OIAF: Short Competition 3


Short Competition 3 of the 2012 Ottawa International Animation Festival is a hodgepodge of animated ditties. The programme begins with three quick shorts: the cute cut-out film The Bean (Hae Jin Jung; South Korea, 5:11), the uproariously funny Cee Cee’s Bedtime Stories ‘The first Time Cee Cee Did Acid’ (Noelle Melody & Joy Vaccese; USA, 2:11), and the amusingly revolting fable Gum (Noam Sussman; Canada, 1:00). Fans of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly will probably want to catch the music video Primus ‘Lee Van Cleef’ (Chris Smith; USA, 3:24), which pits some iconic gunslingers in a bizarre spaghetti-western zombie flick. The first half of Short Competition 3 is light and fairly enjoyable.

The programme then takes a dark turn with one of its strongest offerings. Junkyard (Hisko Hulsing; The Netherlands/Belgium, 18:00) is a compelling look into a man’s life as it flashes before his eyes after a junkie stabs him on the subway. Junkyard takes the lives of two friends who are neighbours in a seedy part of town and shows how two people from similar backgrounds can see radically different outcomes thanks to the circumstances of their upbringing as well as the choices they make. Told in a dark, gritty, and tough-as-nails palette of violence and misery, Junkyard is powerful and gripping. The flash photography in the animation might be a bit too much for the senses, but this film by Hisko Hulsing is easily a standout in the festival thanks to its advanced eye for storytelling.
From Dad to Son
My personal favourite film in the programme, however, is the touching short From Dad to Son (Nils Knoblich; Germany, 5:16). A son is locked in prison, performing hard labour with a pickaxe while his elderly father struggles to till the fields by himself back at home. Director Nils Knoblich employs a fun mix of puppetry and cut-outs, and unfolds the story in a quirky tempo of whistles and tweets. The look of From Dad to Son is irresistibly warm and funny, and the film offers one of the more refreshingly poignant notes of the festival. The premise of this tale of fathers and sons is familiar, but it dazzles thanks to Knoblich’s spot-on execution.

Another notable entry in Short Competition 3 is the Rashômon-esque Kara No Tamago aka A Wind Egg (Ryo Okawara; Japan, 10:30). Like the great Kurosawa film, A Wind Egg gives one story from several perspectives. The film gives a glimpse into each member of the family that runs a chicken farm. Each member does strange acts and harbours nasty secrets, but they are only revealed in private and in passing. A Wind Egg is an astute puzzler and a smart take on multi-narrative convention.

With these three strong films, however, the rest of Short Competition 3 feels a bit lacking. Audiences are sure to laugh at the kitschy/ironic Hulk Hogan farce Hogan (Peter Millard; UK, 1:28), which looks as if it was drawn by a kindergartener. Herr Hoppe and the Nuclear Waste (Thorsten Löffler & Jan Lachauer; Germany, 4:17) and Moones: ‘Better Energy’ (Peter Sluszka; USA, 4:18) are likewise fun but forgettable. Old Man (Leah Shore; USA, 5:40) offers an interesting premise by taking actual recordings of telephone conversations between Charles Manson and author Marlin Marynick and setting them to a visual equivalent of Manson’s madness. Old Man is sure to prompt a post-screening debate.

 Less chat-worthy, though, are two of the final films in the screening. Superjail! ‘Stingstress’ (Christy Karacas & Mike Carlo; USA, 13:24) is nonsensical and juvenile. It also just isn’t funny. Likewise, Short Competition 3 literally ends with a big wet fart by using Cheap Joke (Ian Miller; USA, 1:00) as its endnote. If you enjoy this kind of humour, then Short Competition 3 is the screening for you, but most moviegoers are encouraged exit the theatre after the strong midsection of Junkyard, From Dad to Son, and A Wind Egg.

Short Competition 3 screens again at 1:00 pm at the National Gallery.

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