Our Top Animation Shorts: Annecy Festival 2023

Annecy 2023 Top Picks

Annecy Festival is always a lake of every animation short of different varieties to be found, selected, and (sometimes) win prizes. This year was no other.

We picked (Olga Bobrowska and Vassilis Kroustallis) 13 animation shorts that we think give this snapshot of tendencies in the programme - out of other exciting animation shorts. Our selection comes from the Short Films in Competition, including films for Young Audiences. It does not extend to Graduation Shorts or Commissioned, and TV Films - potentially another list and another article.

Here are our choices (in title alphabetical order):

27, Flóra Anna Buda (France/Hungary, 2023)
Short Films In Competition

Probably the film that Viktor Orbán wouldn’t want you to see - yet now, with both the Cannes Palme d’Or and the Annecy Cristal, everyone else wants to see it. Toned down from the more free-floating style of her previous ‘Entropia’, Flóra Anna Buda presents an almost realistic, documentarian portrait of a young woman of 27 (that’s her birthday) trapped inside a family life she no longer needs (accompanied by a rigid shot framing) and a fantasy life she can not yet fulfill. (Even her own sexual fantasies need police surveillance). A film bathed in pink and purple, with a few fauvist sequences of color splash thrown in for a good measure, it captures the existent, hallucinogenic but not defiantly spelled out queer nature of its main character. Intensive music and sound design make the piece a dance to sexual and personal freedom - and an exorcism to the ‘loser’ label that the Gen Z is here attached. A film that travels from scene to scene like a perfectly well-oiled bike; and ends with an agonizing act from the window view. - VK

Christopher at Sea, Tom CJ Brown (France, UK, US, 2022)
Short Films In Competition

christopher at sea2Christopher at Sea, Tom CJ Brown

Tom CJ Brown (t.o.m. Teeth) returns with a film that projects repressed desire into every little element of a cargo ship. Full of radiant coloring, a rugged, intense character design, and a narrative that evokes emotion rather than plot twists, he manages to present a queer portrait of a young person never bereft of torment. The film moves from the usual stages of erotic curiosity, fantasies, jealousy, and hatred; yet in each such familiar stage, there is the internal and external movement that matters. From bodily exposures to locker room sights and ‘ship underbelly’ visits (masculinity at large), Christopher needs to navigate more than a desire; it’s a pathos that, as unfamiliar as it looks in our 21st-century era, it’s still sincere and engrossing (like ‘La Traviata’ ship). - VK 

Electra, Daria Kashcheeva (Czech Republic, France, Slovakia, 2023)
Short Films in Competition

Where to start? From the 10th birthday perhaps? Why did the birthday girl wear top-notch makeup that night? All the other girls and all the other mothers were outraged, they were all jealous; Electra was hurt inside, Electra loved the way she looked outside; someone was missing... That is just the departure point for a complex and deeply psychoanalytical work from Kashcheeva who proves herself again as an artist sincerely devoted to communicating the most difficult and personal emotions through cinema. The experimental expression combines live-action filmmaking, pixilation, object animation, and drama acting. The symbolism of the 'Barbie world' is not limited to cliché consumerism critique, instead, it opens up various interpretations, among them distant but noticeable intertextuality with the tradition of Czech experimental stop motion (Švankmajer; Barta’s ‘The Club of the Laid Off’). The director is highly aware of her medium letting the audience go deeper and deeper in this painful but cathartic story. Step by step, we observe how one submits to taboo and how one struggles to liberate from its powerful grip. - OB

Her Dress for the Final, Martina Mestrovic (Croatia, 2023)
Short Films In Competition

An elegy to the still-young desires inside a frail body; Mestrovic’s ‘Her Dress for the Final’ is as simple-themed as it gets but with appropriately-timed directorial interventions in the shot composition, cutting, and scene change. Her narrative alternates from the sober to the sensual, and her aesthetics present a person both in distance from her apartment and environment, but too much in unison with her own ‘memorized’ garments. An almost musically tuned film. - VK

La perra, Carla Melo Gampert (France, Colombia, 2023)
Short Films in Competition

A terrifically honest film about sexuality, it's awakening, and its misgivings, unfolding like a bird spreading its wings and then seeking again shelter. With a design that is as bit as potent and movements that evoke dynamism, it’s still a tender film that puts the female character into our intimate and empathetic focus, without any effort. A perfect, after-hour film that makes no nonsense of a topic usually exaggerated beyond proportion. Not here. - VK

Nun or Never, Heta Jäälinoja (Finland, 2023)
Short Films In Competition

Heta Jäälinoja (Penelope) again investigates a woman who would simply not give up - unless reality gets in her way. With a really prominent contrast between the group and the individual, homogeneity, and human desire (check the scene with the change of nun’s garment), she creates a purposedly sketchy film in which the closet at some point breaks - and consequences arise. Elegant in its limited color palette, and delightful in its movements, it is an animated comedy of manners that pokes light fun at our collective religious attitudes. - VK

