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Binocular Briefs – April 2023

In this month’s survey of under-the-radar animated shorts currently travelling the festival circuit or new to online viewing, we look at 5 films competing at the 2023 Stuttgart Animation Festival, which runs April 25-30.

In this month’s edition of Binocular Briefs, we preview five shorts competing at the 2023 Stuttgart Animation Festival (April 25-30).

The Boat People, Thao Lam and Kjell Boersma, Canada

Drawing an intriguing parallel between the life of ants and refugees, a woman (Thao) remembers her mother’s life in Vietnam before she is forced to flee - along with over a million other refugees - during the Vietnam War.

Unable to get much out of her family, Thao finally confronts them to find out why they left Vietnam. The response surprises her.

A subdued, minimalist, and unfortunately, somewhat timeless and timely memoir about the resilience of humanity during troubling and chaotic times.

A Guerra Finita, Simone Massi, Italy

War, as the song goes, what is it good for?

Sweet fuck all except lining the already overflowing pockets of the greedy and wealthy.

Taking the viewer through harrowing war scenes from WWII to the Mostar Bridge attack from the Syrian war, A Guerra Finita is a blunt and blistering call for abolishment of war. If we can abolish slavery, the film argues (though have we truly eradicated slavery? Is paying people so poorly that they cannot afford to pay for essentials really not a form of slavery?) we can one day rid ourselves of this apparent hunger for killing each other. Sure, it’s a naive hope; the history of humanity has been defined by bloodshed and war. How do we stop it? How do we stop letting those psychotics in power manipulate, deceive, and divide us?

I wish I had an answer.                                                                               

Sandwich Cat, David Fidalgo, Spain

An utterly silly story about a cat with a head shaped like a piece of bread (hence, sandwich) who becomes possessed by an alien creature. The alien has arrived to observe humanity and decide whether or not to let the human race continue. The cat’s owner is faced with the challenging task of proving that there is some good in humans. It does not go well.  The film is a tad chatty (yes, my age-old beef with animation films) and preachy, but still manages to explore a tricky - and timely - question with humor and brevity.

Skinned, Joachim Hérissé, France

Two women, Siamese twins attached at the leg, live in an decrepit building near a swamp.

A cross between Grey Gardens, Deliverance, Caroline Leaf’s Two Sisters and the work of Robert Morgan, Skinned is a creepy, tense and grotesque stop-motion portrait of co-dependence, loneliness, and utter madness. The use of intentionally patchy fabrics nicely enhances the fragility, grunginess and ugliness of the sisters and their world.

I’m Only Sleeping, Em Cooper, U.K.

Beautifully crafted music video for The Beatles’ underrated ode to slumber. Em Cooper’s hazy lazy free flowing oil paint technique (composed of something like 1,300 oil paintings) floats along, skirting the borders of wake and sleep as it’s drifts from an assortment of imagery pulsating perhaps from Lennon’s subconsciousness. The imagery is a mishmash of domestic tediums (brushing teeth), global concerns of the time (bombs dropping from planes), and an assortment (maybe too much) of iconic Beatles’ imagery.

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.