UK Film Festival 2013: Animation and Student Shorts

Thursday at the Aubin Cinema saw the animation and student shorts categories of the 2013 UK Film Festival, with a packed audience which numbered some of the film’s directors.

First of the animations was a British film by Robert Grieves ‘Sausages’, a wry look at the cut-throat world of capitalist consumerism. Grieves’ accomplished eight minute piece nods to the ‘cartoon modern’ style of graphic animation popular in the 1940s and ‘50s.

Next up was ‘The Ballad of Julio’, a 3D animation about a starving man who eats a tin of musical Mexican beans which then repeat on him. Created by five British graduates from the University of Hertfordshire, its ghoulish horror provides the animation’s humour and depth.

The third British film, ‘A City on Fire’ tackles the 2011 London riots. Michelle Tsen’s four minute animation is beautifully rendered through cut-out animation. However, her decision to use one resident’s audio diary as the narrative drastically narrows the sight of this piece. The result is a simplistic, deeply unsatisfactory depiction of a complex issue. None of the underlying factors that precipitated the riots – poverty, racist stop and search policies, the systematic demonisation of Britain’s youth – are tackled. That said, Tsen’s work expertly evokes the resident’s sense of fear and vulnerability.

In contrast, ‘Chicken or the Egg’ an American contribution by Christine Kim and Elaine Wu is a charming, fast-paced animation about the things we give up for love. A pig falls for a chicken and is forced to renounce his egg-eating addiction. The animation is self-aware and clever. Great fun.

Nir Yaniv’s ‘Liftoff’ was the final selection. An Israeli writer and musician, Yaniv’s touching, hand-illustrated piece of a man’s journey to the moon suggests the power of imagination and creativity over adversity.

Student Shorts International
Five films have been selected for the Student Shorts International Films, from Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Iran and Britain.

Polish director Piotr Ryczko’s haunting film ‘Potwor’ (Monster) is the culmination of five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz. Described as a ‘story about orphan child Peter and his journey to find self acceptance’, the film – deeply allegorical, like a Grimm’s fairytale – is shot in black and white with a spare, brutal yet dreamlike quality, reminiscent of Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Ivan’s Childhood’ or Bill Douglas’s trilogy ‘My childhood’. Like the director’s earlier film, ‘Below the Silence,’ ‘Potwor’ dips in and out of dream-like or delusional states. A powerful, disturbing piece of cinema.

‘Karoake’, a short by Czech director Ondrej Hudecek promised to be an irreverent critique on Czech society, using physical theatre and ‘Trigger Happy TV’ set ups. (The film’s teaser shows a nurse preparing an amputee to beg in the metro.) However, because of a technical problem and despite repeated attempts by the projectionist, we only got about two minutes of his film. So, that was a pity.

‘Brueder’ by Daniel Rubesam by contrast is a very different affair. A condensed, non-linear narrative drives the pace and the tension of this action film, but it falls down on psychological depth. Nonetheless, it is a slick film, with some great aerial panning shots.

The weakest in this section was the British entry ‘The Journey’ by Robert Ashton. Its heart is completely in the right place, but this heavy-handed attempt to address racist stereotyping of Muslims lacks the subtlety and complexity needed to do justice to such an important issue.

‘Hanooz’ (Still), an Iranian-US entry, is written, directed and produced by Sogol Rezvani. Her film is a delicate meditation on regret, told from the viewpoint of Amin, a middle-aged man who has a chance encounter with his first love, Parto, on a trip to Tehran. Both characters are now married with children. The couple reminisce and discuss their lives candidly. The film is edited by US-based Anahita Ghazvinizadeh, a regular collaborator with Rezvani, whose time at a workshop with Kiarostami (Iran’s most influential film-maker) shows in the film’s gentle pace. Rezvani subtly reveals the particular impact of family life on women: Parto is creatively unfulfilled (now unable to write or paint), her energies given over to children, whilst for Amin, despite his baldness and pot belly, life with his ‘good housewife’ is very comfortable. The performances are beautifully understated and a haunting soundtrack underline’s the film’s poignancy.

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