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Animated Shorts Long on Talent in Oscar Race

It would be difficult to find five films more diverse in technique approach and subject matter than this year’s nominees for
animated short film.

Dcera (Daughter)
Daria Kashcheeva
In creating her student film “Dcera” at FAMU in Prague, Kashcheeva was interested in telling a story about how childhood events shape adult relationships. Her stop-motion techniques collided hard with an interest in hand-held cinematography. Studying frame-by-frame the cinematography on Lars von Trier’s “Breaking the Waves,” Kashcheeva created an unusual rapid pace and style for this stop-motion film about a woman remembering aspects of her life with her dying father. It earned two awards when it premiered last summer at Annecy. “When the puppet moved somewhere, I consciously delayed the camera movement,” she says. “I wanted to make a feeling that there is a real cinematographer, who doesn’t know what is going to happen next and who just experienced this situation in real time and followed the situation with his camera.” “Dcera” will be screening on Feb. 7 at the Animation First Festival at the French Institute Alliance Française in New York.

Hair Love
Matthew A. Cherry and
Karen Rupert Toliver
Cherry says he’s been drawn to animation recently by its broad appeal and the chance to present to that audience a story featuring a strong black family in this tale of a young girl who needs her dad’s help to style her hair the way she wants it. “I know how powerful filmmaking can be and the idea of a young girl being able to see herself, love her natural hair and, her mom had natural hair and her dad had natural hair, and it just really felt like we could change some conversations,” he says. “So animation just felt like it made sense.”

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Kitbull
Rosana Sullivan and Kathryn Hendrickson
Pixar animator Sullivan developed this short as a side project that began as a way for her to draw kittens and evolved into a more personal project about learning to connect with others. It was picked up by the studio as one of its SparkShorts. “Kitbull,” a rare 2D project from Pixar, is about a kitten who befriends an abused pitbull and then helps him escape to find a forever family. Sullivan says choice was aesthetic as well as practical. “I wanted to capture that unpredictable nature of the kitten through the unpredictable nature of drawing,” she says. “The practical side of it is that I thought I was going to be doing most of the animation … so 2D was just more accessible for me.”
Mémorable
Bruno Collet and Jean-François Le Corre
The title is apt for Collet’s film about a painter with dementia who struggles to make sense of a world that appears to be disintegrating around him. Created in stop-motion with a style that evokes the beauty and grotesqueries of Van Gogh, Collet is inspired by the work of artist William Utermohlen, who painted portraits of himself as his Alzheimer’s symptoms developed. The film won the top Cristal Award for shorts and two more honors at last year’s Annecy fest. “Being a former fine arts graduate myself, I decided that my main character would be a painter. My idea was that the memory of the works of art that he loved so much during his youth is still intact and that these artistic references rise to the surface when everyday life fades,” Collet says. “Mémorable” will be screening on Feb. 7 at New York’s Animation First Festival as part of the Best Annecy Shorts program at the French Institute Alliance Française.

Sister
Siqi Song
Song’s CalArts graduation film has its origins in her childhood in China, using wool creations to tell the story of a man who joyfully remembers growing up with a sister; the film then reveals the true story of his family’s history under China’s former one-child policy. Song says for her the film is less about the policy, which has been reversed in recent years, and more about the sibling relationship, and she thinks that is what is resonating with audiences. “It was kind of like a privilege to be able to grow up with a sibling,” she says. “Not a lot of people I know had the opportunity to do so.”

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