Director: Juan Pablo Zaramella
Qualified: Best Latin American Animation Short Film – Chilemonos
Set on a passenger train, the awkward social dynamics between a man and assorted passengers are explored with humor and touches of the absurd. Made with paper puppets, Passenger is a light-hearted tale about people trying to navigate their way through unspoken social codes.
Mr. Spam Gets a New Hat
Director: Bill Joyce
Qualified: Best Animation – Athens International Film + Video Festival
Mr. Spam is a shy and repressed inventor whose dreary factory job requires him to get his hat (and head) smashed each day by a giant hammer. With each passing day his dreams of creativity and the love of his artist/neighbor, Dot, are literally being smashed to bits. Oscar-winner Bill Joyce (The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore) returns with a charming and breezy cg animated cross between silent films (references to Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy) and Alice in Wonderland.
Director: Spencer Susser
Countries: U.K., U.S.A.
Qualified: FlickerFest – Yoram Gross Award
Commissioned by the Humane Society International and featuring the voices of Ricky Gervais, Zac Efron, and Taika Waititi, this stop motion short mixes comedy and horror as we observe the daily life of Ralph (voiced by Waititi), a rabbit who undergoes cruel experiments during cosmetic product testing testing. An emotional and empathetic work that lingers with you long after the film has ended.
Directors: Lorenzo Degl’ Innocenti, Xosé Zapata
Countries: Spain, Portugal
Qualified: Goya Award for Best Animated Short
A bit of an unknown qualifier, this computer animated historical film won the Spanish Academy Award (Goya) for best animated short. Set in the 1500s, a castaway on a ship traveling from Portugal to England is mistaken as an enemy soldier who ends up captured, tried, and executed in Ireland. The thing is… the prisoner is a monkey. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly comic premise though. Although the film is primarily aimed at younger audiences and has a more mainstream linear narrative, The Monkey – is a powerful fable about xenophobia, war, and political corruption and manipulation.
Director: Sawako Kabuki
Countries: France, Japan
Qualified: Best Short Animation – Guanajuato International Film Festival
A somewhat subdued piece from the always eclectic and frequently raunchy Sawako Kabuki, I’m Late is a visually striking documentary about various people’s reactions when they or their partner’s period is late. This is one of the more inventive animation docs we’ve seen. As various voices share their conflicted emotions and fears, Kabuki creates a series of beautiful and surreal images that continually flow and morph in and out of one another. It’s funny, bizarre, and refreshingly honest and informative.
Once There was a Sea
Director: Joanna Kozuch
Countries: Slovakia, Poland
Qualified: Main Prize – Anifilm
Fascinating, haunting, and heartbreaking, Kozuch’s short is documentary about what was once called the Aral Sea. What once gave life, love, and community has become a barren landscape. Various people share their memories and dreams of the once great body of water. Using a mix of ink, photos, and watercolor, the film offers a powerful ecological message about the severe consequences of thoughtless and selfish human actions.
Luce and the Rock
Director: Britt Raes
Countries: France, Belgium, The Netherlands
This short turns on a young girl who lives in a happy village that is accidentally destroyed by a rock creature. Luce seeks out the rock and comes to understand more about him and his way of being. Beautifully designed with a mix of blues, reds, and yellows, Raes constructs a timeless and gentle tale about tolerance, compassion, and understanding, a welcome message in a world dominated by division and hate.
Granny’s Sex Life
Director: Urška Djukić, Émilie Pigeard
Countries: Slovenia, France
Qualified: International Grand Prix – Tampere Film Festival
A unique and emotionally gut-punching documentary that combines live action, archival footage, and intentionally crude drawings to breath forward complex and somewhat shocking memories of the harsh sexual realities of being a woman in early 20th century Slovenia.
Director: Marie Larrivé
Qualified: Grand Prix – Uppsala International Short Film Festival
Dino and his teenage daughter go to southern Italy to take a DNA test. The police have found the remains of a man who might very well be Dino’s father who disappeared decades earlier. Using a bold mix of colors and painterly style that creates a sometimes chilling and dreamy atmosphere, Black Sun is a suspenseful and emotional tale about a natural disaster, hidden secrets, and an unexpected and hopeful new road for a father lost in a painful past, and a daughter seeking connection.
Director: Andrzej Jobczyk
Qualified: Best Short – Short Shorts Film Festival
A fighter pilot, distracted by a mosquito just as he is about to shoot down an enemy fighter, ends up crash landing in a tree branch. In the wake of tragedy, this minimalist and beautifully designed work sprinkled with warm colors, takes an unexpected turn with a surreal, sensual, and soothing story of rebirth and hope.
Director:, Georges Schwizgebel
Qualified: Grand Prize – Hiroshima Animation Seasons/ BAFTA (Best Short Animation)
That one of animation’s masters has never been nominated for an Oscar is a bit surprising. Schwizgebel’s work is consistently beautiful and well crafted. His latest film, Darwin’s Notebook, is about Charles Darwin’s encounter with three natives onboard a ship, and learns of their experiences being kidnapped. The film has been well received, but one wonders if a white man telling another white man’s story – however compassionately – about indigenous experiences will go over well with North Americans, especially with other powerful works by indigenous filmmakers also in contention this year.