Leeds Film Festival – World Animation Competition 1 (Part 1)

We’re spoiled for choice for shorts at this year’s Leeds Film Festival with 3 different strands comprising Short Film City; World animated, World live action and UK/Yorkshire. The first batch of the animated shorts is a certainly mixed bunch, ranging from the nightmarishly surreal to slapstick hilarious. Here I’m going to talk about the first six shorts of the first screening.

Birdboy

Birdboy follows the story of the eponymous misfit lost in his fantasies set against the backdrop of a town turned upside down following an explosion at the local industrial plant. The acid rain from the fallout destroyed the fish, trees and most importantly the birds who were Birdboy’s only friends. He  pines for Dinky, a local girl who unlike all the other children, don’t seem scared by him despite the almost vampiric qualities imbued upon him by the towns’ whispers. Birdboy is a quirky love story with some unexplained oddities, such as the dog in the gimp mask, which uses colour very effectively to reflect emotion and mood (his trip on drugs is one of the most effective representations I’ve seen). Some of the animation and Orwellian imagery, especially the early factory sequence, is very reminiscent of that in the Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl, but completely holds its own in terms of story and contains the most upsetting songbird mercy killing scene you’ll ever see.

A Morning Stoll

The film festival showed us this film in full back at the opening gala as part of Light Night during the trailer reel. We see a chicken repeadetly stroll down the same street 3 times: in 1959, 2009 & 2059 with the chicken and civilisation shift from simple stick figure drawings to 3D animations as time progresses. Over the hundred years we go from early industrialisation to the zombie apocalypse, all the while focussing on the chicken’s morning stroll. A seemingly bizarre tale, the synopsis really doesn’t to A Morning Stroll justice as an often funny and always charming short. Here is the trailer:

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Notes on Biology

A fun short, Notes on Biology, plunges us into a bird’s eye view of a high school biology lesson and the doodlings of a distracted student. His sketches are animated into a flip-book style story on the adventures of a robotically enhanced elephant. A great concept (the flipbook, not the elephant) that is technically impressive with the notebook’s backdrop being populated by a seemingly infinite set of notes and scribbles.

Something Left, Something Taken

Based on the premise and the teachings of the short’s forensic scientist – “Everyone who enters a crime scene leaves something behind and takes something away”, Something Left, Something Taken most interesting aspect is the pseudo-posthumous narrative. Being convinced their murder is imminent; the protagonists plan the leaving behind of forensic evidence and explain their reasoning for doing so through the post-mortem examination. Their corpses, artists’ reconstructions and skeletons all respectively explain the logic behind certain decisions in the run up to the supposed death. Something Left, Something Taken is worth seeing just for this equally morbid and fascinating pragmatism-exemplified thought process.

Mein Lieber Swan

A gloomy tale of a man obsessed with a dead ballet dancer, Mein Lieber Swan was void of emotion or interest and left me as cold as his beloved swan.

Arts & Crafts Spectacular

With a running time of approximately 1 minute, Arts & Crafts Spectacular is a deeply strange but wonderfully hilarious whiz through a pair of elderly gentlemen’s first ever visit to the countryside. I won’t give away any plot (mostly because at 1 minute there isn’t much to give away) as I urge you to seek out this short for a guaranteed laugh out loud moment.

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