This season’s shortlist of 15 animated shorts (mostly in 2D) emphasizes the existential search for hope and healing that’s especially timely during the pandemic. Only two studio shorts are represented this time, though: Disney’s “Us Again,” a fountain of youth CG dancing short (directed by Zach Parrish) about a biracial senior couple who become young again and dance the night away in the rain; and Netflix’s “Robin Robin,” the first stop-motion musical by Aardman (directed by Dan Ojari and Mikey Please) about awkward bird with an identity crisis adopted by a family of burglar mice.
Meanwhile, here are some of the acclaimed indie contenders (with three from Canada’s prestigious NFB): “Affairs of the Art” (NFB), with director Joanna Quinn continuing her acclaimed series of shorts about factory worker Beryl, who’s obsessed with drawing, and how it’s impacted the family’s DNA; the Russian “Boxballet,” (from director Anton Dyakov), in which a delicate ballerina named Olya meets the rough, surly boxer Evgeny; the French Annecy winner, “Mum is Pouring Rain,” directed by Hugo de Faucompret, about a girl who goes to live with her grandmother in the French countryside and makes unexpected connections.
“Namoo,” from Korean director Erick Oh (the Oscar-nominated “Opera”), about the beautiful and heartbreaking moments of a painter’s life, constructed around a symbolic tree, made simultaneously as a virtual reality experience as well as a 2D/theatrical short with the aid of Quill software; the French “Souvenir Souvenir,” an animated documentary (from director Bastien Dubois) about a man’s decade-long quest to make a movie of his grandfather’s war memories; and “The Windshield Wiper,” directed by Alberto Mielgo (the Emmy-winning short, “The Witness,” from Season 1 of “Love, Death & Robots”), in which a middle-aged man sits in a cafe and ponders the meaning of love, which combines CG characters with digitally painted backgrounds.
Other contenders include: “Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice,” the Annecy-winning Canadian short from director Zacharias Kunuk about Inuit grandparents who travel to the underworld to heal an ill young hunter; “Bad Seeds” (the NFB), directed by graphic artist Claude Cloutier, which concerns chameleon-like carnivorous plants and a shocking duel that riffs on the western; “Flowing Home” (Les Films de l’Arlequin/NFB), directed by Sandra Desmazières, about two sisters who get separated by the Vietnam war; the Chinese “Step into the River” (from director Weijia Ma), a surreal exploration of China’s one-child policy involving two young girls living in a village; and “The Musician,” directed by Reza Riahi, which utilizes black-and-white shadow puppets and colorful paper cut-outs and backgrounds to explore the power of love and music in ancient Persia.
Listed in alphabetical order. No film will be considered a frontrunner until we have seen it.
“Affairs of the Art”
“The Windshield Wiper”
“Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice”
“Mum Is Pouring Rain”
“Only a Child”
“Step into the River”