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The Animation Pimp Presents - Binocular Briefs March 2023

AWN’s monthly survey of under-the-radar animated shorts currently travelling the festival circuit or new to online viewing - since we’re sorta on the border between past and future festivals, here’s a look at some recent festival works that are now available for your viewing pleasure.

In this month’s Binocular Briefs edition, we preview animated shorts that are sorta on the border between past and future festivals; they’re all recent festival works that are now available for your viewing pleasure.

Busline35A, Elena Felici, Denmark

An intriguing story about the encounters of three passengers on a city bus: an elderly lady bringing meatballs to her son; an old man who just bought a bike; a middle-aged woman who just lost her job. While all three are lost in their thoughts, they are oblivious to an increasingly disturbing scenario taking place between an aggressive young man and a shy woman.

BusLine35A is a sharp black CG comedy about harassment and more specifically those who fail to act or see threatening situations around them. A stinging commentary on a society of apathetic and solipsistic bystanders.

One drawback to the film: the English narration is quite jarring and sounds as if it was created with a computerized voice. It frequently distracts us and keeps us at a distance. The story would have been stronger had actors perhaps been used for each of the three passengers rather than the same narrator. That said, we do hear the real voices of the young man and woman, so maybe this was done to intentionally distance the viewer as well.

We Go Back, Winston Hacking and Michael Enzbrunner, Canada

We Go Back (2022) is an extraordinary piece of collage work. Using a 3D scanning app, Hacking scanned toys, garbage, and other random items. He then handed it off to Enzbrunner, who composed the scanned materials in Blender. "He would create a camera move for the entire video,” says Hacking. “Then we would go back to various sections and see where we could fit in new collage jokes, illusions, etc. The camera moved through our 3D maze of scanned elements. So, he created this 3D maze out of all these things that I created as collages and scanned."

Hacking found many photographs from a non-profit reuse place called Scrap PDX. "You can buy people's old photographs. I used one portrait of a woman from the mid-1960s and then had a toy dinosaur bursting out of it. But that's like someone's granny. It just goes to show that you don't know where photos will end up. And to be able to keep recycling these things, giving them a second life, is a part that thrills me."

Ding (Thing), Malte Stein, Germany

A guy encounters a small creepy figure on a sidewalk corner. The mysterious little figure obsessively follows him, even chewing a piece of the guy’s leg as he attempts to clasp hold of him like a horny dog.  The man temporarily escapes before the little figure appears again, seemingly desiring a bite of testicle this time around.

It does end well.

Hmm…how to describe this quite minimalist piece of horror?

Naturally, the little figure is not the villain or even real. All of this is situated inside the mind of a rather troubled man who is drenched with anxiety, paranoia, and uncertainty. Maybe the little figure is testicular cancer (okay, I’m projecting my own history)? Maybe he’s a representation of death, illness, disease… the whole shebang.

A fascinating piece of psychological horror that (pleasantly) offers more questions than answers while aptly reflecting our age of illogical anxiety.

4 North A, Howie Shui and Jordan Canning, Canada

A woman sits in a hospital room, alone with her dying father. As the constant din of antiseptic hospital noises pushes her to confront her inevitable loss, she escapes into a series of lush childhood memories.

With its quiet yet expressive soundtrack, and a beautiful, subdued design that shifts between the cold sterility of the hospital and the warm, painterly landscapes of the woman’s memories, 4 North A is a heart wrenching film about mortality, memory, and discovering connection in unlikely spaces.

Made before the Pandemic, 4 North A takes on extra emotional punch today while serving as both a tender celebration of the fleeting joys of life and love and a bittersweet reminder that we don’t always get the closure we seek.

We are a Sterile Bomb, Dotan Moreno, Israel

Here’s a perfect example of a film that we didn’t take in Ottawa, but that stayed with me then and now. Sometimes a film, no matter how good, just doesn’t fit for an assortment of reasons. I mention this here because it’s a good reminder for filmmakers. Just because a festival doesn’t accept your film, does not for a moment mean they dislike it. There are limitations with every festival. Many good films often don’t make the cut.

Alright… where were we?

So, basically, we have a coming-of-age/sexuality tale set in a small Israeli town in 1997.  A lonely, shy young man walks about town encountering the same ol’ faces and places each day. All that changes when he encounters another man, and they have a romantic evening together. The experience breathes new life into the bored young man, opening up new possibilities and paths.

The pacing, design, and sound all combine to create a quiet, relaxed, and mesmerizing work that addresses adolescent alienation and sexual desire.

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.