“Cattle Call” by Matt Rankin and Mike Maryniuk

Cattle Call (2008) offers a fascinating glimpse into a world that is completely foreign to me. It made a strong impression when I saw it a few years back in Ottawa and I’m delighted to report that it’s every bit as exhilarating to watch again now that it’s been posted online.

Directed by Matt Rankin and Mike Maryniuk, the film uncovers the inherent art within livestock auctioneering, which filmmaker Werner Herzog once described as “the last poetry possible, the poetry of capitalism.”

Filmmakers Rankin and Maryniuk capture the madcap energy of their subject matter by deploying a rapid-fire assortment of techniques, including stop-motion, cut-outs, open-exposures, hole-punching and rubbing Letraset directly on the celluloid. They manage to turn this experimental grabbag into a mightily entertaining film—a testament to their skills as animation filmmakers. Their unconventional approach also shows that the documentary format in animation offers a range of nonliteral and non-narrative possibilities that extends beyond the formal limitations of live-action documentary.