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San Diego Asian Film Festival Review - Animation: The Illusion of Life

Which type of films do you like better, animation or live action? If you are an adult, you’ll probably say live action, but “Animation: The Illusion of Life” aims to change that! It has much of the same themes as live action films, except with more humor, clever storyline, imagination, and fantastic music to match.

4 Starfish out of 5.

Which type of films do you like better, animation or live action?  If you are an adult, you’ll probably say live action, but “Animation: The Illusion of Life” aims to change that!  It has much of the same themes as live action films, except with more humor, clever storyline, imagination, and fantastic music to match.

At the 11th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival which ended last night (Oct 28, 2010), I went to see “Animation: The Illusion of Life” for the second time, after seeing it the night before.  It is THAT good!  Sam Chen, a prominent animator and filmmaker from San Diego, has been the curator of the festival’s animation program since ten years ago.  Since he and I share the same family name, I thought we probably shared the same ancestor, hundreds of years ago ; ).  Sam hosted the screenings and answered questions from the audience.

Amazonia - directed and animated by Sam Chen.

Of the 12 animation shorts, I like 9 of them.  In “Amazonia,” animated by Sam Chen, a little tree frog struggles to find his way through the Amazon rain forest, trying to catch his dinner without ending up as dinner himself!  The music is Beethoven’s 8th Symphony 2nd movement, which matches perfectly with the lively actions in the rain forest.

Another favorite is director David Chai’s “Ninja vs. Guilt,” about a Ninja named Nobu who’s overcome with guilt and goes to his friend Pierre for advice in a café.  Little did Pierre know the unexpected consequence of his own advice!

Perry Chen at 11th San Diego

Asian Film Festival (photo by Zhu Shen).

In another humorous tale, “When the Time is Ripe” from director Shion Takeuchi, Miles is an innocent Jewish pear who doesn’t seem to understand his differences with his parents and younger sister who are steaks.  In the most hilarious scene when Miles discovered his true identity, I laughed so hard when I saw him reveal his mode of locomotion!

In director Bruno Collet’s “The Little Dragon” from Switzerland and France, the spirit of Kung-fu legend Bruce Lee is reincarnated in the body of an action figure that looks just like Bruce Lee.  When reality collides with virtual reality, the result is chaos.  I love the ending with a twist.  One flaw: how could the action figure escape his packaging box with tight rope binding his wrists without a scratch, when later his foam body flakes off with a mere touch of his own hand?

In director Sijia Luo’s “Kidnap,” a little chicken makes up the perfect excuse to explain her tardiness.  I wonder how could the chicken know Jesus brought her back to life when she was “dead” at the time, unless Jesus told her himself.  Though I don’t like its style of animation, too cartoonish for my taste, the storyline has great imagination and humor.

“Ode to a Post-It Note” from Canadian director Jeff Chiba Sterns, is about how a yellow Post-It note finds out about Father’s Day and embarks on a journey to find his own creator.  Korean director Wooksang Chang’s “Mom” is about motherhood, longing for connection, and loss.  Director Han Ung Lee’s “Tang” is about a snow monkey’s greed which led to despair.

“The Beauty” from director Qi Chao Mao of China has beautiful dance movements.  I love the way the fabrics of the dancer’s dress moved.  According to Sam Chen, this is extremely difficult to get right.  I also loved the creativity of the end credits.  I noticed the Chinese lady who plays the zither (a traditional Chinese instrument) does not have fingernails, which makes it a lot harder to play the instrument.

“The Wonder Hospital” from director Beomsik Shimbe Shim is about the danger of vanity.  I remembered the saying, “You get what you get, don’t make a fret.”

Directors Francois Leroy and Staphanie Lansaque’s “Mei Ling” from France is about a lonely girl who adopts a little octopus who changes her life unexpectedly.  I thought the octopus squirted ink excessively here, when in real life, they only do so out of sheer necessity, for example, when they feel threatened.

Perry Chen at 11th San Diego

Asian Film Festival (photo by Zhu Shen).

My least favorite is “Too Much of a Story” by director Taelin Oh.  It is too dark and without humor.  I didn’t care much for “River in Heaven” from Japanese director Keiko Lino and Yves Dalbiez.  It is a simple music video that lacks a good storyline.

Most of the films are OK for kids to watch, a few have adult and mature content, such as “Ninja vs. Guilt,” “Mei Ling” and “Too Much of a Story” that may not be suitable for children.

“Animation: the Illusion of Life” is a mash-up of wonderful shorts with a variety of animation styles and techniques.  The films are a feast for the senses, they are “Perrific!”  I rate them 4 starfish.

I especially love the humor and unexpected twists in many of the stories.  Sam Chen said this year’s animation shorts are the strongest ever at this festival.  I can’t wait to see what next year will bring!

Copyright 2010 by Perry S. Chen

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Perry recently became the youngest winner of San Diego Press Club 2010 Excellence in Journalism awards.  He is reviewing G/PG-rated movies for the San Diego Union Tribune with over 300,000 readers. He was featured on Variety for being one of the leading young film critics:

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118026037.html?categoryid=4137&cs=1

Read all of Perry’s reviews and upcoming events on his website http://www.perryspreviews.com

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