OIAF Review: Short Competition 4

Short Competition 4 at the 2013 Ottawa International Animation Festival features the most experimental programme of films in the competition. The films of Short Competition 4 offer some of the finest innovations in film form at this year's festival. They're the ones with the big ideas.

The programme begins with the wildly original hand drawn film The Shadow Hunter (Kim Ye-Ji & Min Sea-Mi, South Korea), which provides an imaginative lesson by teaching OIAF-goers that the only possessions one has the right to sacrifice are one's own. The use of shadow, not surprisingly, is one of the assets of this strong entry in the High School Animation category. More formal ingenuity can be seen in Blok (Flip-Flat) (Paulina Ziobkowska, Poland), a smartly tempered magic act that depicts a day in the life of an apartment building by visiting all the levels and peeking in ask the windows via folds and crinkles in the building's design. Meanwhile, Two Weeks  - Two Minutes (Judith Poirier, Canada) is a high concept experimentation with form and time as the filmmaker prints simultaneously on paper and 35 mm film using a letterpress. The fleeting images, accented by the sounds of the sounds of the printing process, take the page-to-screen process to exciting levels. Adaptation nuts rejoice!
Virtuoso Virtual
The highlight of Short Competition 4’s boundary-pushing experimental films might be this year’s jury prize winner in the category, Virtuoso Virtual (Thomas Stellmach & Maja Oschmann, Germany). Virtuoso Virtual, like the year’s other great experimental OIAF entry Gloria Victoria, takes its cue from a piece of classical music and brings it to life with visual poetry. The filmmakers choreograph an exquisite dance with small trails of ink that ebb and flow as they shade and colour like watercolours on a canvas. Virtuous Virtual is a true work of art.

Outside of the explicitly experimental/abstract films, Short Competition 4 offers two sobering documentary shorts—a pair among few in competition at the festival—with Sensory Overload: Interacting with Autism (Miguel Jiron, USA) and The Honor Code (Richard O’Connor, USA). The former film uses the power of animation to convey in lay terms the sensory overload that a person with autism may experience in any given situation. The visuals don’t overwhelm the promotional tale; rather, they smartly accentuate its plea for understanding. Ditto The Honor Code, which includes only brief interludes of animation to honour the women killed by honour killings as an academic explains the way in which social change may be brought about and emphasize “there is no honour in honour killings.”

The highlight of Short Competition 4, however, comes with its lengthiest film, Another (Sean Buckelew, USA), which sees a family’s idyllic life that is turned upside-down from a grizzly encounter. Another might strike OIAF-goers as the most classically styled animation among Short Competition 4, but that’s not a bad thing since Another proves that some things are best done the old ways. There’s an attention to detail in this hand drawn tale that one just doesn’t see in many films. Another is smarter than the average bear as it uses traditional strokes of pencil on paper to envision an inquisitive bear. The work that goes into this impressive film can be seen in each of the bear’s finely tuned expressions and gestures, which become more expressive and nuanced as the film progresses. The storybook charm of Another makes the film feel a classic. Another is seventeen minutes of good old-fashioned storytelling. (Watch it here.)

There are bound to be a few classics among the films of Short Competition 4. Whether they’re new spins on old fairy tales or idiosyncratic abstractions for the avant garde crowd, the films in this programme offer something for everyone. This OIAF selection shows festivalgoers the range of innovative experiments and emerging voices in contemporary animation.