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[Animation First 2020] Best Of Annecy Shorts

Gino Balton Abello reports on the Best Of Annecy Shorts Program which took place at the Animation First  Festival 2020 at FIAF New York in February

After the festival kick-off party, FIAF finished off the opening night of their third annual Animation First festival with a collection of short films from last year’s Annecy International Animation Festival, the largest animated film festival in the world. The night’s offerings were “the most notable shorts” of 2019 selected by Annecy Festival curators, and included 2020 Academy Award nominees Daughter and Mémorable. The program was bookended by two short films made by second-year students at Gobelins, L'École de L'Image.

Before the program started in earnest, we were treated to an episode of the upcoming French TV series, Brazen, adapted from the graphic novel of the same name. For more details on Brazen, check out Kelly N. Barahona’s coverage here.

A Taste of Tokyo - Full video available                                                                                                                                                        
Dir. L. Baille, M. Dunyach, B. Kleiman, Q. Rigaux, and C. Sun, 2019, 49 sec
A delightful romp through a nostalgic mid to late Showa-era Japan in bright pop-art colors. The bumper plays as a retro soda advertisement for “Annecy Pop,” complete with cheerful song and karaoke lyrics. The overlay textures make it look like a print ad come to life and the character animation on the salaryman star is leisurely and fun.

Don’t Know What - See the trailer 

Dir. Thomas Renoldner; 2019, 8 min 16 sec

Described as “single frame editing of image and sound” this film breaks down our basic conceptions of what even constitutes animation. The film is an auditory experiment, wherein a short live-action clip is stuttered and distorted to comedic and startling effect. And the film is genuinely funny, with its constant stopping and starting building up to a beautiful punchline. The subject (Dir. Thomas Renoldner) is transformed from a tired man into a digital puppet, marionetted and manipulated past the point of recognition into something wholly inhuman. Director Renoldner asks “how much entertainment is possible in avantgarde film?”

Daughter / Dcera - See the trailer                                                                                                  
Dir. Daria Kashcheeva, 2019, 14 min 43 sec
A spectacular stop-motion film deserving of all the praise it’s received. It’s a pitch-perfect example of how to use low depth of field and hand-held camera work to a film’s narrative advantage. These two (often heavily scrutinized) techniques pack an incredible punch when used as masterfully as they’re used in this film. With thematically appropriate claustrophobic ultra-close ups, intricately animated jittering eye movements, and haunting sound design director Kashcheeva sucks you into her painfully intimate world. Daughter is a layered story about a daughter’s strained relationship with her ailing father told elegantly with unbeatable craftsmanship all-around.

Rain / Deszcz                                                                                                                                  
Dir. Piotr Milczarek, 2019, 5 min
Hilarious and brutal, Rain is about a strange occurrence atop a skyscraper that begins with an unexpected tumble off the roof. Everything about the film is very minimalistic, from the featureless office workers to the fact that the entire film consists of only a total of five separate shots. Director Milczarek approached the film as a five-minute long joke about humanity and the result is easy to read into and even easier to enjoy.

Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days  [Tio Tomas – A contabilidade dos dias ]- See the trailer                                                                                            
Dir. Regina Pessoa, 2018, 13 min 4 sec
Narrated by his young niece, the world of Uncle Thomas is dark and mediated, methodical and maddening. Yet there’s a warm spark born from their innocent and unlikely friendship. Thomas suffers from an unnamed mental illness that shares many symptoms with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and his niece recounts his lonely days spent calculating random and unending streams of numbers. The film itself is mostly shadow with rich black and white engravings etched in motion, broken up by the occasional pop of red. The production is mixed-media using a combination of hand-drawn, stop-motion, and digital techniques director Pessoa mastered over her years of filmmaking.

Drive / Pulsion - See the trailer                                                                                                          
Dir. Pedro Casavecchia, 2019, 6 min 57 sec
Inspired by true-crime documentaries and The Shining, Drive aims to dive deep into the psychological motivations of a killer. The film’s 3D environments are rendered as Sims-like dioramas with a fixed camera, creating a reduced space that highlights the protagonist's loneliness and isolation and emphasizes the audience’s voyeurism. The film’s pace and disturbing imagery increases in intensity until climaxing to a morbid finish straight out of Psycho.

Maestro - See the trailer                                                                                                                        
Dir. Illogic, 2019, 1 min 33 sec
A silly and humorous short about an animal orchestra with fantastic 3D animation. The animals are the perfect balance of realistically rendered and endearingly anthropomorphic. Utterly charming and well executed.

Mémorable - See a clip                                                                                                            
Dir. Bruno Collet, 2019, 12 min 2 sec
A deeply tragic yet strangely heart-warming story about a man’s struggle with Alzheimer's and how it impacts his relationship with his wife and sense of self. Louis embodies the portraits of Van Gogh and wears them like an avatar as the world around him becomes one made of paint. The film pays homage to various pieces of Modern painting and art, using the styles developed in that era as the canvas from which all the sets and marionettes are built. As the story progresses, the varying textures of piled on paint change over time to reflect Louis’s inconsistent metal state. Mémorable is an absolutely stunning piece of filmmaking that begs the viewer to question what they are looking at alongside Louis, as his life becomes unrecognizable while remaining ever familiar.

My Generation - See the trailer                                                                                                         
Dir Ludovic Houplain, 2018, 8 min 4 sec
A scathing critique of the “plagues of our time: art, data, sports, religion, sex, politics and finance.” My Generation explores the era-defining iconography of the past and present as it races backwards towards an uncertain future. It’s a jarring confrontation with modern visual culture all told in one continuous longshot.

Ramen - Full video available                                                                                   
Dir. E. Adsuara, G. Gérard, G. Legendre, M.L. Coumau, M. Geronimo, 2019, 49 sec
A series of snapshots depicting the love of ramen in all of its forms. Each scene details the care that goes into every bowl, whether it’s handcrafted by an artisan, served up in a street stall, or a special treat made at home. The film has a wonderful sense of momentum and rhythm that transitions from scene to scene, and bright colors to match the subject matter’s warmth. Be sure to look out for a cameo of the late Isao Takahata being served a bowl by Hayao Miyazaki in a recreation of the latter’s atelier kitchen.
And that’s the complete program! One of the most important things short films can do is to push audiences out of their comfort zones and challenge their perceptions. They can expose people to new ideas and alternative approaches to filmmaking, and leave them with questions and images to stew over rather than just simple satisfaction. And this program provided many wonderful examples of what the animated short film medium is capable of.

Find all of our coverage from Animation First 2020 here.