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Encounters 2013 Part 1

// Reviews (Festival)

With this being my first ‘proper’ trip to Encounters; the Short film and Animation Festival based in Bristol,  I was filled with all the joy and anticipation of picking up a delegate badge and goodie bag that you would expect.  I ventured forth with a packed animation schedule and a spring in my step, to savour the world of animation that Encounters has collected for us all.

The first screening, held in the Watershed, was a curious mixture of live action and animated shorts, with the only bonding theme being that they were created in the Southwest, and so was (rather aptly) titled The South West Showcase. Whilst the live action shorts, such as The Best Medicine and Happy Birthday Cindy Wei could almost have converted me into a live action fanboy, rest assured my unhealthily misplaced affections and energies are firmly held within the realm of animation and it is shorts such as Paul Hill’s beautifully timed and designed Sun, the expertly crafted Making Stuff by Darren Robbie and Matthew Walkers’ heart warming and hilarious The Lonely Dodo that keep me from being anything but a relentless animation bore. The evening was topped by the gala screening of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, presented by guest of honour and the features Animation Director Richard Williams.

After a very tiring day, including a long train ride and run around Bristol and the festival, not even the nightmarish image of Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom brandishing a bandsaw arm aimed at Bob Hoskin’s crotch would stop me having a sound sleep. I awoke refreshed and ready for more screenings.

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Woody by Stuart Bowen

The first animation screening, Power to the Puppets, showcased a grand selection of stop motion shorts, all featuring frame by frame formation. Films of note included the heavily Tim Burton inspired Woody, which tells the tale of a mannequin in need of a helping pair of hands to realise his dreams of playing piano. Director Stuart Bowen put Josh G. Abrahams to work on a Danny Elfman inspired soundtrack, which added to the Burton flavour without being too much of a garish parody or obvious try-hard fanboy flick. Murderer Alias X demonstrated how a keen eye for puppet design, a total lack of morals and all-out mission for entertainment can make a dark tale very entertaining indeed; Goodbye Mister De Vries and Warp both provided a similar level of skill in the unique character design department with figures full of personality and appeal.

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Goodbye Mister De Vries by Mascha Halberstad

Seams and Embers may not have been the strongest animation, but it communicated the closure of Scotland’s mining industry with ease, demonstrating how the animated documentary can compete with its live action counterpart. The raw power and skill of the NFB’s Bydlo still stuns those in its presence, but the film that seemed to be the biggest hit was Slight of Hand. The loss of control and devastating emptiness of the world that the main character finds himself in can only be expressed because the film and story have been created in the perfect medium. No other technique could deliver this, it serves as a great reminder as to what makes animation so special.

The next screening, From Mountains to Maggots! featured a selection of films as curious as the title would suggest, and although many of them were surreal visually they wouldn’t quite have fitted in a more avant garde selection. This made for an entertaining program, with each film being totally different from the last. The Blood of the Bear failed to fall into the trap so many films of its ilk do, by keeping the story short and sweet. The Hungry Corpse by Gergely Wootsh offers an unique spin on the tired zombie genre with a heartfelt story that puts it a cut above other zombie films to a point where you may not even consider it to be one.

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The Hungry Corpse by Gergely Wootch

After You told the story of a Dublin doorman serving his city for decades and trying to keep his job as the world around him becomes more automated, and is loaded with charm. Priit Tender’s The Maggot Feeder, whilst visually surreal, has an engaging story that keeps you engrossed in the tale. And, as a very satisfied delegate I remained engrossed in Encounters!

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