10+1 Belgian Animation Shorts: Our Top Picks from Anima Festival 2024

Belgian animation shorts collage 2024

Belgian independent animation has a long tradition of embracing both the familiar and the uncanny (for older and more recent examples, think of Raoul Servais and Emma de Swaef and Marc James Roels, respectively). So, it's always a treat to watch the current crop of Belgian shorts in their 'natural' festival place, the international, Brussels-based Anima Festival. Its latest edition (23 February - 4 March 2024) offered four programmes of Belgian shorts, from professional and student animation filmmakers.

Relationships defined in a more abstract form than live-action, motherhood and family, work stress and FOMO dominated this year's animation shorts, equally divided into the  2D animation and the stop-motion animation spectrum.

We present 10+1 animation shorts that we thought represented our contemporary worries in the best possible way, sometimes expressed via non-conventional aesthetic means -which added to their overall content and enjoyment.

Our Top Belgian Animation Short Picks (in alphabetical order)

As If It Could,  Ava Güvenir (13', 2023, Belgium)

Olive's plant isn't growing as it should, so she decides to leave her home in search of new land. Arriving in a foreign country, she realizes that it's not all that easy for her either to lay down new roots. As If It Could is a semi-autobiographical story about borders, home and integration.

ZF: A film that consistently and repeatedly plays with its aspect ratio dimensions as it plays with our emotions and expectations. While it leads your sense of orientation to alternating ways, it also gives you an authentic portrait of transitioning difficulties (and a very  familiar one)

Beautiful Men, Nicolas Keppens (18', 2023 / Belgium, France, Netherlands)

Three bald brothers travel to Istanbul to have a hair transplant. Stuck with each other in a hotel far from home, their insecurities grow faster than their hair.

ZF: In an increasingly foggy Istanbul, Nicolas Keppens (Easter Eggs) uses stop-motion to make a poignant story of eternal youth and familial relationships, in which receding hair matters less than failed relations. Less absurd than 'Easter Eggs', and more empathetic.

Drijf, Levi Stoops (14', 2023)

Two people adrift at sea are fighting a bloody battle not only to stay alive but also to keep their relationship alive.

ZF: A comedy of sea manners in a way that animation can make physically relevant. A film for two parts (and partners), 'Drijf' swims into the ocean of our human relationships and picks up the insecurities that we can laugh about -later, and with some casualties felt.

Duck / Canard, Elie Chapuis (9', 2023, Switzerland/Belgium)

Vladimir and Olga raise ducks on a small farm in the countryside. They long for a child, but this longing soon turns into a nightmare.

ZF: The horror of becoming a parent here resurfaces in the form of the unwanted duck child. Elie Chapuis makes a stop-motion thriller with the annoying duck kid separating the wife from the husband. Unexpected but relatable situations in a puppet short that designs its characters and sets in a way that looks as if poverty is here the biggest enemy.

Freshwater Bees / Les Abeilles d'eau douce, Emma Kanouté, (8', 2023, Belgium)

During summer, Louise pays a visit to her parents’ house in the French countryside. As she returns to the places she hung out in as a teenager, a warm feeling of nostalgia washes over her with the memories of the time spent with Nora. A melancholy journey into her past that tells the story of a first lesbian love.

ZF: With its 2D characters floating over real photos, and its separation between past and present, 'Freshwater Bees' feels like a meditation on the natural and the acquired, the transient and the more permanent -the present and the absent. A film that follows a conventional narrative path of nostalgia, but embedded with genuine feelings of a first love.

Hervé's Case / Le Cas d'Hervé c'qui ?, Luna Filippini (6', 2023, Belgium)

A more or less ordinary day as we invite ourselves into the intimacy of various characters and wander through a surreal urban landscape, moving from one scene to another. Each moment of life leads to another and cyclically connects them.

ZF: Unpredictable yet identifiable in its parade of semi-realistic, semi-surrealistic characters and their designs (and their situations). A feast for the independent animation eyes (with one or two eye sets).

I'm Perfectly Fine, Dario Van Vree (30', 2023, Netherlands/Belgium)

As a freelance illustrator and perfectionist, Maya’s life is a lot of fun, although rather hectic. But when Maya suddenly experiences a severe panic attack and is forced to slow down, her deepest fear becomes a reality: she can no longer be perfect ..

ZF: It takes guts to make a 30-minute animation film and Dario Van Vree adapts Maaike Hartjes' graphic novel 'Burnt Out Diary' with gusto and minute attention to character details. He makes it look realistic, and relevant, placing his character in a washed-out background world, looking for the perfect drawing, while she is slowly draining herself out. Designed with artistic economy, and unfolding like a chapter from 'The Devil Wears Prada', 'I'm Perfectly Fine' is a testament to an ordinary artist's work in our post-social media world.

Le Crépuscule, Laura Vandewynckel (14', 2023, Belgium)

On a vibrant square, the crowd absorbs the sun to the fullest. A flow of newspapers whirls down, gently spreading seeds of unrest among the bathers. Unrest turns to fear when a sudden eclipse plunges the square in total darkness. The minds desperately seek light. Then the sun slowly dies out ...

ZF: The 3D animation short makes its transparent characters look both fragile, scared and content in turns. Laura Vandenwynckel masterfully manipulates group reactions, and its handling of camera and space left is visceral and to the point.

The Miracle, Nienke Deutz (14', 2023, Belgium/France/Netherlands)

The Miracle is a place where the sun always shines, with endless opportunities to relax and food in abundance. But how do you relate to a place that constantly confronts you with the things you don’t have?

ZF: Nienke Deutz narrates past disappointments framed in plexiglass figures that need to break away from their ordinary patterns -but still feel trapped in the resort surroundings. An elegy of lost hopes yet humane understanding and compassion -amongst indifferent facilities and activities.

The Leak, Paola Cubillos (7', 2022, Belgium)

The tranquility of a woman's apartment is imperiled by a water leak. As the drops fall, she is reminded of the unspoken memories that have long been suppressed. The inner dripping becomes a portal to another space-time, between forgotten childhood emotions and the woman's current reality.

ZF: It shares its puppet influences out in the open, and re-creates a film with concrete timing and shot sequence, both dramatic and fantasy-like. It is a sober joy to behold.

Wild Tale / Conte sauvage, Aline Quertain (15', 2023, Belgium/France)

In the middle of a tropical forest, a lonely feline meets a small bird. These two beings that nature opposes surprise and attract each other. A feeling of friendship tinged with suspicion arises between them.

ZF: Uneasy cohabitation is here prepared in terms of character design, and at the same time, hidden as a result of the serene background natural environment. An artistically sly film that reminds one of fables (without words), and its fauvist palette gives immediate unease. Too good to be obvious.

Anima Festival Brussels took place from 23 February to 3 March 2024.

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