Animation from the Independent Edge
By Jenny Bird
The selection of short animation films at the 2017 Byron Bay International Film Festival steps away from the big-league producers in the USA and Japan.
It’s both a financial and a curatorial decision, and it works.
The program showcases a refreshing, dynamic and diverse collection from first-time and emerging directors from other parts of the world – Europe, Iran, Ireland, and India.
We could rightfully call this program ‘Animation from the Independent Edge’.
It constitutes a treasure chest of novelty, originality and innovation. Here is a taste of the future of independent animation. Enter the experimental world of independent short animations. Enter a world where art, design, digital wizardry and sound mix to serve character and story. All but two of the selections are family friendly so watch the program with your children and wonder at the multigenerational appeal of animation as a cinematic form.
While there are no entries from Japan, one film tips its hat to Japanese animation traditions. Keiro, from France, is directed by Tatiana Jusewycz, a film school student and first-time director. With a contemporary Japanese anime look about it, Keiro explores the passage from childhood to adulthood and the friends we carry along the way.
Two beautifully illustrated shorts from Russia showcase the close relationship between animation, graphic design and fine art. Boull is a stylish little number about two sea creatures who have a tussle: it’s a metaphor for territory-grabbing nation leaders wherever they are. In the tradition of silent movie slapstick comedy the sound design replaces dialogue. The colour palette and quirky graphics are gorgeous.
Doll’s Letters by Natalia Gropfel, a student at the Russian State University of Cinematography, is an exquisitely drawn animation about a little girl and her lost doll. Drawn mainly in charcoal, with splashes of colour, this whimsical funny film is a visual delight.
By definition animation liberates both the filmmaker and the audience from the constraints of reality. One of the freedoms it offers is the freedom to visually illustrate the filmmaker’s conceptions of the metaphysical.
Two films in this program attempt to visually represent life, dying and death. The Lithuanian film Running Lights tells a story of innocence, two brothers and a dying hare. The director Ged Sia and his studio PetPunk have been described as exemplars of ‘New Eastern European Design’, and were awarded the ‘Young Guns’ prize by The Art Directors Club of New York.
Award winning Light Sight from Iranian architect and film student Seyed M. Tabatabaei is a simple, stylized, masterfully controlled and playful exploration of human folly, life and death. The score and sound are exceptional.
PORTRAIT OF A WINDUP MAKER
Portrait of a Windup Maker from Spanish director Dario Perez is a beautifully rendered meditation on grief, displacement and creativity. Filmed as a ‘documentary’ and set in Amsterdam we meet the toymaker and his exquisite windup toys.
Then we have Ztripes, a conga dancing zebra who loses his stripes and in so doing discovers who he really is and where he belongs. With a funksville sound track and a cool dude narrator, Ztripes references America but is in fact made in Denmark.
Don’t bring the children to either Schirkoa or Uncanny Valley. These two adult films give the program its social commentary, its heft and its politics.
Schirkoa looks like a cross between steam punk Victorian London and Bladerunner. With echoes of both Orwell’s 1984 and Donald Trump, this dark dystopian film explores a totalitarian state obsessed with closed borders and anti-intellectualism, and a Senator who may or may not be a beezlebub.
Directed by Ishan Shukla from India, the multi-award winning Schirkoa premiered at the LA Shorts Film Festival in 2016, won Best Animated Short and qualified for the 2017 Oscars.
Argentinian film Uncanny Valley is by far the most technically ambitious of the selection. First time director Federico Heller employs VFX, 3D animation and film to stunning effect. The title references a concept from Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori that there is a point when artificial bodies become so real and credible that they become eerie and we humans can no longer view them with empathy. Uncanny Valley packs a powerful punch with its exploration of the blurred boundaries between reality and the virtual reality of violent games. This film is as unsettling as it is important.
The Byron Bay Film Festival is illuminated with two dazzling red carpet gala events in the heart of town. Opening Night offers a chance for industry networking and a taste of the flavour of the festival to come, and features a highlight film screening. The culminating celebration event is an exciting night of recognition for filmmakers, the festival, Byron Bay, and the international film industry, and not to be missed. Early ticket purchases are recommended to avoid disappointment to these two popular events.
The 11th Annual Byron Bay Film Festival is held on Friday 6 – Sunday 15 October 2017 in multiple venues throughout Byron Bay and surrounding suburbs.
Program is out now via media partners The Echo.