Regular Rabbit, Eoin Duffy (Ireland, 2022)
Short Films in Competition

A brilliantly written comedy (script authored by Duffy), the literary value of which is undeniable. The dramaturgy is very well-directed and masterly performed with the voice-over delivered by Rory McCann (aka The Hound from ‘The Game of Thrones’). The artworks animated in 2D and 3D create a fairytale-like ambient within the story which might be a good example of how the horror genre may function in animation. The demonic nature of rabbits, hamsters, and hedgehogs is revealed. In this tale, evil is a mirror reflection of cuteness. - OB

Salvation Has No Name, Joseph Wallace (UK, Czech Republic, 2022)
Short Films in Competition

Grand-themed concepts have become unpopular in animation, yet here Joseph Wallace resurrects in stop-motion a ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ gloomy version, in both a framing theatrical story and a black-and-white island disaster. Ostensibly about immigrants, the film moves into the territory of rigidness (check those stone-carved puppet faces) vs. fluidity (the water surrounding the island), while its various character fight (with impeccably accented English) who’s telling the story. It is a battle of souls, of big commitments and individual compassion, told with thunderous editing, a grandiose soundtrack, and still a genuine sensitivity underneath. - VK

The Great Arch, Camille Authouart (France, 2022)
Short Films in Competition

My first time in Paris – one week in July 2005; in such a short period of time the pro-tourists would know how to use it efficiently, but my best friend and I went twice to spend time and walk around La Défense. If you think this does not make sense, think again, or better watch Camille Authouart’s ‘The Great Arch’. This impressive film is charming and weird, just like the urbanscape which has inspired it. Built upon nostalgia for skyscrapers, the film offers a multitude of layers that interlace questions of artistic, social, and personal weight. The author stays enchanted with the reality-compound of modern architecture, alienated individuals, the outcast, and the art, all coexisting in a cosmos-like urban space built with utopia in mind. The visuality and rhythm of the film are fascinating. - OB

The Purple Season/La saison pourpre, Clémence Bouchereau (France, 2023)
Short Films in Competition

This poetic and contemplative film slowly uncovers strong tensions that explode under the surface and change forever the group dynamic between the girls living outside of any civilization. Such a strong content matter is delivered with a pin screen technique, here used with gentle finesse. Strikingly, the audio is limited to sound design and foley while no music composition disturbs the un-reality of the kids. The group of young ‘wildings’ run across the water, chase wild geese, and simply follow their instincts, by doing so they don’t restrain from inciting pain. Their bodies change and so do their interactions. It is an imaginative exercise in acknowledging the differences and transformations. - OB

What's in That Crate? Bram Algoed (The Netherlands, 2023)
Young Audiences: Short Films in Competition

A film that plays with the monochrome color palettes as many times as its characters try to guess ‘what’s inside the box’. A film that takes its inspiration from the Pied Piper of Hamelin (but with a happy ending), and begins a life journey of animals, people, and the environment to the eternal question of what we are looking for in life (apart from animals in a cage). Environmentally open and immersive (even in its 2D flat character), quick in its shot alterations, and astute in its target. - VK

White/Bai, Ao Chen (UK, China, 2022)
Short Films in Competition – Perspectives

Image erudite Ao Chen, supported by his father and creative collaborator, Fei Chen, returns to Annecy (their previous work of a similar theme, Black, was screened in 2020 Off-Limits). In a visually oneiricWhite, the viewer quickly finds patterns that convey information about empirical reality. Intense but purely metaphoric narration brings out the tragic story of children falling sick and dying from milk powder produced by the SanLu (Three Deers) Company in 2008. The white/grey palette is disturbed with red/blue colours pulsating within ramifying veins and antlers. There is mysterious, inevitable, and profoundly dangerous connectivity between the characters of children and animals. The final segment evokes the best traditions of Chinese socially and politically engaged illustration and comic arts (manhua). - OB

Wild Summon, Karni Arieli, Saul Freed (UK, 2022)
Short Films in Competition

wild summon

From the award-winning duo involved in experimental filmmaking, animation, photography, and visual effects since the early 2000s, we receive a beautiful, touching, and profoundly meaningful ‘casual fantasy’. The film narrated by Marianne Faithful reminds me of a nature documentary. We witness dangers, marvels, twists and turns inherent to the cycle of life of She-Salmon. A fragile creature born from her mother’s sacrifice struggles with natural enemies but also faces the most dreadful one, humans. The fishermen and those responsible for polluting the water, make it almost impossible for Her to accomplish a journey to the deep sea and back to the upper stream; the role of scholars is quite ambivalent. It is not one more alarmistic, ecological fantasy but a consistently conceptual artwork using mesmerizing visuality in order to ponder life and the limits of vitality. - OB

Contributed by: Vassilis Kroustallis & Olga Bobrowska

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