OIAF: Short Competition 1

La viande + l'amour

Short Competition 1 of the Ottawa International Animation Festival boasts a variety of styles and techniques in animated film. Offering 18 shorts from 11 different countries (plus a handful of exciting international co-productions), Shorts Competition 1 has something for everyone. Starting things off is Paper Man 2 (Canada, 4:37), which is an impressive collage piece by David Borish. It's a fun and clever tale of boots and their toys. (Watch out for Pac Man!) As the only piece of high school animation in the series, Paper Man promises good things from the next generation of animation artists.

Up next is a film that will have vegetarians and meat eaters alike laughing and squirming in their seats. Le viande + amour (Meat + Love, Sweden, 1:00) is a strikingly original work by Johanna Rubin. Meat + Love looks at the meat of relationships – the kiss – and animates the embracing lovers with a smorgasbord of meat. Ground beef makes fir a wiggly texture while livers and other delectable meats create the lovers' cheeks. Thankfully, though, Rubin doesn't show the sweet breads. After the meat-market comes a smart little skin flick that celebrates the body in all its fleshy form. Lay Bare (UK, 6:00) is an intimate and fragmented look at our perception of the body as framed by quotes by Oscar Wilde. Told in a rapid-fire patchwork of photographs, which display close-ups of the bodies of a wide steady of participants, Lay bare is sure to make viewers feel comfortable in their own skin. Body and mind are the subject of the split personality film I am Tom Moody (UK, 7:00), directed by Ainslie Henderson. A surreal and silly puppet film, Tom Moody is the story of a stifled singer who struggles with his subconscious through song.

After the trilogy on the body comes the first bit of promotional animation in the programme, Melissa (Brazil, 1:00). Directed by Cesar Cabral, Melissa is an awesome ad for Post It notes. It's mindboggling to look at the 350 000 sticky notes that Cabral posted on the storefront of Sao Paolo's Melissa gallery. The film shows both the usefulness and beauty of the little yellow notes. Who says that art and commerce are exclusive entities? Following Melissa, Sunny Afternoon (Sweden, 6:50) might expose the banality of art for art's sake. The crowd roared throughout this film, but I saw little more than a sunny afternoon that might have best been spent outside. The next two promotional films, Kinder Chocolate Inventions (UK, 0:30) and Apple (UK, 0:40) are as delightful as Melissa, so they, too, might give future animators some incentive to go work for Don Draper instead of doodling at home.
Kali the Little Vampire

The best stuff in Shorts Competition 1, however, rolls out around the middle. My favorite animated film from the CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival (WSFF review here), Kali the Little Vampire (Canada/Portugal/France/Switzerland, 9:25) might hold the title in Ottawa as well. This stunning vampire tale, co-produced by the National Film Board of Canada, plays just as well on its second viewing, if not even better. The gorgeous gothic drawings look better than anything else screened in the computation. Kali especially eclipsed the other films from a visual perspective since it screened as a film protection. And lest we forget that wonder full voiceover by Christopher Plummer, which sounds twice as good when it's enjoyed in the seats of The Bytowne.

There are three shorts, though, that give Kali a decent run for its money. Pythagasaurus (UK, 3:52), directed by Peter Peake, might be the best thing that an artist ever did with math. When two little cavemen (both of whom appear to have a serious case of fetal alcohol syndrome) find their 'village' threatened by an impending volcanic eruption, they call on their friend the pythagasaurus to help calculate the trajectory of the lava. The results are droll and unexpected, and they show that Darwin was correct in his perception of survival of the fittest. With a wonky blend of animated math problems and a frenetic approach to numbers, Pythagasaurus is a sure-fire crowd pleaser.
Night of the Loving Dead
Also standing out in the selection with their snappy script and visuals are Car Crash Opera (USA, 7:45) and Night of the Loving Dead (UK, 7:00). The latter of the two is especially funny with its tale of a virginity pact that goes well post the phrase 'til death do us part'. Delightfully naughty and equally morbid, Night of the Loving Dead gives well deserved screen time to the much pondered question of the sex life of zombies. (I know you've all been thinking the same thing.) With a cheeky knack for bawdy humour (I've never heard of someone doing that with an umbrella) and a strange, partly comic/partly gothic color palette, Night of the Loving Dead is one of the most original films of the bunch. Along with Kali and the colorful Arias of Car Crash Opera, Night of the Loving Dead shows how the best animated films find a proper synthesis between narrative, style, and theme. Especially in Kali’s case does the medium work its greatest magic when the animation serves as a visual equivalent for the films substance, and not merely as style in itself.

Shorts competition 1 screens again on Saturday, September 22 at 7:00 pm at Empire Theatres Rideau Centre

For information on the Ottawa International Animation Festival, please visit www.animationfestival.ca.