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Fresh from the Festivals: February 2001's Film Reviews

Maureen Furniss reviews short films: Daddy and I, a collective Korean student film, Hein?! by Mauricio Vidal, Renan de Moraes and Sergio Yamasaki, Au Premier Dimanche d'Ao (A Summer Night Rendez-Vous), directed by Florence Miailhe, Film S Djevojcicom (Film with a Girl), directed by Daniel Suljic and Bob Godfrey's Millenium - The Musical. Includes QuickTime movie clips!

Within the world of animation, most experimentation occurs within short format productions, whether they be high budgeted commercials, low budgeted independent shorts, or something in between. The growing number of short film festivals around the world attest to the vitality of these works, but there are few other venues for exhibition of them or even written reviews. As a result, distribution tends to be difficult and irregular. On a regular basis, Animation World Magazine will highlight some of the most interesting with short descriptive overviews.

This Month:

Daddy and I (1999), 7 min., directed by Eun-su Kim, Jye-jung Kim, You-jin Jung, Dong-jae Lee, Kyung-hwa Lee, Mi-sun Park, Song-hee Lee, Korea. Info: Song-hee Lee, 142-16 Sadang 2 dong Dongjak ku Seoul, Korea. E-mail: anilab@netian.com.

Hein?! (What?!, 1999), 2 min., directed by Mauricio Vidal, Renan de Moraes and Sergio Yamasaki, Brazil. Estúdio Conseqüéncia de Animaçao, Rua Cosmo Velho, 318 / 1006 Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22241 - 090 Brazil. Tel/Fax: 55 21 527 5510. E-mail: studio@consequencia.com. URL: www.consequencia.com.

Au Premier Dimanche d'Août (A Summer Night Rendez-Vous, 2000), 11.5 min, directed by Florence Miailhe, France. Info: Caroline Lebrun, Les Films de l'Arlequin, 23 rue Meslay 75003 Paris, France. Tel: 0033 14277 2055.

Film S Djevojcicom (Film with a Girl, 2000) 8.5 min., directed by Daniel Suljic, Croatia. Info: Goran Bkula, Zagreb Film, Vlaska 70, HR-10000 Zagreb, Croatia. Tel: 385-1-4558-417. Fax: 385-1-4557-068. E-mail: zagreb-film@zg.tel.hr.

Millenium - The Musical (1999), 24 min., directed by Bob Godfrey, England. Info: Bob Godfrey, Mikey Hayes, Bob Godfrey Films Ltd. Tel: 0207 278 5711. Fax: 0207 278 6809.

If you have the QuickTime plug-in, you can view a clip from each film by simply clicking the image.

furniss01.gifDaddy and I, directed by Eun-su Kim, Jye-jung Kim, You-jin Jung, Dong-jae Lee, Kyung-hwa Lee, Mi-sun Park and Song-hee Lee. © Kaywon School of Art and Design.320x240 | 320x240

Daddy and IDaddy and I is interesting to discuss both in terms of its subject matter and the way in which it was made. The subject of the film, which is about a man who sexually molests his young daughter, is depicted largely through suggestion, without dialogue. During the violent act, the film takes its viewer into the mind of the child as she struggles to escape physically and mentally from what is taking place.

The 7-minute computer-generated work was made as a graduation film in the Department of Animation, Kaywon School of Art of Design. On the one hand, it is surprising that the film comes from students, since its message is relatively subtle in its delivery. From my experience, students often take emotional topics or angst-ridden scenarios as the focus in their work; in most cases, though, they have not yet developed the skills to render these subjects delicately. I am guessing that the fact that the film was made as a team effort, with not one but seven directors, probably aided in this respect. I have often counseled students to work in teams, to gain objectivity and the skills of others to supplement their own. I am also guessing that the group directorial effort -- which was done as a practical solution to the shortage of equipment and space in the animation program -- helped these students develop the kind of balance often lacking in single-student works. They worked together to create the small amount of rotoscoping used, in addition to 2D animation, created through the use of Adobe Photoshop 5.0 and After Effects 4.0 for digital painting and composition. An Avid was used for editing and final output.

The student directors say that some people found their concept, a father molesting his daughter, somewhat unbelievable (unfortunately, I suppose, it's not that hard for me to believe). As a result, they tried to instill a sense of realism by using a true news story on television and creating background textures with the text of actual newspaper articles. On a television, the father watches a rotoscoped image of a popular Korean actress who herself fell from grace after a kind of sexual attack; when a video showing her in a private situation was widely distributed, she went into seclusion. Adding another layer to the story is its opening music, an adaptation of a popular children's song, which goes, "At the flower garden which Daddy and I make together, Sun plays and Touch-me-nots are in full bloom . . ."

furniss02.gifHein?! (What?!), directed by Mauricio Vidal, Renan de Moraes and Sergio Yamasaki. © Estúdio Conseqüência.320x240 | 160x120

What?!

From Brazil comes another computer-generated short created by a group directing effort. What?! was created by Mauricio Vidal, Renan de Moraes and Sergio Yamasaki, as part of a demo reel for their new production house, Conseqüéncia, which was the first computer animation studio in Rio de Janiero. The 2-minute short tells of a wheel-chair-bound grandma named Dona Mariana (Mrs. Mariana), who takes revenge on a purse-snatcher. It was created using 3D Studio Max 2.5 for animation, Adobe Photoshop 5.0 for textures and Adobe After Effects for compositing. The made-for-television short is without dialogue. They worked in conjunction with Mauricio Barros, a Brazilian musician, to create the film's soundtracks, while well-known director Cesar Coelho provided encouragement for the project.

