OIAF: Short Competition 5

A Morning Stroll

There are a few standout films in Short Competition 5 of the Ottawa International Animation Festival, but, unfortunately, the line-up as a whole is not as strong as the others I’ve seen so far. I’ll have to admit that when I returned to the festival programme to refresh my memory on the films that screened in the series, I could not even remember seeing Amigo do Pieto (My Best Friend, Portugal, 3:07) and Boy (USA, 1:07). Did these films even screen at the festival?

I did remember, however, A Morning Stroll (UK, 6:47). Directed by Grant Orchard, A Morning Stroll is the tale of one little chicken that enjoys the rule of the roost every time he has his daily stroll through the streets of New York City. As the plucky little chicken wanders about the streets feeling as if he’s cock of the walk, he bumps into a fellow New Yorker along the way. Feathers are ruffled since the pedestrian - both the chicken and the human - walks in that speedy fashion so often enjoyed by city folk, and the stroll becomes a test of which New Yorker truly owns the henhouse.

A Morning Stroll takes its playful premise and plays it out three times through the filter of different animation techniques. The first morning stroll offers a cute black and white hand drawn chicken that pecks about with the jerky movements introduced with the birth of Mickey Mouse. In the second sequence, set in 2009, the chicken strolls in a much busier cityscape. The streets are more congested and so too are the visuals. Now in color, and perhaps computer animated, the chicken is a modern-day New Yorker. His morning stroll is met with oversized coffees and telephone video cameras, plus some zombie breakdancing. How times have changed since the sparseness of the Twenties. In the third and final act, the chicken takes a trip through the future. Now his morning stroll is a 3D jaunt through the apocalypse and his fellow sidewalk dweller is a ravenous zombie. With the trio of styles and sites, A Morning Stroll is an endearing little film. The blend of past and present might appeal to fans of last year's The Artist (A Morning Stroll made it to the Oscars, too) thanks to its lively look back at the cinematic techniques that brought us to where we are today.
Portlandia 'Zero Rats'
Also memorable among the films of Short Competition 5 is Portlandia ‘Zero Rats’ (USA, 3:01). Portlandia is a hilarious feat of puppetry that sees a trio of rats plot a heist on the new ‘packaging free’ grocery store that has just opened in town. Sprightly and clever, Portlandia ‘Zero Rats’ is a funny follow-up to A Morning Stroll, but, unfortunately, the film comes to an abrupt ending just as soon as it hits its stride.

On the other side of animation is Paula (Canada, 10:29), which is a mix of pencil on paper and 2D computer animation directed by Dominic Etienne Simard and produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Paula is a graphic depiction of life in a busy urban setting where the lives of prostitutes and little children intersect in the dark hustle-bustle of the streets. Paula is one of the stronger dramatic shorts at the festival both for its subject matter as well as for its artful approach to a heavy subject.

Peacemaker Mac – The Island of Dispute (Israel, 4:39) and Fresh Guacamole (USA, 1:40) also have some success with the their fusion of form and content, but Shorts Competition 5 is ultimately marred by the inclusion of its final film It’s Such a Beautiful Day (USA, 23:00). It’s Such a Better Day begins as a promising story of a man who struggles to coagulate his memories following his stroke. However, the charm of the film overstays its welcome and the film runs for a fatally long duration of twenty-three minutes. Shorter is better, especially when much of the film plays as a loop.

Overall, though, Shorts Competition 5 features some shorts worthy of admission, especially the Oscar-nominated A Morning Stroll.

Short Competition 5 screens again on Sept. 22 at 9:00pm at the ByTowne.

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