Annecy Festival 2022 (Perspectives & Off-Limits): Our Top Picks
Eliane Gordeeff and Olga Bobrowska jointly report from Annecy Festival and present their own top picks from the Perspectives and Off-Limits sections, a side programme of animation shorts that deserves a second look and a more thorough examination.
Perspectives (Eliane Gordeeff)
The Perspectives programme shows a way of seeing the future and its tendencies. However, I honestly confess that I did not get the selection criteria for this category since I could identify the same focus in the short films shown compared with the shorts from the so-called Competitive Short Film Sessions. For instance, that was the case with 'More than I Remember' (Amy Bench, 2022) and 'The Visit' (Morrie Tan, 2021). Reinforced by the documentary nature of the productions, it was a constant presence in the five competitive sessions.
The 17 films of the Perspectives 1 & 2 programme were distributed in two sessions, each session including a high level of technical, graphic, and narrative quality. I could easily select ten films that caught my attention, but here I present a selection of five shorts. The choices were defined by the sensations aroused by these films, besides the more general and less repetitive themes encountered.
(in Annecy Festival screening order)
'Idodo', dir. Ursula Ulmi / Switzerland, United States, 2021, 10' (2D computer animation)
The story of how reef fish got their beautiful colors. Long ago, the fish transformed into humans and came onto land to celebrate and dance. Once the sun set, they hurried back into the sea, leaving behind a big mess. Curious as to who occupied the village in their absence, the villagers of one island plan to find out who these uninvited visitors were. What they would soon discover leaves them astounded and mesmerized.
In a traditional narrative form, Ursula Ulmi shows us an old man telling a young boy about the creation of colored fishes. Based on an indigenous folk tale from the Ziag Zagaz Clan, 'Idodo' carries a cultural heritage of the director's land, with the simple usage of the color and stylizing shapes to the characters and elements shapes. That offers the audience a poetic visual narrative about the legend of Papua New Guinea. That set creates a sensation of an ambiance of this legend, which is, at the same time, visually coherent to the saturated colors of a sunny place. In addition, it is perfect for children's imagination. In reality, 'Idodo' is comfortable for all viewers, but especially for children.
'The Best Grandfather in the World', dir. Nina Bisyarina / Russia, 2022, 6' 30'' (2D computer animation)
The film is based on an interview with Felix and his close relationship with his grandfather.
The short synopsis is not fair with the complexity of 'The Best Grandfather in the World'. This short uses a child's point of view to talk about a sensitive theme: the acceptance of homosexuality by the family. Moreover, Nina made that through simple shapes as a virtual cut-out 2D and basic colors, while the issue is treated in a very delicate way. Although a short is narrated in the first person, as an adult man, the expressions and the sense of the character's voice are as if he was still a kid. However, that is fantastic since his memory and feeling (like ours) came from his childhood, not from the registers of his adult life. Furthermore, it is always touching when we see someone expressing her/himself, as Felix does with a self-video at the end of the short. One will not give a spoiler.
'Once More, With Feeling', dir. Pallavi Agarwala / India, UK, 2021, 4'21'' (stop motion with photos and postcards)
Here, we look at statues and the actions that led them to being erected. Created using postcards and a scalpel, I developed my own style of animating prints to create meaning.
I loved this animation. Using photos and postcards, Pallavi made a good application of stop motion creating excellent relationships with the images, movements, and metaphorical sense to board some historical moments of the UK military actions and its commanders (I could recognize Tony Blair in one of those). She also used images from monuments and cities, handled as cut-outs, and moved in what I'd call "diegetic coherence" -with subtle humor. For instance, the theater curtain movement that opens the next act play was very creative; as a critic, as if Pallavi were saying, "let's go to the next act of this". Also, the graphic results of explosions create a 'hole' area in the cities' images, like a tombstone. The Indian animator still uses these hole forms and folded paper (such as the Damascus city postcard) to show cleverly the difference between the destruction caused in the big cities by weapons from the past and the present.
'Reparations', Wilson Borja / Colombia, 2022, 8'24'' (2D/3D computer animation)
An exploration into the phenomenon of migration (forced and voluntary), through the fragmentation and modulation of a character: a chair.
'Reparations' is one of those films in which you do not know what is happening but catches you precisely in this way. Wilson Borja and Lola Barreto (animation director) follow, mixing angles and applying the chair like an object differently, but giving it a sense of character, creating several situations. We can identify segregation (a group of black and white chairs separated by a wall), poverty (lines on a white background simulating a favela), and execution (when paintballs shoot chairs). 'Reparations' is an excellent example of the good use of digital 3D animation profiting from the possibilities of a virtual tool to create a not-comfortable and surrealist situation. Wilson powered the movements by using contrasts between figure-ground and straightforward but sometimes tangled forms with no descriptive backgrounds. The short won the City of Annecy Award at Annecy Festival.
'Blind Spot', dir. Lotfi Achour / France, Tunisia, 2021, 13'13'' (2D computer animation, live-action)
Under Ben Ali's dictatorship, a man is kidnapped, tortured, and killed, then vanishes without ever being found. Thirty years later, he returns to talk to us. Taking over the question of his mother: Where did you abandon my son's body?
