Monday, April 26, 2010

San Francisco International Film Festival 53 (SFIFF53) - The Animated Shorts Programs

The 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival screens April 22–May 6 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, the historic Castro Theatre, the Landmark Clay and the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. For tickets and information, go to or call 925-866-9559.

The San Francisco International Film Festival presented two programs focused specifically on animated shorts: "Flights of Fancy", which was directed towards young audiences (and was the more successful of the two programs) and "The High Line", which was more mature and experimental. Both programs contained a total of 18 pieces. Let's start with the FUN stuff!

Leonardo (dir. Jim Capobianco, USA 2009, 10 min) This comic and inventive short referenced da Vinci as if he had drawn it himself. It was an entertaining way to whet the appetites of the kids as to who LdV was! And it had the adults laughing too.

Joseph’s Snails (dir. Sophie Roze, France 2009, 12 min) A stop motion meditation on navel-gazing! Literally! And explored the choices in being introverted (again, literally!), shy or communicating with those around you. Using snails and spirals as a motif was a minor move of brilliance! It was ably narrated by Jim Gunn for the 'little ones' in the audience. (Hi Jim!)

Veeti and the Beanstalk (dir. Susanna Kotilainen, Finland 2009, 13 min) Stop motion and CGI/cut-outs illustrate a family's grieving after the father’s death, as "...Veeti has to save his mother and their house from an ever-growing flood of tears. A magical mixed-media fable about love, family and remembrance."

Pigeon: Impossible (dir. Lucas Martell, USA 2009, 7 min) The man knows his birds!! A bagel-crazed pigeon steals and holds hostage the high-tech briefcase of a secret agent. Nuclear detonation nearly ensues. (Maxxxxx is NOT allowed to see this! EVER!) Wonderfully animated in what is a recognizably PIXAR/Dreamworks/etc. style.

Crazy Hair Day (dir. Virginia Wilkos, USA 2009, 12 min) Produced by Weston Woods (the logo should take you back to those 16mm elementary school days!), this is sort of a typical "it's ok to be you and me" drawn animation about a boy who, due to a calendar mix-up makes, walks into school rady for Crazy Hair Day, only to find out who his real friends are.

Q&A (dirs. Mike Rauch, Tim Rauch, USA 2009, 4 min) This is an exceptional animation of a conversation between a mother and her son, who has Asperberger's Syndrome. The complete honesty and frankness in their conversation was touching and a lesson for parents and their children. The actual animation itself, is servicable, but the audio source material is breathtaking!

Cherry on the Cake (dir. Hyebin Lee, England 2009, 8 min) Though I did not pick up on the dilemma of how "it’s tough being the middle child", I did enjoy the flight of fantasy that the film took its protagonist. However, since I didn't 'get it', I would say it felt long.

The Mouse That Soared (dir. Kyle T. Bell, USA 2009, 6 min) There is some great slapstick in this hysterical little farce of a flying mouse and how he got to be that way! CGI'ed rodents and birds are ALWAYS good for a laugh!!

This final film from the 'Flights of Fancy' program, Mr. Mack’s Kitchen (dir. Mike Attie, USA 2009, 6 min), is a live action, documentary featuring "chef-turned-teacher Mr. Mack, [whose] Oakland elementary school students learn how to slice and dice, sauté and stir fry and respect and serve." Being a Food Network junkie, I loved this and the climax of who they are serving, was touching and inspirational.

As stated above, the "adult and experimental" animations were a mixed bag:

Voice on the Line (dir. Kelly Sears, USA, 8 min) The concept of the conspiratorial pleasures behind a telephone operators voices is a tempting nugget! I think Sears could have developed it either more fully, or perhaps the artistic conception of clippings from old phone services is what limited the piece from expanding. A bit frustrating as there was unexplored potential of the script, which may have been sacrificed for the visual.

Alma (dir. Rodrigo Blass, USA, 6 min) A wonderfully creepy narrative, featuring 'Alma', a young girl who is tempted into a toy store, filled with... well... I wouldn't want to give it away!! A Fabulous 6 minutes that begs to be drawn out into a feature length film!

Logorama (dirs. H5 (aka François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy et Ludovic Houplain), France, 16 min)
This year’s Oscar winner for Best Animated Short Film does not fail to deliver in its creation of a capitalized, industrialized world gone MAD!! The pacing is breathless and the satire is slammed out in machine-gun velocity! It is, in its attention to detail and pace, brilliant!

Tussilago (dir. Jonas Odell, Sweden, 14 min) An interview with a girlfriend to a terrorist/criminal is animated via rotoscope and CGI clippings, as he did with LIES (SFIFF 52). I think he has explored the limits of his technique here, and needs to move on to other source material to expand it.

Electric Literature (dir. Martha Colburn, USA, 2 min) Oh dear. A collage animation in which a poem is expanded into the visual realm. Not necessarily my cup of tea to begin with, but in context of the rest of the program, it stood out as being unusually verbose in its aesthetic.

Incident at Tower 37 (dir. Chris Perry, USA, 11 min) A surprising CGI'ed lesson in environmentalism. Its little characters were oddly sympathetic and well composed. I actually felt something for ALL of them!

Vive la Rose (dir. Bruce Alcock, Canada, 6 min) A beautifully crafted stop motion, realization of a song. Alcock's use of mise-en-scene was wonderfully subtle and the screenplay that visually unfolds underneath the lyrics of the song, was lush and deep. A truly striking piece!

Wednesday Morning TWO AM (dir. Lewis Klahr, USA, 7 min) Frankly, I can't say I remember much of this, I am sorry to say, other than the repetition of the song twice seemed to annoy me. Ah well, them's the apples! From the program notes: "One of Lewis Klahr’s series of couplets for which a classic song receives two distinct interpretations via his Lichtenstein-echoing animation."

Afterimage (dir. Kerry Laitala, USA, 13 min) Pure design and play with "synaesthetic stereoscopic chromadepth 3-D" (glasses were provided!). It's an interesting technique and I wish she would find some material in which to truly expand it with. As it is now, it is just part of a series of experiments - NOT that, that is a bad thing! Kerry Laitala was present for the Q&A (as was 'ALMA's Rodrigo Blass), who was dangerously twirling a stereoscopic toy of sometime, to the point of distraction...

Maxxxxx says re Animation: "Sweet, sweet eye juice!!"

You can contact Maxxxxx or myself here: JayCBird@AOL.COM

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