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Awards

British Student Animation Dominates Sundance and Slamdance, Daniels Win Directing Prize for ‘Swiss Army Man’

British student films dominated Park City, Utah last week, winning the top animated short prizes at both the Sundance Film Festival and its more indie offshoot, Slamdance.

At Sundance, the animation short film jury award was presented to Nina Gantz for her stop motion graduation film Edmond (top, left) produced at the National Film and Television School. Gantz’s film is also currently nominated for a BAFTA award, where it is competing against another NFTS graduation film, Simon Cartwright’s Manoman, and Richard Williams’ Prologue.

At Slamdance, the jury award for animation short was awarded to Marcus Armitage’s graduation short My Dad produced at the Royal College of Art. The jury statement said that the film “expresses compelling universal themes — the director’s powerful, heartbreaking message and the film’s bold, colorful palette are perfectly suited to his experimental animation format.”

Slamdance’s honorable mention for animated short was awarded to Josh Shaffner for Flaws. The jury’s statement: “Flaws brilliantly portrays the trajectory of life and death within a world of helplessness. It beautifully interlaces images, icons, words and music to deliver a powerful piece of thought-provoking cinema in under three minutes.”

"Swiss Army Man."
“Swiss Army Man.”

Back at Sundance, animation-influenced movies weaved their way into the winner’s circle on the feature film side as well. In the U.S. dramatic category, the best directing honor went to Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan — collectively known as the Internet virality makers Daniels — for their feature directing debut Swiss Army Man.

The polarizing film, starring Daniel Radcliffe as a magical farting corpse, generated heated discussions at the festival (I fell firmly in the “loved it” crowd), but Scheinert and Kwan more than earned their directing award. With Swiss Army Man, they crafted a fiercely stylish, structurally inventive film that combines the language of Internet filmmaking, music videos, and animation into a grand feature-length experiment. Animator Kirsten Lepore also contributed dozens of shots that incorporated animation to the finished film.

The animation community will likely be impressed by the imagination on display throughout Swiss Army Man. Take, for example, this comment by Patrick Osborne, director of Disney’s Feast:

Finally, at Sundance, Roger Ross Williams won the directing award in the U.S. documentary category for Life, Animated, a feature-length film about how an autistic boy learned to exress himself by watching Disney films, and how his family subsequently communicated with him through Disney dialogue and song.

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