OIAF Review: Short Competition 1

If there is one thing to be learned from Short Competition 1 at this year’s Ottawa International Animation Festival, it’s that animators like dicks and vomit. Actually, there are two things to be learned from this series: gents and puke are a lot funnier in an animated short than they are in real life.

The lion’s share of naughty bits comes in the bizarre first quarter short Oh Willy… (Emma De Swaef & Marc James Roels, Belgium/France/Netherlands/Luxembourg), which has willies galore. Willy, a whimsical sock puppet, goes native following the death of his dear wife. It’s strange to see this plump little figure in his birthday suit, since he’s the only character in the film to hide his body before the funeral. Everyone else just lets his sock hang out. Oh Willy is a fun little adventure, albeit one that feels weird for the sake of being weird, but it’s a highlight among Short Competition 1 for the originality of its animation and especially for its eye-catching rendering of sunlight that glistens through the quirky adult tale. It’s a most unexpected love story, sock cocks and all.

More peters flap in the excellent film Wind (Robert Loebel, Germany) that proves to be the standout film of this competition programme. Wind is a brilliantly conceived and realized film that shows the daily life of a group of people living in an area with unnatural wind speeds. Hilarious sight jokes ensue as hair and hats blow with the breeze, as do babies, dog tinkle, and, naturally, men’s endowments. Loebel provides striking use of motion and texture to Wind as the wind particles fly past the characters who struggle against the blow. Wind marks the high point of Short Competition 1 because it brilliantly fuses concept and conceit. The innovative animation drives the playful story and style, thus making for a great series of laughs whilst admiring the hand of an emerging animation master. Wind is a delight.

Short Competition 1 also includes a trio of enjoyable ditties that fuse sound and style. Choir Tour (Edmunds Janson, Latvia) is a droll tale of 'boys will be boys' that sees a flurry of school lads infuriate their schoolmarm as they buzz around with a mantra that'll be in viewers’ heads for days. Also bound to bring childlike smiles to faces are Na Ni Nu Ne No No (Manabu Himeda, Japan), a delightfully manic dance number, and Ohayo Carotene (Saki Iyori, Japan), which us a colorfully energetic finale to the programme. Both Na and Ohaya give bouncy, vibrant animations in sync with an upbeat, buoyant tune.
Hollow Land. Photo courtesy of the NFB

The trio of musicals are complemented by a quartet of promotional videos in SC1, which go beyond memorable jingles. Among them is 1/3/10 (Georges Schwizgebel, Canada), which is a compelling plea to free imprisoned Iranian filmmakers like Jafar Panahi. The best of the animated adverts, though, is the app ad I am Alone and My Head is on Fire (David O'Reilly, Canada), whcih is every bit as strange and funny as the title less you to expect it to be.

Shorts Competition 1, finally, includes a few dark tales to balance the programme and ensure that items not all smiles and chuckles. Among the two stories of shipwrecks is Hollow Land (Michelle Kranot & Uri Kranot, Denmark/France/Canada), which strands an expectant couple on a seemingly utopian island where everyone sports toilet plungers as hats. Bathroom fixtures might not be the ideal thing to be born into, but this unusual mixed media horror tale take deftly balances black humor with dystopian darkness. It's a surreal experience.
The Event
Rounding out the highlights of Short Competition 1 is an unsettling tale of the end of the world. The Event (Julia Pott, UK) is an unusual love story that brings an originality of vision for animation and storytelling alike. It’s haunting tale of two furries enduring a severed foot and impending doom brings Short Competition 1 to a strong finish. The Event a unique standout  in the programme, but it has some naughty bits, too, so it doesn’t seem the least bit out of place.

Short Competition 1 screens:
Friday, Sept. 20 at the National Gallery at 3:00 pm.