I try to visit the Encounters Film Festival in Bristol (24-29 September 2019) every year, not just for the films but also for its friendly vibe. This year, I caught about half of the Animation Competition of the festival, here are some of my favourites from what I’ve seen:
Creepy Pasta Salad (directed by Lauren Orme)
What’s it about: A ghost, a hypochondriac woman and a doomsday prophet witch spend a Halloween day full of surprises.
The world of „Creepy Pasta Salad” is a familiar one: there are call centers, office gossip, bills to pay, ads trying to sell you vitamins for eternal life, weird people at the street corner holding placards that predict the end of the world. Even ghosts and other spooky creatures blend into the mundane, seemingly having to play by the same rules of a somewhat dull modern capitalist society, dealing with the same existential questions and anxieties as all of us- except sometimes there is this one day where something different happens, and your expectations are turned on their head. There’s something strangely satisfying and gentle about this film.
Strong Independent Space (directed by Damian Krakowiak)
What’s it about: A husband and wife try to cope with the distance between them.
The visual style here is very simple -black and white images that look like children’s pencil drawings-, but it’s exactly what the effective, tender script needs, and it does pack an emotional punch. A man longs to be with the woman he loves, who is far away from him- perhaps in outer space, perhaps in a different dimension, perhaps she is dead. Nevertheless, she tries to reach him, again and again.
The Origin of Man (directed by Pjotr Sapegin)
What’s it about: The saga of our ancestors, a green, whistling alien species from a cube-shaped planet.
„Who are we? Where do we come from?” asks a narrator at the beginning of this stop-motion short. „Oh, dear, here we go- this is going to be my least favourite kind of film, very faux- philosophical and boring”, I thought to myself, but I should’ve had more faith. In fact, „The Origin of Man” is very entertaining, absolutely hilarious and finds humour in everything from set and character design to sound effects. Its origin tale for humanity is a bit Star Trek-like in its silliness, although that’s not a problem for me, I love Star Trek. And it is true that human beings are in the habit of always searching for something they can’t seem to remember in the first place; perhaps the right answer is that we are all a species of immigrants?
Mind My Mind (directed by Floor Adams)
What’s it about: A young man whose brain is wired a bit differently attempts to navigate the mysteries of flirting and dating.
The public discourse around autism remains, unfortunately, one full of ignorance, stereotyping and often straight-up malice (just take a look at some of the bigoted comments people throw at teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, who is outspoken about being on the autism spectrum). This lovely, empathetic film has a lot of educational value, as it explains the workings of its protagonist’s mind and his reliance on pre-established scripts for social situations, but it never becomes didactic or self-important; on the contrary, it’s very funny, relatable and smartly written. In the end, the story is a universal one: you know you’ve met the right person for you when you’re comfortable being yourself around them, dropping all masks and performances. Being loved is being accepted, and that’s hard to find- for all of us.
Five Minutes To Sea (directed by Natalia Mirzoyan)
What’s it about: At the beach, a little girl can hardly wait to be allowed to go swimming again.
To me, memories of being at the beach as a child are not so much stories as a collection of sensory reminiscences: hot sand, colourful bathing suits, the sound of the waves, the intense brightness of the light. Natalia Mirzoyan’s animation is a mood piece. Beautiful, painterly images transport you to the beach but also back into childhood, when time flowed differently.