One day at The Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival (VIDEO)

Festivalul de Scurtmetraj EncountersI may have mentioned this before (oh, who am I kidding, I’ve said it many times), but I like Bristol quite a lot, so I was very happy to have an excuse to travel there again: The Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival, which I visited on a day trip to get a taste of event. (Thankfully, the organisers also offered press delegates the option to watch all the submitted films online through a secure portal- but about this, another time). The 2013 edition took place between 17 and 22 September; all the live action screenings were hosted at Watershed, while the animated ones could be found at the Arnolfini, where my interests lied for the entire day on Friday the 20th.
Ani 7-Transitions

I got to the Arnolfini just in time for the screening of the seventh slot of competition shorts, gathered under the title „Transitions”, which was somewhat of a common theme. The stand-out piece of this selection was „Devil in The Room” , by Carla MacKinnon (Royal College of Art, UK), a documentary on the phenomenon of sleep paralysis that was also genuinely creepy and could therefore work just as well as a horror film. The audience seemed to agree, as MacKinnon got the most attention in the Q&A after the screening. She revealed that she got the idea from her own experiences with sleep paralysis, some of which she had recreated in the film, and that she was planning to develop this project into an hour-long feature. MacKinnon’s film mixes various techniques, including live-action footage and stop-motion puppetry, and it is quite well-researched as well as unsettling (after an expert explains the origins of the phenomenon, and that its hallucinatory aspects are „not real”, a demonic voice follows teasingly: „But it feels real to you. That’s what matters, right?”). As a fellow sleep paralysis sufferer, I don’t plan to watch it again too soon, but it was definitely worth the first watch.


the river s lazy flow

Other shorts I can remember without looking at the program: Harald (Moritz Schneider), a very simple, and frankly, kind of kitsch story of a gentle giant who is pushed into wrestling by his abusive, overly ambitious mother; „The River’s Lazy Flow” (Joel Vaudreuil), which could have been a trailer for a Sundance feature, sporting a deadpan, North-American indie movie-style of humor, „The Kiosk” by Anete Melece, a funny, feel-good little film telling the story of a kind overweight woman who gets stuck in her newspaper kiosk and becomes unable to leave it.

un enfant commode

Anete was also present at the Q&A and she mentioned as a starting point for the film her own sense of feeling „stuck” in her work, which took a more literal turn here. I’m not generally comfortable with fat jokes as a premise, but Anete’s protagonist is also sympathetic and well-rounded as a character. In tone with the newspaper kiosk-centered plot, the look of the film brought to mind paper collages. „Un enfant commode” by Cedric Louis was basically a Tim Burton story, from the plot to the art style, and it would have fitted quite well as a poem in Burton’s book „The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy” (Louis himself, present at the screening, mentioned Tim Burton as an influence). A few of the other films revolved around the world of forest wildlife, out of which I favoured most „Winter Has Come” (Vasilii Shlychkov), an old-fashioned Russian animation with a beautiful handmade look of fabric textures.

gipfel gig

The most high profile name in this batch and probably in the entire competition was Swiss master Georges Schwizgebel. His entry, „Along the way”, an ode to walking and French philosopher Rousseau, displayed his usual experimental, painterly style, but I didn’t find it very remarkable, perhaps because I’m not generally a fan of his work, which I appreciate from an artistic and technical point of view but I’m never able to genuinely enjoy.

The Chalet Show
Speaking of Swiss animators: as Switzerland was the festival’s guest country, later in the day I decided to attend „The Chalet Show”,a showcase of Swiss animated shorts whose stated purpose was to familiarize the audience with the diversity of Switzerland’s animation and its young talents- Schwizgebel was therefore not included on this occasion. Many of the films played upon stereotypes of Switzerland, including mountains, cabins in the woods and forest animals of all kinds, and explored the blurred lines between wilderness and civilisation. In the opening short, „Gipfel-Gig” by Lukas Egger, a band of musicians took revenge on the unpleasant manager of a mountain resort with the aid of a giant cow; In „Animal Kingdom” (Nils Hedinger), a fox decided to return to animal behaviour and abandon its civilised, tv-watching, beer-sipping mates, Raccoon and Bear; „The Bear’s Hand” by Marina Rousset was a depressing tale of friendship involving a kind bear and a cowardly young man.

Although some of the films included were very serious in tone and subject matter, from Alzheimer’s disease to personal loss, my preferences leaned towards the playful and/or uplifting. „Flowerpots” by Rafael Sommerhalder is simple and clever, the kind of film that will please those who are looking to be entertained as well as those who are looking to admire the more artistic side of things.

Signalis” (Adrian Fluckinger) is the lovely and funny story of a weasel who lives and works inside a traffic light, which is quite a difficult job, believe it or not. I also enjoyed the sense of grotesque in the visuals of „Cable Car” (Claudius Gentinetta, Frank Braun), where an old man traveling in (obviously) a cable car is forced by circumstances to patch up his damaged vehicle with adhesive tape; and having been around a lot of creative types, I laughed hysterically at „De Roni” (Andrea Schneider), the portrait of a hip, cool graphic designer who also happens to be a skunk.

de roni

There was, however, something for everyone in the mix, as well as experimentation with techniques, from paint on glass to paper dolls and wooden puppets. Since some of these films are a few years old and have already been posted online by their creators, I would definitely suggest looking them up and watching them with a box of chocolates aside, to better get into the Swiss mood.