DIR: Various | Closing Night | 2014 | 60 min
It is true. I must admit I am not a fan of animations. My decision to go watch the only show at VAFF that was completely animation focused was immediately regretted as I sat down to watch the first short film in the series. However, by the end of the showing, I came to understand and appreciate some of the unique qualities of this genre and re-think the very clearly intensive creative process that goes into creating an animated masterpiece.
First, animation is an extremely broad term. I did not realize how broad until I watched fourteen different animation films by fourteen different directors in succession. For a film to be considered animation, it really only needs to exclude human actors. This means one could use any variety of film making: sketch a film; use crafts to build puppets and combine through stop-motion techniques; or mix still picture settings and objects with a drawn in character on the various pictures. The diversity and variety of films under the heading of ‘animation’ is mind-blowing but also quite refreshing.
Even if you cannot enjoy the story or plot of an animation, I find you can always appreciate the artwork it displays on screen.
Second, animations have the uncanny ability to have an incredibly short, simple, and sweet storyline that does not leave the audience unsatisfied. To illustrate this point, the film, Cats, is literally one minute long and displays a simple drawing of cats doing cat-like things then promptly ends. No real plot, but strangely satisfying and humorous. I definitely appreciated the knack many of the films in this series had in breaking all the rules of traditional story-telling but never leaving the story incomplete.
You can find the the film, Cats, here.
Finally, animations, as they feature no human beings at all, can feature a large variety of protagonists not limited to the homo-sapien. Why is this important? The message or idea of a film in some cases is much better projected through a protagonist if the protagonist is say, a lion, or a video game character, because without the use of words, the audience can already extrapolate a lot of information about the plot or character through just this portion of the protagonist’s identity.
In the film, Lost and Found, the main character is a lion-like animal. This lion has many freckles and through the business of a cosmopolitan life begins to lose his identity and eventually finds it again through the help of a dog. However, this idea of identity is not actually explicitly spoken about but rather implicitly shown as the lion loses his freckles and only finds them again when a dog comes panting towards him and chokes up the lion’s lost freckles, which the lion immediately proceeds to place back on his face.
Despite the strangeness of that entire situation, it is clear that the perks of creating an animation partially lie in the flexibility you have as a director to imply a lot of meaning in aspects of the film that cannot normally be changed with real life actors.
In the series of short animated films I watched at VAFF, there were definitely a few gems that made me re-think my initial distaste for the genre. The beautiful artwork, the uncanny ability to say nothing but say enough, and explain everything through just the images shown on screen is unique and worth taking the time to appreciate.