Less is More: Animated Shorts at SFIFF56

The distinction between “form” and content” is not useful in this category. Which came first? Which informs what? Which is the story or the design? And indeed in several shorts (“The Deep End,” “Model Starship”) there isn’t a story – the form is the story. Narrative pleasure is disrupted.

I will set aside for a moment the technical prowess and visual language that this diverse group of films displays – I could write essays on the merits of each one. I will note, however, the number of formal styles, artists, genres, and other arts which they evoked: Edvard Munch (“Kali, Le Petit Vampire”), post-war animation (“Eyes on the Stars”), Dadaism (“Lumerence”), and Japanese anime (“Ceux D’en Haut”).

What these short animated films can do better than live-action features is to present a fully-realized gem of an idea, feeling, or a story in ten minutes or less. It is powerful. It is astonishing how much can be conveyed, like a well-crafted poem. In “The Event,” the daily routines of domesticity and love is a narrative which runs in one direction; a literal apocalypse (a meteor strike) is a narrative which runs exactly in the opposite direction, killing the other. In “Tram,” the giddy, humorous side of unexpressed sexual desire is expressed in lurid uses of color: peacock blue and hot pink. In “Lumerence” (a film I did not enjoy but greatly admired), the filmmaker presents a new view of the creation myth and blurs the the line between the terrestrial and the heavenly. In “Eyes on the Stars,” the personal is political – succinctly.

These animated shorts both look forward and honor tradition. The formal, narrative, and stylistic innovations give us a preview of what’s to come in film. The brevity and playfulness of the format recalls the short films and features played in movie houses at the dawn of the cinema age. We are reminded of where film has come from and see where it’s going.

Bite of the Tail (Song E. Kim, USA/South Korea, 2012, 9 min) In competition.
Ceux D’En Haut. (Izu Troin, France/Belgium/Switzerland, 2012, 25 min) In competition.
The Deep End (Jake Fried, USA, 2012, 1 min) In competition.
The Event (Julia Pott, USA/UK, 2012, 4 min) In competition.
Eyes on the Stars (for Story Corps, Mike Rauch, Tim Rauch, USA, 2012, 4 min) In competition.
Kali, Le Petit Vampire (Regina Pessoa, Canada/France, 2012, 10 min) In competition.
Lumerence (Miwa Matreyek, USA, 2012, 5 min) In competition.
Model Starship (Max Hattler, England, 2012, 1 min).
Ruckus Juice (Jennifer Deutrom, USA, 2012, 3 min).
Social Satan (Sculpture, Reuben Sutherland, England, 2012, 4 min).
Tram (Michaela Pavlçtovç, France, 2012, 7 min) In competition.