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Encounters 2015: Animation Highlights (Part 4)

// Featured, Reviews (Event)

Concluding our look back at the Bristol Encounters Festival‘s animation highlights, we turn to the assortment of screenings on offer that contained a mix of live-action and animation. First off, from the two comedy showcases Why the Short Face? and Reasons to be Cheerful we were lucky to have yet another two super short films from Andreas Hykade, who was all over the festival this year. His first film in the comedy screenings was Myself Smoke, a one-and-a-half minute short that asks the audience to help its subject stop smoking, we also had Myself Universe about the meaning of the universe. Part of a series of micro-shorts, these two films demonstrate Hykade’s ability to use timing and an incredibly stripped-back aesthetic to connect to an audience. If festivalgoers had not been aware of Andreas Hykade’s work before, they’ll have surely fallen head over heels for him now.

I also saw for the first time Job, Joris and Marieke’s Oscar-nominated A Single Life, a film that follows a woman’s life as it is chopped and changed by a jumping record needle, a clever idea executed perfectly. It’s no wonder the academy was interested, however it’s the trio’s knack for style and ability to tackle dark comedy with whimsy that makes this film work as well as it does.

Very Lonely Cock by Leonid Shmelkov is a visual gag film that focuses on the multiple ways in which a chicken lays an egg and causes havoc when he interrupts the natural order of things. This surreal film take you on a journey of discovery through the work of the rooster and his farm hand. This type of animation – an increasingly wacky and bizarre sequence of events following on from one another – is a timed-honoured festival classic and, as such, nothing new, however this a shining example of what makes this type of film making a fun watch all-round.

My shining favourite from the crop of animated films was definitely Cooped by Mike A. Smith, a 2D animation that follows the life of a dog as he is stuck inside the house, whilst his master trudges though his monotonous working life. As we see the poor pooch’s attempts to gain his freedom in a series of ever-more dramatic and cartoonish skits, the style of the animation also get decidedly more dramatic, chaotic and slightly disturbing, reminiscent of the work of John Kricfalusi. This was a totally enjoyable film that, once online, I will watch over and over again.

From the love and relationship-themed mixed screenings Pro Creation and Pillow Talk, Sexy laundry by Izabela Plucinska stood out as a film that looked into the enfeebling of a couple’s sex life after 25 years of marriage. The melting and merging of the clay used in the film visualises the physicality – or lack thereof – in the couple’s lives. An interesting piece that seeks to emphathise the need for conversation and passion, no matter your age.

One of two new films from Adam Wells screening at this year’s Encounters was Modern Love: Breaching the Seawall, a commissioned piece by the New York Times to animate a story from their Modern Love column. Touching and funny, the film uses Adam’s notable style and animated traditions to portray the complicated feelings of anxiety and love effortlessly. Both of this year’s films showcase a notable change in his work, which reflects on his admirable ability to adapt and grow within his own distinctive style.

A notable addition to any screening is Adam Elliot’s newest short film, Ernie Biscuit. An account of a mute man as he finds love in a foreign land, the film is a testament to the director’s ingenuity as both a filmmaker and storyteller. The stripped-back approach to the animation is reminiscent of his earlier work, but the finesse and sensitivity in his choices of camera shots demonstrate his years of industry experience – a remarkable film, this is not to be missed.

The children’s screening often has some of my favourite films at this particular festival and this year was no exception. Stating of with Fox Tale by Doosun Shin, a well-designed and comical fable of a fox who laughs at the scrappy tale of a fellow animal only to have his own removed and kept as a trophy by hunters. Captain Fish by John Banana tells the adorable tale of a little girl and her love for her aquatic friends. When her mother attempts to feed her fish-shaped nuggets she refuses to eat them, preferring to set them free into the sea to reunite with their family. With charming character design and pitch-perfect animation, the film was a sure-fire winner for this family screening. An Vrombaut‘s stylised and charming tale The Tie follows a young giraffe as he attempts to reach out to his tall companion by finding ways to reattached his ever shortening tie. Sweet and suited for very young children, Vrombaut has managed to effectively adapt her illustration style to animation and I look forward to seeing much more from her.

Slave of the Rave by William Garratt is a quick example of the power of music and group mentality. Brilliantly simple and stupidly funny, this film is a brilliant little addition to a screening that allows an audience to breath and simply revel in a visual gag done well. Another exceptional film was The Meek by Joe Brumm, in which tiny little critters develop a hierarchy in order to gather heat from the end of a cigarette butt that has been dropped, bringing light and heat into their dark world. The film manages to summarise without words the pitfalls of a communist social structure in a comedic and child-friendly way; when the fire burns out and the system breaks down, the tiny citizens must find a new leader and more resourceful way to survive. A thought provoking film that is also extremely entertaining for all ages.

Last, but by no means least, The Story of Percival Pilts by Janette Goodey and John Lewis was my personal highlight of the entire festival. Everything from the puppets, the story, the direction to the narrator were perfection to me, inoffensive but with that well-known Australian cheek in some of the visual gags, this was a film that has stuck with me from the first shot. Perfectly-rounded short-form film making is hard to find – even harder to find for a children’s audience – but this is just one of those films. I implore anyone who can to see this film as such witty, utterly charming and well-executed stop-motion deserves all the attention it can get.

So that’s us for another year of Encounters coverage, and what a year it was – some incredible films with brilliant stories and styles that are sure to find their way into multiple screenings over the coming months. The screenings were a mix of everything that we have come to know and love of this well-respected British festival and remains a firm favourite in my own personal calendar. With great atmosphere, guests and inspiration to give the industry a boost in time for the coming winter months, Encounters once again shows just why Bristol remains an industry hotspot. For more coverage of this year’s edition have a read of part one, part two and part three of our international animation picks as well as our recent podcast discussion:

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@lewisheriz
Lewis Heriz
@themooks @skwigly Yeah! That's when it becomes << actual magic >>
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@themooks
James Howard
@lewisheriz @skwigly That first time you see it move is such a buzz and then you add sound and it just enters a whole new stratosphere.
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@lewisheriz
Lewis Heriz
@themooks @skwigly I know it's kind of obvious, but I used to see it as 'important but secondary'. I don't see it as secondary any more.
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@themooks
James Howard
@lewisheriz @skwigly Sound does bring it to life.
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