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.]