More than just moving pictures

Sunday, 28 September 2003 — 8:57pm | Animation, Film

My praise for the Metro Cinema may become a fairly regular feature of this weblog. Tonight they presented a reel of the winning entries from this year’s Ottawa International Animation Festival.

The amount of pure, sweet creativity thrust upon me tonight was so staggering that describing my individual reactions to each of the eleven shorts is quite an unmanageable affair. There were two delightfully quirky (read: weird) films by National Film Board staple Chris Hinton, “Flux” and “Twang”, which both push the limits of what sequential drawings on paper can do in terms of narrative storytelling. The winner of Most Hilarious Film, “How Democracy Actually Works”, provoked exactly that reaction from the audience. I will never look at public washrooms the same way again.

The NSPCC-commissioned short, “Cartoon”, was one entry I’d seen before in the 2002 Cannes Film Festival’s “World’s Best Commercials” reel. To this day it remains one of the most shocking thirty seconds of mixed media I’ve seen; in fact, I thought of it again a week ago when I read this Economist article about how child abuse is still tolerated in France. It depicts a father smacking around a cartoon child who reacts with all the eye-rolling, head-spinning wackiness of Wile E. Coyote. At one point the child tumbles down the stairs; “Real children don’t bounce back,” we’re then told, as it pans over to reveal a real boy lying at the foot of the steps.

My faith in modern television programming was also renewed by an episode of Samurai Jack (“Jack and the Blind Archers”), winner of Best Television Series, which I had never before seen. In all my years of bemoaning the demise of worthwhile television cartoons, it appears that all the creativity in the industry had been monopolized by this particular show and its creator, Genndy Tartakovsky. Suddenly, my faith in Tartakovsky’s upcoming Clone Wars project – about which I once had serious doubts – has been renewed. They picked exactly the right man to do a Star Wars spinoff. Of course, I will have to see it first before I comment further.

The Norwegian winner of Best Film Made for Children, Anita Killi’s “The Hedge of Thorns”, was probably my favourite of the evening. It depicts a world of personified bunnies, where a boy wishes only to play with a girl across the creek, but one day finds in place of the creek an endless line of barbed wire. As far as tackling the subject of war goes, it surpasses most feature films that see release in the multiplex nowadays.

I should really stop here before I get carried away. If the Ottawa reel plays anywhere near you, I unreservedly recommend that you go see it.

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