The humor of What?! is largely developed around the grandma's super-charged wheelchair, which is armed with all kinds of technical devices and weapons, but even Dona Mariana's false teeth come in handy when she is in pursuit of the criminal. She is a high-tech, feisty attacker, far from the stereotype of a helpless old lady. What?! has proven popular among a variety of audiences, winning the popular vote in the 1999 Anima Mundi festival held in Brazil and numerous other prizes. The short was acquired for broadcast by France's Canal + and has inspired sequels, including Roubada! (The Steal!, 2000), which again features the relentless granny chasing down a deserving young punk.

Each of the film's three directors received college degrees from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and have been employed by TV Globo, though Vidal now teaches at Estácio de Sá University in Rio de Janiero.

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Florence Miailhe's Au Premier Dimanche d'Août (A Summer Night Rendez-Vous). © Les Film de l'Arlequin.320x240 | 160x120

A Summer Night Rendez-vous

Lacking dialogue and being structured thematically around a dance taking place in a village, this film faces a challenge: how to sustain the viewer's interest for over eleven minutes. It does so through its skillful combination of visuals and music, which are both varied and seamlessly interwoven. This combination works well to not only create a cohesiveness in the work, but also to maintain interest in the continually evolving visual and aural imagery. The result is a lovely film that comments on human nature, courtship and community.

Director Florence Miailhe created her images using dry pastels, working directly under the camera. This technique lends itself to metamorphic transitions, which help provide fluidity to the parents and children, lovers, friends, and even a pair of dogs, who keep time with the waltzes, tangos and rock music being played at a dance on a warm summer night. The soundtrack for the film, which includes laughter and voices, was recorded during an actual dance. Music was composed by Denis Colin.

Miailhe was born in Paris and qualified from the National Superior School of Decorative Arts. She works as a painter and illustrator and has been featured in a series of exhibitions. Her previous films, all of which were made with pastels under the camera, include Hammam (1991), Scheherazade (1995) and The Story of a Prince Who Became a One-eyed Beggar (1996). These award-winning films have appeared in festivals worldwide.

furniss04.gifFilm S Djevojcicom (Film with a Girl), directed by Daniel Suljic. © Zagreb Film.320x240 | 160x120

Film with a Girl

In Film with a Girl, director Daniel Suljic tells the story of a young girl who confronts many situations in the course of her day, some frustrating and some a little scary. Using the technique of oil on glass, he creates a sketchy, child-like drawing in black and white, which is effective in telling the story of the spunky character. Though Suljic doesn't go so far as to develop the personality of the girl, he certainly creates an individual that is full of energy and a certain charm. The part I like best is where she bops a dopey boy on the head after he is unresponsive; other instances, where she is offered drugs, for example, are a little heavy handed, but would seem to get a clear message across to kids. Later, the girl is rescued by an Elvis-like figure, an action I think contributes to the film's success (I've never seen a film including 'the King' that I didn't like!).

A variety of Croatian artists contributed to the realization of the eight-minute film, including animator Stjepan Bartolic, editor Bajko I. Hromalic and musician Tomislave Babic. Suljic not only directed the film, but served as animator and writer as well. Born in Zagreb, he studied at the School of the Applied Arts and the Zagreb Academy of Arts before graduating from the Hochschule fur Angewandte Kunst in Vienna in 1997. He is a successful musician and created a number of other animated works while he was a student. Film with a Girl, which is without dialogue, is distributed by Zagreb Film.

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Legend Bob Godrey's Millenium - The Musical. © Channel 4.320x240 | 160x120

Millenium - The Musical

Animation director Bob Godfrey is a legendary figure within the British animation industry, having established a studio in London, Biographic Films, in the mid-1950s, with partners and later branching off on his own. Over the years, he has created a number of irreverent short works, including Kama Sutra Rides Again (1971), which captures his off-beat humor, often developed around sexual content. That film was created in conjunction with scriptwriter Stan Hayward, whom he worked with on several occasions. Some of his other films have been biographical, such as, Great, a half-hour production on engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1975) and a fifteen-minute work on Margaret Thatcher (1999).

In Millenium - The Musical, Godfrey takes on the challenge of telling the last one thousand years of English history within a twenty-two minute short. To do so, he combines traditional cel animation techniques with stills and a bit of live-action footage; post-production was digital. The film was commissioned by Channel 4 Television in the United Kingdom on a very tight schedule. Although he had been thinking of doing the project as a ninety-minute feature for ten years, when he received approval for a shorter version, he had only twenty-two weeks in which to complete it. Working without a storyboard, he created a spontaneous feeling in the work, which employs a variety of stylized limited animation techniques.

At times, the film's lyrics are difficult to understand -- at least for a Yank like me -- because of a strong English accent and relatively fast pacing. I also think that the narrative frame, which involves a town cryer who tells the history of England on stage before a somewhat frantic modern-day producer, could have been reduced a bit in favor of the actual events being told (they focus mainly on political rulers, wars, disease and inventions). However, I realize that the film is as much about Bob Godfrey's own brand of humor as the actual telling of British history, so concessions should be made. Using music and humor as a means of enlivening history is, in the long run, a good choice. The Bubonic plague is so much more interesting when it is described by singing skeletons. The ruthlessness of Richard III makes more of an impact when a chorus sings, "What a very tricky chap, that Richard!" in a lively way. With more pre-planning, timing could have been tightened a bit. However, to have accomplished the film at all on such a tight schedule reflects Godfrey's skills and experience as a well-seasoned animation director. Aiding him in his effort was writer Colin Pearson and composer Rowland Lee, both of England.

Maureen Furniss, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor and Program Director of Film Studies at Chapman University in Orange, California. She is the founding editor of Animation Journal and the author of Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics (John Libbey, 1998).

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