OIAF: Short Competition 4

Short Competition 4 of the Ottawa International Animation Festival offers one of the more consistently strong line-ups of the festival. SC4 features two award-worthy standouts and no duds. There are no fart jokes here; there are only inspiring works of animated art.

Cor (Ana Linnea Lidegran Correia; Portugal, 3:47) opens the programme with a lovely tale of a paintbrush that was forgotten by its owner, but then comes to life when a little drop of ink falls from its tip and creates art. Following Cor is the rascally funny Reizwaesche (Jelena Walf & Viktor Stickel; Germany, 1:03), which hilariously depicts two friends who watch their aunt hang laundry. Her cartoonishly large posterior waddles along the clothesline and gives a white eclipse as big as the moon each time she bends down to get her clothing; however, her generous backside gives the boys (and audiences) a fine plane for good cinema.
One of the two great feats of cinema in Short Competition 4 is the experimental/abstract film Choros (Michael Langan & Terah Maher; USA, 13:00). Choros showcases the medium’s ability to animate the body in a languid and lyrical dance. The movements of one woman give rise to a chorus of dancers as the filmmakers eloquently trace the motions of the dancer’s lithe body. Beautiful and hypnotic, Choros is a stunner!

After the bodily glory of Choros comes a double-bill of cat fancy for animal lovers. I Saw Mice Burying a Cat (Dmitry Geller; China/Russia, 5:45) is a strange and farcical story of a sacrifice gone awry. Cat features bold, imposing animal figures, the best of which is the proverbial feline in this cat and mouse tragedy. “Beware of people who dislike cats.” Similarly, a striking red cat unfurls the head-spinner of the visuals in Kottarashky & The Rain Dogs ‘Demoni’ (Theodore Ushev; Canada/Bulgaria/Germany, 3:45), a music video from the director of the Genie-winning short The Lipsett Diaries.

Short Competition 4 continues with a mix of experimental and commercial films. Thunder River (Pierre Hébert; Canada, 7:56) is an intense exploration of the fissures that ripple through the rocks along the St-Lawrence River, while Dreams (Keiichi Tanaami; Japan, 6:00) is a colourful psychoanalytic homage to memory. The “bizarro prize” of the programme goes to The Great Rabbit (Atsushi Wada; France, 7:00), a narrative(ish) film about children and their belief (or lack thereof) in the Great White Rabbit. Told in the storybook-like sketching of pencil on paper, The Great Rabbit asks if consciousness changes over time and if so, how? Finally, more animals wander through Short Competition 4 with the promotional video World Wildlife Fund ‘100% Renewable Energy’ (Amica Kubo & Tori; Japan, 2:45), a colourful plea for sustainability that is made all the more compelling by its techno beat and surfing panda.
The best film of Short Competition 4, however, is its centrepiece. Plume (France, 14:42) is a nightmarish feat of puppetry by Barry Purves. A winged man falls and has a hostile encounter with the strange demons that drawl from the shadows. A struggle emerges, with the heavenly feathers of the winged creature becoming a prize for which the demons fight. The darkness of Purves’s film is nicely offset by the glowing light that radiates from the creature’s wings. Plume is a ballet of sorts or an operatic tragedy between man and beast. The skilled puppetry of the film makes Plume one of the most unique, compelling, and powerful films of the festival. It’s easy one of OIAF’s standout films.