Marker)

Portuguese mixed-media animation illustrating five short narrations by women about different aspects of female body image, using different techniques to suit each segment. A woman talks about being fat-shamed by her dietitian mother while a 2-D animated race plays out on an actual plate, which shatters. A discussion of the onset of menstruation is animated in watercolour on blotter paper using a red-dominant colour palette. Hypersexualisation of the black female body is brought up by a trans woman whose body is represented by browns and blacks emerging as negative space against a pink or white background. Claymation represents the shifting shape of a lesbian’s body as she talks about bodily autonomy and the struggle to discourage doctors from removing her uterus. An actress talks about her shifting relationship to her aging body, represented by painted black outlines in celluloid frames against manipulated filmed footage, before the whole shifts into the pure abstraction of experimental film. An impressive package which shows off the diversity of Camila Kater’s skills.

Ghosts [유령들] (2020)

Written, directed, photographed & edited Park Jee-youn (Skin and Mind)

Bizarrely surreal Korean film using a mixture of hand-drawn and computer-assisted animation. It begins with a man and woman, stiff as boards, dropping from the emptiness between the legs of a giant woman to land on a bed in an apartment which is filled to mattress-height with water, accompanied by a crow. It’s futile to attempt to describe anything resembling a plot here, but given the title it seems to be broadly about modern alienation. There’s a great deal of imagination at work here and it leaves an impression which is really difficult for me to render into words without dissipating its effect. I absolutely loved it and hope to see more work from her.

He Can’t Live Without Cosmos [Он не может жить без космоса] (2019)

Written, directed & edited by Konstantin Bronzit (We Can’t Live Without Cosmos)

A mother tries desperately to prevent her son from following in the footsteps of his absent cosmonaut father. The child is depicted as wearing a space suit from the moment of birth, and the logical consequences of this are followed through in small moments such as his inability to blow out birthday candles, as his breath fogs up his helmet’s visor. Bronzit also uses the animation medium to expressionist effect, making the cosmonaut expand to the size of a giant in representation of an emotional outburst. Valentin Vasenkov’s score is heavily influenced by Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. The story doesn’t completely go in the expected direction and has a poignant ending.

Human Nature (2019)

Directed by Sverre Fredriksen (Cloacinae)

Hand-made cloth dolls of naked humans sit around under trees, loll on radiators, swim in aquariums and lie beached on the shore. Bipedal animal dolls in various styles of dress (including a punk poodle) go through normal human routines. A brief stop-motion animation aimed at making people think twice about their treatment of animals.

Inès (2019)

Directed by Élodie Dermange (Intimity)

A young woman contemplates whether or not to have an abortion. A moth trapped under a glass inspires a series of visual free-associations spiralling out of her anxieties and feelings of being trapped, before she reaches a decision. Fluidly expressive animation via watercolours.

Kapaemahu (2020)

Directed & produced by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer & Joe Wilson (Leitis in Waiting)

A loving and reverential retelling of the origin myth of the Kapaemahu, four boulders on Waikiki Beach which commemorate the visitation of gods of healing who are mahu (a third gender blending male and female). The colours are warm and earthy, glowing and swirling together to the accompaniment of traditional music and chants composed by Kaumakaiwa Kanakaole & Dan Golden. The coda skips forward 700 years to the stones’ neglect after colonisation, burial under a bowling alley and eventual retrieval, lamenting the erasure of the mahu from the modern narrative and looking forward in hope to a revival of their spiritual values.

Mother Bunker (2020)

Written, directed, photographed & edited by George Metaxas (Poop Eat Sleep Repeat)

Vibrant stop-motion animation centreing on a robot who dresses in human drag and performs disco numbers for other robots in an underground club decorated with portraits of Napoleon and Stalin rendered as robots. Severed human heads act as microphones and the bunker is located beneath the shattered remnants of a cathedral with stained glass windows commemorating their creator. Determinedly upbeat despite the sinister undertone and grotesquely fascinating.

Something to Remember [Något att minnas] (2019)

Written, directed, photographed & edited by Niki Lindroth von Bahr (The Burden)

In a series of contemporary scenes populated by carefully crafted stop-motion anthropomorphic animals of various species, a profoundly depressing song is passed between characters from scene to scene as they lament the horrors and despair of existence. Watched after “Mother Bunker”, I almost felt as if they’d welcome their annihilation and replacement by disco robots.

Wade (2020)

Written, directed, edited & produced by Kalp Sanghvi & Upamanyu Bhattacharyya (Watchmaker at Time’s End)

Set “today” in a flooded Kolkata, the tattered posters scattered around the city make it clear that this is intended as a warning against unfettered climate change and rising sea levels. The human inhabitants have been reduced to small bands in competition for their environment with roving tigers. The behaviour sparked by a vicious attack from a lone male tiger (which kills for its own sake) provides a contrast between the generally selfish self-preservation of the human group and the collective action of a group of tigers who implicitly reject killing without purpose. The animation of the tigers is beautifully fluid and provides a startling kinetic power to the moments of rapid action.

Wood Child and Hidden Forest Mother (2020)

Directed by Stephen Irwin (The Black Dog’s Progress)

Begins with a B&W forest landscape viewed through the sights of a gun, which tracks and kills each wildlife creature that appears until coming across a tiny stubble-cheeked boy pulsating with colour, dancing about and laughing. After pausing, the hunter shoots him anyway, which merely creates a hole in the child’s torso through which can be seen a vibrantly coloured landscape where all the animals are still alive. Then rainbows explode from his chest and burn down the hunter’s house. Events continue in a similarly bizarre and darkly humorous fashion for the remainder of this short. Delightfully bonkers!

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