Apart from the screenings themselves, the Short Film and Animation Festival Encounters also offered the opportunity for press delegates to watch all the films in competition, as well as all the festival submissions, in a Digital Library at the festival and then from their own homes, through a secured online portal. I don’t know how many other film festivals use this system, but I encountered it for the first time and found it to be an excellent idea, since normally, at a film festival that goes on for various days in various different locations, there’s never enough time to see everything you’d want to see, and you’re always left wondering whether the screening you missed would have been more interesting.
It’s true though that I don’t benefit from unlimited time even at home, so I wasn’t able to watch all the 2000 submissions, but I did watch all the animations that made it into the festival, and I am currently able to recommend a few for you to seek in other festivals or when they make their way online.
An uplifting film
Fear of Flying by Conor Finnegan is the story of a small bird who is afraid to fly, which proves to be an obstacle to his plans of migrating South. It’s an adorable film in primary colours, with cute fluffy puppets you feel like cuddling. The technique used here is more unusual: though it appears to be stop-motion, it was in fact shot live-action and retouched digitally. Fear of Flying received a Special Mention and the award of the Children’s Jury at Encounters (the only occasion where the preferences of the jury matched mine in any way), and director Conor Finnegan has already released it online, so you can watch it for yourself:
Overall, I could say that I enjoyed the Children’s Jury films the most, though I don’t know what that says about me. For a more educational children’s short, I also recommend Macropolis by Joel Simon, the story of two disabled toys who become friends and manage to overcome their disabilities.
A film for melancholy meditation:
In The Gravedigger’s Tale (Min Young Oh), a lonely young woman (whose stand-in is an unusually expressive puppet) works as a gravedigger (as you may have guessed) at the edge of a forest. Her only companion is a mysterious violinist, until one day, when the body designated for burial turns out to be a still-living, though seriously ill, handsome young man. Despite the somewhat sinister title, we are dealing with a romantic story- in fact, if I think about it, I’m sure I’ve seen a similar premise in at least one feature film with real actors. I don’t know enough about the film to be able to tell if the Korean director used a story from her culture as an inspiration, but there is definitely a fable-like atmosphere about the whole thing.
A film to scare and disgust you:
Because I know that some people enjoy that as well! And we must not underestimate the capacity of animated films to fulfill such tasks. La Ravadeuse, by Frenchman Simon Filliot, begins with a pregnant puppet performing a cesarean section on herself with a pair of scissors, and things only go worse from here. A visceral reaction is guaranteed, whether you consider that a good or a bad thing, it’s up to you.
A film to make you wonder „What did I just see?”
There were plenty of films who would match this description in the Encounters competition, some very abstract, others very surreal. Maybe it’s a weakness in my capacity to appreciate art, but I am definitely a fan of the classic narrative formula (or at least of narrative formulas of any kind) and less of watching 2-3 lines and spots changing shapes in a repeated pattern, so I will recommend a film with a fluid, naive-looking style, strange enough to qualify for a head scratch, but still displaying a germ of a logical story: Collectors, by Marcel Hobi. Collectors who collect all sort of things, and, eventually, when everything else is gone, are reduced to collecting each other.=
A music video
Fight for Everyone, directed by Persistent Peril for The Leisure Society band, seemed like a good choice for our troubled times in which people (especially in Romania) have begun to awaken to a civic conscience and an interest for ecology (and so on). So here is a music video with an elegant, minimalist graphic style, like an infographic, telling us about a small humanoid species who wrecks all the beauties that a giant (Divine?) hand put in its path, all set to a jolly tune:
The grand prize of the animated section at Encounters was won by „In the Air is Christopher Gray” (Felix Massie), a very dry and dark comedy with a very North-American vibe (although the author seems to be British), which I didn’t like at all, but maybe that’s why I’m not part of the jury of any festival!