OIAF Review: Short Film Competition 5

Butter Ya Self.
Maybe it's festival fatigue setting in or maybe the other sections are simply so much stronger by comparison, but the overall crop of SC5 isn't the best of the bunch. (Something has to go on either end of the scale.) Some of the shorts struggle to conjure a glimmer of recognition in my memory as I consult the programme before reviewing this block. There are a handful of shorts that nevertheless make SC 5 worth seeing, though, especially one morbid ditty that offers one heck of a ride!

Dance of Death (Choi Ye Won, Lee Young Guen & Park So Young, South Korea) offers a trippy vision of life flashing before one's eyes as an elderly man falls to his doom. A dance doesn’t really work without a song, though, and SC5 riotously carries a tune with Butter Ya’ Self (Julian Petschek, USA). Butter Ya’ Self brings da beats to SC5 as a banana raps an ode to his bling while a bun—sorry, a muthafuckin’ BUN—gives everyone a piece of herself in this silly number about the thug life of the grocery store. This jammin’ ’toon is tons of fun as director Julian Petschek provides all four food groups and a healthy dose of butter in this stop-motion riot. OIAF better make sure that the ByTowne, home to many of the festival screenings this year, adopts the song as an anthem to the oh-so-buttery popcorn that provides hearty meals throughout the year!

SC5 tickles the funny bone with a few shorts that are amiable, but are more margarine than butter, as the programme continues with 365 (The Brothers McLeod, UK). 365 features an exciting premise—the brothers animate one second of film each and every day of the year—but the joke grows tired around June and the film keeps on truckin’ to giggles from the audience that grow quieter throughout the year. More sillytime comes in David O’Reilly’s Korean propaganda crisis Heaven’s Countryland ‘Part 4: Children’, which isn’t as funny as the other episodes of O’Reilly’s series to play at the festival. Finally, the short but sweet A Tale of Momentum and Inertia (Kameron Gates & Kirk Kelley, USA) offers a droll tale of Sisyphusian chaos as the man with the boulder lets gravity do its work to bold effect. This funny film gives SC5 a healthy punchline with which to end the programme.

The dramatic side of Shorts Competition 5 features an inspiring pair of minimalist efforts with The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (Ross Hogg, UK) and Crazy Little Thing (Onohana, Japan). These shorts both offer black-and-white tragedies about familial relationships gone awry. Hat takes a more abstract approach by using the spatial properties of the frame to create disorienting moods and conflicting viewpoints. The smudgy charcoal one the left draw out the details of the right, and everything blurs with fury in this shrewd visualization of the work by Oliver Sacks. Crazy, on the other hand, uses the suffocating restrictions of created space to find a form of madness as one girl escapes her alcoholic father, but cannot get away from the guilt she feels once reality sets in. The sparse pencil markings are an effective conception of horror.  

SC5 offers some body horror, too, with its sharply grotesque deconstruction of body image in Supervenus (Frederic Doazan, France). Supervenus composes a symphony of madness as the body of an average woman goes under a plastic surgeon’s scalpel. Boobs blossom, lips puff, tummies tuck, and legs lengthen. Add a shock of tanning light and … voilà! She looks just like Barbie. It’s freaky, though, to watch this woman become increasingly less human the more the film doctors her image to fit an idea of perfection. Supervenus satirizes our idea of beauty, perverts it, and unmasks it as the grotesquerie that it is.
The Obvious Child.

Supervenus offers one of the memorable entries in short competition 5, but he highlight of the programme is easily the surreal The Obvious Child (Stephen Irwin, UK). This messed-up bedtime story is, in a way, a love story as one poor widdle wabbit plays witness to the mess a young girl must clean up after her parents are brutally murdered. The rabbit, who narrates the tale in dryly halting voiceover, falls instantly in love with the demon child as she bargains with the cloud about to get her parents into heaven. Director Stephen Irwin offers a macabre, almost carnivalesque vision of love and death as The Obvious Child pops vibrant colours into an absurd scenario. Irwin frames the animation through the lens of an iris and divides it in chapters, creating an image of innocence recounted through rose coloured glasses as the submissive bunny recalls love at first sight. The Obvious Child, disturbed and debauched, is certifiably bonkers, but it joins a rank of shorts at OIAF this year that shows the best films of the festival take a subversive approach to cuddly animals. Animation need not be cute nor pander to children: make it bold and dark like The Obvious Child does. The juxtaposition of fluffy playtime with a punch in the face makes for a most memorable film.

Please visit www.animationfestival.ca for more information on this year’s festival.