OIAF: Short Competition 3

Birds Walking
When one festival ends, another begins. This week marked the annual Ottawa International Animation Festival, which you’ll be surprised to know is actually the world’s largest showcase of animated film. (Take that, Toronto!) Being slightly festivaled out from TIFF, I didn’t make it to as many OIAF screenings as I would have liked to, but I saw some good shorts nonetheless.

My first screening was the Shorts Competition Part 3. The series featured 17 shorts, whittled down from an amazing 2000 entries. The series began with Birds Walking, a hilarious and clever debut film by Stephanie Delazeri. Despite being one of the festival’s high school submissions, Miss Delazeri’s unique hand drawings and whimsical humour prove the old saying that the early bird gets the worm. (It’s best enjoyed with mustard.) Expect good things from her in the future! 

 Next in the series was Bout by Canadian filmmaker Malcolm Sutherland.  Bout is a smartly minimalist and abstract rendering of violence. Sutherland makes particularly striking use of colour. Following Bout is the oddly coloured Syntymäpäivä (Birthday) by Jari Vaara, which  uses scribbly drawings and paper cut outs to present a fun story about an undesired birthday gift. Following the trend of growing up, One Minute Puberty is a clever and edgy sketch on maturity. The brisk act of metamorphosis is short and sweet.
Muybridge's Strings
Somewhat longer – and thankfully so – is the Canadian/Japanese co-production, Muybridge’s Strings. The film, directed by Koji Yamamura, has a stark and impressive hand-drawn aesthetic that is paired nicely with music by Bach. Muybridge’s Strings, made in part by the National Film Board, is a beautiful essay on Eadweard Muybridge, the inventor of the zoopraxiscope, an early step in motion pictures. (Film students should be somewhat familiar with the device.) Much like last year’s short The Lipsett Diaries, Muybridge’s Strings is an evocative exploration of a man’s life and work.
Following Muybridge’s Strings is Crowded, a frenetic study of schizophrenia. It’s slightly maddening, but also a strong blurring of form and content. Continuing the series was the first of three animated commercials for Oreo Cakesters. The spots seem oddly out of place at first, but they invite a chuckle nonetheless. (At least they’re better than the Grace Kelly ads that elicited a flurry of threats on Twitter during TIFF!) To match the gooey black and white of the Oreos, Moxie tells of a misfit bear, who sadly winds up as the object of a CSI investigation. The film retraces the last week of said bear, and chronicles how the furry little guy dealt with the death of his mother through imaginary conversations, masturbation, and pyromania. Moxie is impeccably ballsy, thoroughly entertaining and impressively composed.

Another story of fuzzy critters, The Hard-Ons 'Everyone Seems to be Out to Get You' fills the obligatory slot for a film with an environmental message, yet it’s also a fun and vibrant satire on saving the trees. Uncapturable Ideas (Idea ga tsukamaranai), meanwhile, is an effective mix of black and white animation interspersed with colourful interludes. While a tad overlong, this film by Masaki Okuda is a strong treatise on the limits of creativity. Following Uncapturable Ideas is the forgettable short Passengers.
Everyone Seems to be Out to Get You
On the more experimental end of things, however, is Samantha Gurry’s Reddish Brown & Blueish Green. Gurry’s film animates found objects and traces the growth of a child through the pages of a scrapbook, which also reveals a mother’s battle with addiction. Reddish Brown & Blueish Green takes some old ideas and crafts them anew. Less likely to prompt enthusiasm is the dreamy Japanese odyssey Black Longskirt. Black Longskirt features innovative visuals that play with one’s perception of the after-image; however, a grating score overwhelms all the success of the visual scheme: Rachel Weisz was done less disservice by the chords of The Deep Blue Sea! Following Black Longskirt is the angsty Are You Ok?, a vivid look at life in the UK. Are You Ok? presents the perils of growing up in the 21st century by drawing upon the impersonal nature of transit connections and social media links. It’s a funny romp that provides a nice segue to the last film of the series, Made You Cringe. Made You Cringe celebrates gross-out follies and romantic blunders: you’ll squirm with laughter and shudder just as well. Overall, “Shorts Competition 3” boasts many notable animated films!

Best short: Muybridge’s Strings
On today: Canadian showcase