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Fantasia 2021: Short Film Selection

Montreal's Fantasia Festival has long been a friend to animation. For this year's 25th edition, the Festival has had to move online for the second time, but the selection is no less impressive. As well as an impressive line-up of animated features, the genre-focussed festival also features an eclectic selection of animated shorts from around the world. We have been able to cover the festival remotely, but unfortunately, the entire line-up isn't available to press I have still been able to take in some fantastic shorts, and have collected my thoughts on the ones that stood out to me the most. Most of (but not all) of these shorts screened as part of the Circo Animato animated short film program.


Iranian animation studio Hoorakhsh presents an eco-fable with an anti-poaching message. Director Reyhaneh Mirhashemi depicts a wildlife ranger who is trying to save the wildlife from illegal poachers. It beautifully animates the various creatures, from graceful gazelles to soaring eagles and powerful and intimidating predators like leopards, lions, tigers and bears (Oh My!). It's extremely polished and the animation is more than capable of holdings its own against its peers from the West and Japan.

No Title

A journalist investigates a possible UFO abduction somewhere in the Canadian countryside in this French-Canadian short. The reality turns out to be much more Earth-bound, and amusing. Alexandra Mayotte's short is mainly shown from the first-person perspective of the film's narrator, which puts a welcome twist on it- as does the Quebec-specific angle.

Bye-Bye Elida

Titouan Bordeau's hand-drawn fantasy/sci-fi is not easy to explain. It presents a sparse alien desert-like landscape and cuts between various vignettes. Most frequently it features a rectangular-headed robot-like creature wandering the landscape and encountering various odd creatures and a group of noisy creatures performing some sort of ceremony. It's drawn in a loose, doodle-like style, and it creates a strange mood of its own, all without a word of dialogue. It's a bit overlong at 35 minutes but it's an intriguing watch.


In a near future India, Kolkotta, ravaged by climate change is now mostly underwater. A rag-tag group of poor survivors, including a young girl and a nursing mother, try their best to make their way through this all-too-believable landscape. But it isn't just humans who are banding together to survive, and the refugees have a fateful encounter with a gang of tigers. The sense of place created in the short is really effective and captivatingly claustrophobic. Ghost Animation's film was the 2020 winner of the Satoshi Kon Awards for best animated short film at Fantasia.

Girl in The Water

Taiwan-based director/writer and animator Shi-Rou Huang spins a dream-like and haunting tale of lost love. Rendered beautifully in a sketchy, coloured-pencil style, Huang artfully changes perspectives to make you repeatedly reassess what you're looking at. Rocky formations become human limbs, wounds become embracing couples and more in a beautiful and melancholy piece of visual storytelling.

水 中 的 女 孩 Girl in the Water - Trailer from Slow Studio on Vimeo.


Animated fantasy creatures appear alongside live-action backgrounds in Aya Yamasaki and Jason Brown's experimental short. Apparently loosely inspired by fermentation and nutrition, it creates a world that feels like it could be taken directly from Japanese folklore and there's definitely something of Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke to these forest-dwellers, whether it is intentional or not.


Director Chloe Forestier depicts an apparently average seeming town and its residents become to be enveloped in a mysterious dark goo. It creates an effectively sinister mood and seems to be a pretty clear metaphor for depression and modern malaise. Viewed from that angle though, the film's ending could be read to be a pretty troubling message that depression can just be "snapped out of". I doubt that was Forestier's intent, however.

Pimple On The Nose

A delightfully trippy music video made by Davide Di Saro for the titular track by Canadian musician Ronley Teper. The visuals have something of the quality of a psychedelic 70s album cover in motion, with more than a little Yellow Submarine to it as well. It's visually playing in the same sandpit as Netflix's series The Midnight Gospel, but if anything Di Saro's head-trip is even more out there.


Carlos Salgado's science-fiction short depicts the journey of a deep-space traveller. Featuring stunning visuals and an art-deco influence, Wayback presents a wonderfully old-school vision of the future.


Selected as the centrepiece/climax of this year's Circo Animato Axis shorts program, Sunbelly depicts the adventures of a dog astronaut in a far-off place somewhere in outer space. Jordan Speer's doggy-sci-fi is a visual treat, with a wonderfully retro, occasionally pixellated aesthetic, all set to an impressive soundtrack by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith. Fantasia's description of it as a 'sci-fi epic-in-miniature and that seems like a perfectly apt description.

Thanks to Fantasia Festival for giving AFA access to the screeners.