Each year, Variety staff pick 10 short films screening at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, either from competition or from the event’s multiple prestigious sidebars, which attendees should take care not to miss.
This year, with the entirety of the short film competition on the festival’s digital platform, animation fans from almost anywhere in the world can count themselves among attendees for the cost of a €15 ($16.87) accreditation.
France is, predictably, well represented on this year’s list and in competition in general. Canada came in big this year with “The Physics of Sorrow” and “I, Barnabé,” both backed by public broadcaster Office National du Film du Canada (ONF), as did Spain – “Homeless Home” and “Carne.”
This year’s list skews older than previous selections, although some family friendly content did make the cut: DreamWorks’ “To: Gerard” and Dandelooo’s “Shooom’s Odyssey,” mirroring the competition selection. Another quantifiable change can be seen in the average length of the shorts, which has consistently increased over recent editions.
Below, Variety’s 10 shorts not to miss at 2020’s Online Annecy International Animation Film Festival.
“Carne,” (Camila Kater, Abano Produciónes, Doctela, Brazil, Spain)
Camila Kater’s debut short is a fresh, unprejudiced reflection on femininity through successive stages of life. A resourceful documentary, “Carne” mixes diverse techniques such as paint, watercolor, stop motion, 35mm film and virtual imagery decomposition to obtain a harmonious, vindicating ensemble narrated by five women from childhood to old age, from around the world. Produced by Spain’s Abano and Brazil’s Doctela, it premiered last year at Locarno, earning a special mention. Multiple further awards followed.
“Empty Places” (Geoffroy de Crécy, Autour de Minuit, France)
A short, set to Debussy’s “Clair de lune,” fruit of De Crecy’s years-old fascination with mundane machines and brief animation loops, and a vision of chic urbane scenes – a lift door opening, closing; a tennis court cannon still firing balls – a few minutes after humankind’s disappeared. Hypnotic and profoundly sad. “The graphic translation of the confinement, though [made] prior pandemic. This guy’s a time-traveller,” says Annecy Festival director Marcel Jean.
“Homeless Home” (Alberto Vázquez, Autour de Minuit, Uniko, France, Spain)
Set in Spain’s Galicia, a brooding short that melds a heady mix of fantasy genre – the cast’s a necromancer, a skeleton, a young witch, an ogre and a ghost mother and child – casual, modern-day dialog and a horror at blood lust and cruelty, as a soldier boy returns from the wars to his beak-nosed young witch lover. Directed by Spain’s Alberto Vázquez, famed for GKids pick-up “Bird Boy.”
“I, Barnabé,” (Jean-François Lévesque, ONF, Canada)
Second short from Quebec-born Jean-François Lévesque (“The Necktie”), “I, Barnabé” tackles an uncommon issue in animation: Faith, turning on the existential crisis of a village priest battling alcoholism who receives a visit from an enigmatic rooster which pushes him to reevaluate his life. Stop-motion animation emphasizes the character’s primary traits and provides a touch of humor, contrasting solemn themes. The versatile expressivity of Barnabé is achieved with internal mechanisms for changing facial expressions with a set of Allen keys.
“Murder in the Cathedral,” (Matija Pisacic, Tvrtko Raspolic, Kinematograf, Croatia, Serbia)
Main character Gloria takes her name and profession from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” stories. Although she shares a vocation and the celebrity status of Holmes, unlike the fictional investigator, Scott manages to get every detail wrong with little help from her “Watson,” sidekick Mary Lambert. Loaded with slapstick violence and bloody pratfalls, the short is adult-only. Production started in 2009, taking almost a year for each minute of the short.
“The Passerby,” (Pieter Coudyzer, S.O.I.L., Belgium)
Pieter Coudyzer’s (“Beast”) third feature stands out as one of the competition’s saddest entries, featuring a few moments which change the lives of two children forever. Images are hand-painted with acrylic and water paints and then scanned and digitally processed. It took two years to complete. The resulting effect, however, appears a charcoal, watercolor and painting sfumato. Coudyzer explains he wanted to tell a story that couldn’t be expressed in any other art form.
“The Physics of Sorrow,” (Theodore Ushev, ONF, Canada)
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Theodore Ushev – 2017 animated short “Blind Vaysha” – authors one of the most anticipated entries in this year’s competition, having already wowed at Toronto and Clermont Ferrand. Animated entirely using encaustic painting, the short is a first-person account from an nameless narrator, voiced by Rossif Sutherland, tracking his life from his first kiss at a Bulgarian fair through a military stint before arriving at a melancholic twilight in Canada.
“Shooom’s Odyssey,” (Julien Bisaro, Piccolo Pictures, Bardaf! Productions, Xilam, France)
Anyone who caught Bisaro’s “Bang, Bang!” a immersive tale of nature and a daughter’s push back on a bloody-minded father, will await his latest outing. The Dandeloo-distributed “Shoooms Odyssey” is more contained, natural enough since it’s preschool fare turning on cute owl chick Shooom – burning black eyes, orange pupils, pristine white fluffy plumage – who hatches just as a storm is tuning up in the bayou around, separating her from her mother. A winner at Prix Jeunesse and Belgium’s Anima.
“To: Gerard,” (Taylor Meacham, Dreamworks, U.S.)
The latest installment in the Jeff Hermann-led DreamWorks Animation shorts program – think “Bird Karma,” “Bilby,” “Marooned” – and a heartfelt homage by director Taylor Meacham to his father. Turning on a humdrum postal worker, who still remains dazzled by the on-stage magic he witnessed 50 years before as a child, “To: Gerard” also yokes two grand traditions: Hollywood’s focus on core human relations – here the emotional legacy a parental figure leaves to a child; and the pictorial craft of much French and select Japanese animation.
“The Town,” (Yifan Bao, Arc Anime Studio, China)
Clocking in at 27 minutes, Yifan Bao’s “The Town” is one of the selection’s longest films, but needs each minute to deliver the complicated story of a non-conformist brother and sister living in an Orwellian village where social status is determined by masks, hand crafted and surgically grafted onto the wearer’s face in a gruesome operation. Drawn in a traditional anime style, typical of the work done at Arc Anime Studio.