The highlight of this short begins with the French title 'Angle Mort' (in English "Dead Angle" and not 'Blind Spot', the official English title). This doc animation is a first-person narrative, and a dead one, who tells us about his via cruxes and of his mother, Kamal Matmati, to find his corpse, even after 30 years of disappearing. In 1991, he was kidnapped by the police and accused of belonging to an Islamist movement. Through the mix of the drawings, photos, and live-action excerpts, Lotfi lets us know not only objective information about the fact but also emotional ones. The strong and constant presence of black, grey, and white colors gives us a sensation of a tragedy and the raw reality that shocks but also communicates to us some truths that we would like to ignore: the power discourse that always shows what it wants to.
From these two sessions, I could identify ten doc animations from the 17 shorts. That demonstrates the importance of applying animation as an image representing actual situations, in an objective or emotional sense. The presence of the docs was also strongly perceived in the five competitive shorts session of the 2022 Annecy Festival edition. Add the greater number of women directors, and that is a very good Perspective ;).
Off-Limits (Olga Bobrowska)
The Off-Limits competition section of Annecy 2022 presented eight films from Colombia, Austria, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland, France, and China. The winning film was chosen by Maria Anestopoulou (Animasyros IAF, Greece), Olivier Calvert (sound designer, Canada), and Ron Dyens (Sacrebleu Productions, France) was ‘Intersect’ by Dirk Koy (Switzerland), a 5-chapter sophisticated investigation into realism and surrealism, structures of micro-and macrocosms originating from nature and recreated with the means of experimental, 2D and 3D animation. Greatly differentiated in terms of aesthetics, this programme above all emphasized abstraction as a still vigorous and powerful artistic method, while cinephilia (‘Woman as Image, Man as Bearer of the Look’; ‘Train Again’ by Peter Tscherkassky) and ecopoetics (‘Intersect’, ‘Very, Very, Tremendously’) appeared as notably reoccurring themes (interestingly, the Austrian-Canadian short ‘Under the Microscope’ by Michaela Grill cojoins the two delivering a time-laps revealing cellular processes and referencing famous sciences films).
Here is a highly subjective choice of three films from the competition worth mentioning for their visual qualities, and also – for they demonstrate an impressive gravity of intellectual work involved in the creation process
(in Annecy Festival screening order)
Woman as Image, Man as Bearer of the Look, dir. Carlos Velandia / Colombia, 2022, 7'22'' (cut-outs, diverse techniques)
Faces, bodies, and actions are endlessly juxtaposed. Fragmented pieces of a woman come together and form the volume of what has been her image in the history of cinema.
A frenzy of deconstruction of the ‘male gaze’ concept. Cut to the looped beats of virtually incomprehensible original dialogues from various classic movies, it is an experiment with editing, where the iconic images of Hollywood-fabricated ‘perfect women’ merge, blend, re-composite into an overwhelming, ultra-condensed, and self-explanatory audiovisual exemplifications of the core concept of the feminist film theory. Narrative-free, nevertheless the film can be considered as a record of “a day in a life” of Clara Bow, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Jane Fonda, Julia Roberts, and hundred others whose appearances, performances, and charisma serve(d) to affirm male-centered world organization and imposed canons of beauty and desire. Meant to stimulate consumption based on imitation, the fast-paced re-edited images detach from their previous function and new energy explodes. Who’s the bearer of the look now?
Arrest in Flight, dir. Adrian Flury / Switzerland, 2021, 7’39’’ (animated objects, puppets, pixilation)
This film experiment focuses on the non-obvious character of movement when transferred to an alien object thus endowed with the life derived from the movement's true-to-life source.
An extravaganza made in stop motion and go motion for those who wish to check their own limits of perception. Seemingly nothing happens in eerily typical household environments of corridors and staircases. Yet everything is on the move. A cracked physics dictates new terms of the functioning of furniture, domestic appliances, and various random items one can oddly find in storage rooms. The house appears as a laboratory where the new human automata is undergoing tests and trials. Slowly but unavoidably, intensifying tensions are punctuated with an experimental electronic music score.
Very, Very, Tremendously, dir. Guangli Liu / China, France, 2021, 12’12’’ (3D computer animation)
Drawing on the threads of Virtual Currency and Digital Junk, the film seeks to discuss how the acts of production and consumption from the virtual world interact systematically with reality.
An engaging, intermedia work that takes a firm stand of ecopoetic criticism, comes from a recent graduate of Le Fresnoy. Commencing video footage of a monumental remote area brings out a quasi-mythological atmosphere. To realize that this is a monstrous-size garbage site takes a few moments; if any story may emerge from there, it must be an apocalypse. Smooth transitions of images take us to the 3D-CGI gaming environments where traversing through waste is just an itinerary of experienced adventures. Each new layer of imagery leaves its trace by the side edges of the frame, the threat of it being squashed seems rather inevitable. Distorted audio of Donald Trump’s voice (often incomprehensible just as the former US president’s discourse) accompanies following imageries (many of them representing China’s rural and urban landscapes) that poetically depict various ways of exploitation instigated in the name of production’s growth and sustainability. No comments needed; we all see what we are doing.
Perspectives & Off-Limits films were screened between 13th and 18th June at Annecy Festival 2022, France.