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Binocular Briefs - July 2024

AWN's latest survey of under-the-radar animated shorts currently travelling the festival circuit or new to online viewing.

In this month's Binocular Briefs, we look at a new set of films that explore ancient animation techniques: the havoc mass media makes in our minds, a unique take on Toy Story, the rise and fall of a strange planet, and a brilliantly insane take on identity via a basketball-crazed dog.

Stampfer Dreams, Thomas Renoldner, Austria

This deliriously hypnotic work is an homage to scientist Simon von Stampfer, who introduced his Stroboscopic Discs to the world in Vienna in 1833. Taking an assortment of sequences from the original discs, Renoldner constructs a mind-twistering story that veers between biography and a swirling cocktail of delicious abstract imagery. It’s not just a tribute to von Stampfer but also a nod to technology, art, and animation genres.

In the Shallows, Arash Akhgari, Canada

Wherever we are these days (movies, church, doctor’s office, bus), few of us can resist the siren song of that small, illuminated device in our pockets. Heads down, eyes locked onto its inviting screen, we plunge in and swim through a hypnotic sensory assault of images, voices, and (mis)information that drenches our mental and emotional circuits. Every second, our memories, thoughts, and imaginings are hijacked by an unfiltered shitstorm of noise. Soon, the borders between our inner selves and the outside world will collapse as we transform into translucent zombies.

Using a unique fusion of collage with ink and paint, In the Shallows is a deep dive through two worlds collapsing into each other.

You’ve Got a Friend in Me, Peter Millard, UK

I’m not sure if there’s a more polarizing figure these days in the animation festival circuit. Some love Millard’s Dadaesque explorations of sound, image, and pop culture; others think it’s nonsense (which, hello, that’s what Dada was, geniuses).

I don’t quite get the fuss. Millard is not only an intriguing explorer of audio and image, but among the funniest, silliest voices on the animation circuit. God knows, we need more of that in that often-dour landscape.

This hilarious piece of anti-animation (I think the title gives you a hint where this might be going) would make all those dead Dadas and surrealists proud.

Todos Los Futuros, Barbara Cerro, France/Argentina

Although there are moments that give me a Reka Bucsi vibe (and I mean that in a positive way), Cerro has crafted her own dreamlike universe that scampers between mystifying, violent, and erotic. Set on a planet where there is only night, Todos Los Futuros takes us through the genesis and evolution of the people of this imagined planet (clearly, it bears no resemblance to our own). Brimming with humor, UFOs, orgies, and even an outdoor rave, Todos Los Futuros is a witty look at the idiocy and beauty of human behavior and a reminder that what goes up always goes down, or as the great poet Taylor Swift once mused via an interpreter to Dave Grohl during a drunken afterparty, “the beginning is the end is the beginning.”

Larry, Christopher Rutledge & Takeshi Murata, USA

A basketball-playing dog named, you guessed it, Larry, has a temporal and spatial breakdown. I’ll leave it to the tech nerds to discuss software tools; for me, this is a flabbergastingly brilliant take on the fluidity, fragility, and temporary nature of identity. As the great baller, Magic Johnson, shouted to rival Larry Bird, “Yo bitch, when I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

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.