Screening late in 2011 means AFI Fest is able to gather up the year’s best animation and present it in one killer program of short films. Recent work by the Quay Brothers, Spike Jonze, and the BAFTA-winning Michael Please are programmed alongside an impressive number of top-notch pieces by female animators Kelly Sears, Stacey Steers, and the team of Natasha Subramaniam & Alisa Lapidus. indieWIRE was given a sneak preview of the nine international shorts playing AFI FEST 2011’s Short Program One. Here is a profile of the animators and their shorts, several of which can be seen online.
Stephen & Timothy Quay’s “Maska”- How fortunate AFI Fest ticketholders are to be able to see the Quays’ latest stop-motion masterpiece at the Chinese 6 movie Theatre, where every detail can be seen in big screen glory. Pulsing with music by Polish classical composer Krzysztof Penderecki, the 24-minute saga of a female killing machine whose feelings hinder her work is adapted from a story by noted “Solaris”-author Stanilaw Lem. As with much of the Quays work, it is not the plotline but the look and feel that make the film so powerful. A trailer for the film can be seen here.
Stacey Steers’s “Night Hunter” – Most recently screened at Telluride, this extraordinary 16-minute handcrafted experimental film uses 4,000 mixed media collages and clips of silent film star Lillian Gish to portray a series of nightmarish scenarios. Steers, who is on the faculty at the University of Colorado, received a major grant from The American Film Institute, so playing the AFI Fest is like a homecoming for the filmmaker.
Simon Cahn & Spike Jonze’s “To Die By Your Side” (Mourir Auprès De Toi) – What happens when a bookstore closes for the night? Characters from cover artwork are free to roam and fall in love. That’s the simple plotline for this 6-minute charmer, which mixes a live action bookstore setting with stop motion characters based on 3,000 pieces of felt hand-cut by co-writer/designer Olympia Le-Tan. Jonze created the story with Le-Tan and brought in French filmmaker Simon Cahn to co-direct the short, which took 2 months to animate. A making-of trailer can be seen here.
Kelly Sears’s “Once It Started It Could Not End Otherwise” – Kelly Sears is a prolific Texas-based collage-animator who takes innocuous found images to create disturbing scenarios. Her 7-minute latest gem animates high school yearbook images from the mid-1970s. The film can be seen here.
Michael Please’s “The Eagleman Stag” – This 9-minute stop motion BAFTA-award winner is the latest from London-based Mikey Please, a Royal College of Art graduate who has also made music videos for TV on the Radio, Ingrid Michaelson, and M Ward. Shot on the Canon EOS 1000D, the captivating story about a man’s obsession with time consists of 115 separate shots and took over 6 months to make. The film’s trailer can be seen here.
Kan Lume & Megan Wonowidjoyo’s “Libertas” – This fascinating 3-minute pencil-drawn animation follows a girl who travels to Uluru after her brother’s tragic death. Singapore filmmaker Kan Lume is a graduate of Australia’s Bond University and co-director Megan Wonowidjoyo graduated from University of New South Wales in 2010.
Natasha Subramaniam & Alisa Lapidus’s “Zerguet” - Cinemagoers with empty stomachs might not be ready for this 6-minute exuberant depiction of food in various states of decay. The Los Angeles-based CalArts grads shot the stop motion/high speed hybrid production in Subramaniam’s home. The film’s trailer can be seen here.
Alexander Gellner’s “One Minute Puberty” - With a truthfully 2-minute running time, this speedy animated journey through a male’s physical transformations is constantly moving and fascinating. Berlin-based Gellner drew everything himself, and consequently it took 7 weeks to make the film. The film can be seen here.
Stephen Neary’s “Dr. Breakfast” - Perhaps the most commercial-looking animation in the bunch, this 7-minute, highly entertaining story of a man with an out-of-control eyeball wouldn’t look out of place in a Spike & Mike’s Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation line-up. Currently a professional story artist with credits on “Ice Age 3 & 4” and “Rio,” NYU grad Neary animated his film with pencil, watercolor backgrounds, and a 4-year-old laptop. The film’s trailer can be seen here.
[Shorts Program One at the AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi plays on November 8th and 9th at the Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood, California.]