Fresh from the Festivals: December 2000's Film Reviews

by Maureen Furniss

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:

Dottini Suru? (Your Choice!, 1999), 10 min., directed by Koji Yamamura, Japan. Info: Yamamura Animation, Inc., 4-8-10 Kasuya Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 157-0063 Japan. Tel: (81) 3 3309 0649. Fax: (81) 3 3309 6476. E-mail: URL:

The Man with the Beautiful Eyes (1999), 5.5 min., directed by Jonathan Hodgson, UK. Info: Sherbert, 112-114 Great Portland Street, London W1N 5PE UK. Tel: (44) 02 (0) 7636 6435. E-mail: URL:

A Supseita (The Suspect, 1999), 25 min., directed by Jose Miguel Ribeiro, Portugal. Info: Zeppelin Filmes, Ida., Produtora e Estúdio de Animaçao em Volumes Pólo Technológico de Lisboa, CID - Lt 1 1600-546 Lisboa, Portugal. Tel: (351) 21 710 1100. Fax: (351) 21 716 1903.

The Periwig-Maker (1999), 15 min., directed by Steffen Schäeffler, Germany. Info: Steffen Schaeffer, Cranach Str. 41, D-12157 Berlin, Germany. Tel/Fax: (49) 30 8560 21 51. E-mail:

Father and Daughter (2000), 8.5 min., directed by Michael Dudok de Wit, Netherlands. Info: Michael Dudok de Wit, Unit 153, 31 Clerkenwell Close, London EC1R 0AT UK. Tel/Fax: (44) 20 7608 1188. E-mail: URL:

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

Your Choice! © Koji Yamamura/DENTSU, INC./Yamamura Animation, Inc.
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Your Choice!
It is not without hesitancy that I embark on a review of this film; although it is certainly charming to watch and listen to, I don't really understand it. A plot summary provided to me suggests that Raoul, an alligator, has a bad tooth and also needs a haircut. Another character, an armadillo named Madillo, is trying to decide if he should bring an umbrella with him. Sounds simple enough, I know, but the 'story' itself unwinds in a rather disconnected way, with surreal elements -- including three men behind a counter reciting "What's your choice?" periodically -- so that I'm never quite sure exactly what is going on. What really intrigues me about the film, though, is the fact that my eight year-old daughter, after seeing it last summer at the Annecy International Film Festival, kept chanting that same refrain. And when I asked her which film she liked most on that day, Your Choice was her winner.

Having also won the first prize at the Chicago International Children's Film Festival and a host of other awards, it is clear that the film has a strong connection to children and their imaginations. This is not altogether surprising, since director Koji Yamamura made the film with the help of several 'junior directors' -- elementary-school children who participated in workshops where story development was discussed. Yamamura then used their ideas to create the animated imagery, using pencil and ink on paper, as well as 2D computer generated images with RETAS!PRO and Photoshop. The film was produced by Shigeki Sawa, at Dentsu Inc., Japan.

Yamamura is a self-taught animator who graduated from the faculty of Painting in Tokyo Zokei University and has worked as a freelance animator and illustrator, producing short animated films, as well as television commercials and multi-media works. Among his influences, he counts animators Ishu Patel, Paul Driessen, Co Hoedeman, Yuri Norstein, Priit Parn and Karel Keman.

The Man With The Beautiful Eyes. © Sherbert Films Ltd.
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The Man with the Beautiful Eyes
Another take on childhood can be found in The Man with the Beautiful Eyes, a 5.5 minute paint on paper and cel animation directed by Jonathan Hodgson. It, too, has a message that is somewhat enigmatic, though in a manner completely different from Your Choice! This film, which is based on a poem by Charles Bukowski, tells the story of a group of boys who are fascinated with a mysterious house. Their parents have warned them to stay away from it, which, of course, makes it all the more tempting. One day they encounter the man who lives there; he curses while leaving the house, then addresses the boys cordially before returning inside, never to be seen again. He has long, unkept hair, a bottle of whiskey in his hand and a cigar in his mouth, and the boys see him as a strong, natural man who provides an attractive alternative to the conventional lives of their mothers and fathers. When the man's home burns down, the children suspect it was their parents who did it, because (in the children's logic) their parents hate what this man represents and want to shield their children from it at all costs.

Of course, all this is seen from the youths' perspectives, as they try to figure out who this man is and what he represents. For the viewer, a dual interpretation emerges. We understand that this man is likely of dubious nature (a missing child poster seen on a wall reinforces this idea), yet something tells us that, indeed, society would likely want to crush this kind of free spirit, a crack in the system of 'normalcy.' In that respect, we are left questioning who the man is, why his home burned down, and what to make of the film's theme, in effect placing ourselves within the boys' own points of view.

The film's story is told through English voice-over narration, but the action is illustrated through a combination of text and images that capture the essence of the story. The director describes his work as an attempt to create 'visual poetry' that does not always illustrate the story in a literal way. He and the film's designer, Jonny Hanah, decided to collaborate on the film due to their shared admiration for Bukowski's writing. I think the result is an interesting example of the use of text in a film, as well as creative 'camera movement' as a way to energize the visuals. Hodgson studied at the Royal College of Art and worked as a commercial animation director for several years before setting up his studio, Sherbert, in London with Jonathan Bairstow in 1996. They produce commercials and television graphics as well as short films.


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