Your Comprehensive Guide to the Animated Shorts at SundanceClaude Harrington 01.19.2016
Later this week, the 2016 Sundance Film Festival kicks off in Park City, Utah. Although Sundance is best known for launching live-action independent films like Clerks, Reservoir Dogs and Whiplash, it’s also been a prominent hub for excellent (and often avant-garde) animated films. This year, Sundance will celebrate 12 animated shorts as part of their Animation Spotlight program. The collection of animated shorts has a runtime of 93 minutes and will screen together four times during the festival:
- 12:00 PM on Saturday, January 23 at the Temple Theatre
- 12:00 PM on Sunday, January 24 at the Redstone Cinema 7
- 3:00 PM on Tuesday, January 26 at the Broadway Centre Cinema 6
- 8:30 PM on Saturday, January 30 at the Holiday Village Cinema 1
With the first screening now only days away, let’s get better acquainted with these year’s animated shorts:
Bob Dylan Hates Me
Although Caveh Zahedi–the director of Bob Dylan Hates Me–is perhaps the most well known filmmaker on this list, he’s also perhaps the most surprising in this category. With the exception of a 2008 animated short called The Unmaking of I Am Sex Addict, Zahedi is relatively new to animation. Since graduating from UCLA Film School in the early 90s, he has focused almost exclusively on live-action filmmaking; both as an actor and a director. Best known for The Sheik and I (2012), Zahedi has captured audiences with his personal, diary-like filmmaking style. All of which will likely to be on display in Bob Dylan Hates Me, a story that chronicles the director’s experience of meeting his idol.
A Coat Made Dark
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Directed by Irish filmmaker Jack O’Shea (and funded by the Irish Film Board), A Coat Made Dark is a uniquely stylized animated short that draws heavy influence from film noir. It begins with two thieves who strike it rich after stealing a mysterious coat (with pockets containing an impossible fortune) and leads to a darkly comic tale which an anthropomorphized dog named midnight, and his human servant Peter struggle for power…all as a result of that mysterious coat.
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Kangmin Kim, the director of Deer Flower, holds an MFA in “Experimental Animation” from the California Institute of the Arts and is currently a director for Nonetheless Productions. With a penchant for crafting hand designed media, Deer Flower serves as a showcase to highlight Kim’s stop motion animation skills. In his short, an elementary school student named Dujung goes to a farm in the suburbs with his parents. While his parents believe the expensive and rare specialty from the farm will strengthen their son’s body, Dujung suffers side effects.
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Edmond began as director Nina Gantz’s graduation film at the UK’s National Film and Television School. Now nominated for a BAFTA Award, her film traces the thoughts, feelings and emotions of Edmond as he stands by a lake and reflects on the defining moments of his life. While doing so, and contemplating his options going forward, Edmond begins to wonder if his impulse to love might actually be too strong.
Two years ago, Bernardo Britto’s animated short Yearbook won the Sundance Shot Film Jury Prize. Now he’s back at Sundance with not one, but a couple new films. Glove, which he co-directed with Alexa Haas–is described as “the true story of a glove that’s been floating in space since 1968”– is one of the two. The other is a live-action feature called Jacqueline Argentine, which chronicles the experiences of a “25-year-old French Edward Snowden-type” who takes refuge in Argentina after leaking government secrets. The film stars Camille Rutherford, Wyatt Cenac and Richard Kind.
The Grandfather Drum
Before Canadian director Michelle Derosier was ever born, the drum played a critical role in her life. “My great-grandfather was a healer,” Derosier explains on her website. “Much like the ‘character’ in the story being presented. He was gifted with a Grandfather Drum to help others.” That background serves as the inspiration for The Grandfather Drum, which follows the story of Naamowin’s drum, a drum revered for it’s healing powers by the Anishinabek of the upper Berens River. Upon the death of his grandson, Naamowin builds a healing drum given to him in a dream that can restore life. However, Christianity and government have other plans that disrupt the delicate balance between the sky-world and the underworld.
Of all the animated shorts at Sundance, The Itching holds the unique distinction of being the only one that began on (and was funded through) Kickstarter. Back in 2011, 88 backers helped filmmakers Dianne Bellino and Adam Davies raise $4,316 for what was described as “a short claymation about a wolf’s attempt to confront her neurotic obsessions. A joyful and creepy adult fairy-tale.” A year later, the project was awarded an Individual Artist Grant from the New York State Council, helping Bellino and Davies realize their ambition and tell the story a shy wolf who to connect with a group of hip, party-loving bunnies only to find out her body is in revolt.
In Life Smartphone, animator Xie Chenglin, a student at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in China, cleverly satirizes our universal obsession with smartphones. Although there is no dialogue in the animated short, her lovingly hand-drawn characters (who resemble thumbs) communicate a very entertaining and eloquent tale for our times.
Limbo Limbo Travel
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In some ways, Limbo Limbo Travel begins as almost a spiritual sequel to Life Smartphone. Set in “a country where men seem more interested in their electronic gadgets than their peers, a group of lonely and disillusioned women take the Limbo Limbo bus.” From there, however, the animated short–directed by Hungarian filmmakers Zsuzsanna Kreif and Borbála Zétényi–takes an unusual and entertaining turn. The women land on an island, occupied by a tribe of men with moustaches, and their primitive instincts are awakened. Without worrying about the rules of civilized society, they start hunting deadly prey: males.
Pombo Loves You
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Pombo Loves You is directed by Steve Warne, a London-based stop-motion animator who has previously worked on some bigger budgets films like Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. In Warne’s delicately crafted animated short, a distant father is forced to confront a heroic but troubled past life as ’80s TV character Pombo.
Back in 2000, filmmaker Spencer Susser received an incredible opportunity: to direct the official behind-the-scenes documentary for George Lucas’s Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Since then he has primarily been directing music videos (for artists like Lana Del Rey and The Offspring), but a couple of years ago teamed up with Daniel Cloud Campos to make an animated short. In Shiny, the duo provides a unique take on a damsel in distress story.
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Having just won the top prize at the Cannes film Festival–the Palm D’Or in the short film category–Waves ’98 is perhaps the most anticipated animated short at Sundance. Directed by Ely Dager, Waves ’98 chronicles the tender tale of young boy named Omar. Disillusioned with life in the suburbs of segregated Beirut, Omar unexpectedly witnesses something strange and beautiful. A sort of intense beaming light, shining through the grayness of the city’s landscape, that lures him to venture into the depth of the city. This giant discovery leads him to explore and immerse himself in a world he never knew existed.
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