Ten animations from the world over celebrate the art of showing and not telling, with hardly a word spoken between them, and a variety of multicultural aesthetics and approaches. The field is wholly family friendly, as the title promises, and each film is for someone. Here, we’ll highlight the full range of short family films premiering at this year’s SIFF festival.
Linh, Magic Powder
From Vietnamese animators at Redcat Motion, Linh, Magic Powder is a straightforward chase animation with magical creatures, no dialogue, and regional appeal in its low key aesthetics and cultural grounding. The animation does not always keep up with the frames of the action and because the framing choice also allows an often-moving concept of a camera, it also destabilizes some of the motion in the frames and forgets the context for the action in them. Still, cute, and promises that director Leo Dinh may be able to pull off a short project with a more ambitious scope.
Stop motion LEGO pirates is a good, simple idea, executed exactly how you would expect. The stop motion process is clearly unrefined, using fewer frames than needed for each action. Using cotton for the canon smoke is clever and really the saving grace is that the short is two minutes but could go on for five, making recommendation easy: you have nothing to lose and a clever idea to gain from watching it.
Step By Step
A wholesome work of animation telling the imaginative story of a lost rain boot looking for the other part of its pair. In meeting a cute mouse after some berries they find companionship in their journey. It’s a simply constructed parable by the French filmmakers but I find that it’s basic emotional approach works for the story like a children’s book would. Sweet and pleasant like a bedtime story of a film, wouldn’t mind watching again with my daughter. It has all the parts to tell a story and not anything else.
The Amazing Adventures of Awesome
Gosh darn gorgeous, touching journey of a child diagnosed with autism (based on the director’s experience with their own child) and the awesome adventures in the hyper specific world they occupy, where everything is heightened by a sensory understanding of the world and the shapes inside it. There are far better voices to write about it than mine and I hope to read them in the future. For me, it made me smile and cry at the same time.
Itchy the Camel: Tennis
Amounts to an animation test. For a minute, a camel with an itchy hump tries to resolve his itch, finds a tennis racket in the desert and proceeds to scratch his back while being pummeled with tennis balls. And then it hands. Nothing especially has happened, there isn’t much of a feeling there, and nothing to really take away.
What does it mean to be Black & Jewish? Ezra Edmond’s sentimentally sweet autobiographical short explores the surface of this question. A young boy feels ostracized, left out on both sides of his culture. While he initially struggles, he soon finds companionship and other children who can relate to him. The animation is functionally simple but it works in wordlessly telling a story that means complex things about the character’s split cultures but tells the story simply so all children can understand it’s perspective. The utility for the short may skew very young but it’s a fair enough message movie for that audience.
Appropriately titled, Air is a light and fluffy concoction of seemingly anime principles (about the animated megapolis) with an unlikely US origin (doesn’t feel a part of that film canon or usual style). It floats by without much conflict or intentionality in its design. It feels like storyboards that move just because they need to for a short movie to happen but they are not quite willed to life with any animated magic, so much as simply there. The story of a latchkey kid and plant doesn’t quite move an audience and couldn’t entertain a child, it just is.
Cutely expressionistic story from French-Canada about a child and their stuffed animal and all of their adventures before the kid has to move on. A story done a million different ways since Pixar did it, but maybe not this way, with one of the nicer new aesthetic choices from SIFF’s Family Picture Show batch. Fits nicely between other selections but will not be remembered or thought about again.
She Dreams at Sunrise
A sweetheart film about a young man taking care of his aging grandma suffering from acute illness. He lifts her spirits and keeps her going until she can reconnect with a long lost family member. The style is inventive using boxes to highlight the simple every day tasks and moments or brief affection in this touching cross-generational story about love and taking care of your elders. It hits just the right sweet spot and leaves a lasting impression.
Franzy’s Soup Kitchen
Creative in resources and tools of animation, Franzy’s Soup Kitchen is a story about an asteroid-dwelling alien who makes really good soups with a touch of material magic and then shares them with hungry aliens on nearby asteroids. It doesn’t quite go anywhere beyond that but most of the pleasure here is purely aesthetic and on that level, it basically works and satisfies the necessity of making the work.