One of the most promising aspects of animation as a form is the potential for untethered creativity. There are no fixed tools. There is no camera and tripod. Just your mind and a blank page. GLAS Animation 2021, a California-based festival which is due to take place online from April 5th to the 11th, is a terrific proprietor for this potential. A festival that celebrates the most cutting-edge work being done by emerging animators from around the globe and this year’s lineup does not disappoint. Packed with a wide breadth of animated styles, from phantasmagorical acid trips to wooden stop motion epics, the programme this year is stacked (and with plenty of DN alums too! Hello – David OReilly, Noah Malone and Connor Radding!). It’s definitely worth your time and DN has congregated a selection of some of the best shorts from the fest for you to give a watch when you do. So, without further ado…

Black Square – Peter Burr

A visceral assault on the senses. Peter Burr’s Black Square is an examination of experience within the confinement of our own senses. Burr utilises a series of intense visual effects and optical illusions to showcase the breadth and limitations of our perception. It’s a fascinating short film which feels like a welcome workout for the eyes with a humming, strobe-like sonic palette to compliment. One for the big screen at some point, for sure.

KKUM – Kangmin Kim

Told through a monochromatic palette and growing, sponge-like animation, Kangmin Kim’s short sees a son reflect on the importance of his mother’s premonitions, and the uncanny likelihood they have had in foreshadowing prominent moments in his life. Kim’s style lends the film a personal timelessness, and his clinical minimalism brings life to these premonitions is a subtle yet powerful manner.

Horacio – Caroline Cherrier

Guilliaume kills Horatio “because he was shouting too loud”. Caroline Cherrier’s short crime animation is a tragicomic story about a young man’s journey through the prison system in the wake of this act. What struck me the most is the mood Cherrier creates through her narrative, Guillaume slowly forgets the names of those he knew outside the prison along with his incentive for the murder, and the whole story is told with an anti-dramatic sense of calm. Perhaps that’s what makes the ending so startling when we see Guillaume encounter someone else who starts shouting too loudly.

Polka-Dot Boy – Sarina Nihei

Created through cream-coloured hand drawn animation, Sarina Nihei’s Polka-Dot Boy tracks a boy whose arms are covered in strange polka dots. When the boy learns that these dots are linked to an estranged religious group, things turn sour. Nihei’s muted colouring and deceptively simple style give her short animation an atmosphere of unease. As the polka dot boy makes his way through the world, his docile yet shifty eyes reflect the obscene goings-on around him. It’s a wonderfully manifested short and it’s accompanied by a surprisingly violent finale.

Natural Selection – Aleta Rajic

Aleta Rajic’s Natural Selection is a satirical slice of anthropomorphic animation with a beautiful sense of catharsis. It chronicles the exploits of a ‘Woman-Doe’ who spends her days stuffing her head through a museum wall where she works as an exhibit. One day, when she wakes up with horns growing upon her head, she struggles to reach through the hole at work and begins to question her reality. It’s a great example of ‘show don’t tell’ as Rajic withholds dialogue to let the visualisation of her humanoid animals do the talking with subtle elements of sound design alongside a minimalistic score to aid.

Gon, The Little Fox – Takeshi Yashiro

The top dog, or rather fox, of the festival for me. Yashiro’s animation is a wonderful rumination on shared grief. When Gon, an orphaned fox, finds that Hyoju has recently lost his mother he seeks to make amends for his potential role in the end of their relationship. Gon regularly bringing Hyoju chestnuts and mushrooms for solace, leading the pair to form a fractured relationship from a distance as, whilst Gon is seeking redemption, Hyoju remains unaware of his offerings and sees him as your run-of-the-mill pesky fox. Yashiro constructs his stop motion animation with gorgeous wooden figurines and there is an abundance of contemplative stillness and reflection amongst the action the pair find themselves in. Truly beautiful filmmaking.

Blue Fear – Marie Jacotey & Lola Halifa-Legrand

As a couple drive through the roads of Provence they become ambushed by a clan of women whose history is buried deep within the vast hills that surround them. Jacotey and Halifa-Legrand’s film is a fascinating piece of feminist animation about finding yourself in an unsettled place in your relationship and coming to terms with your emotions. The pair have conjured a short film concerning the lingering history and forgotten tales of women’s past, all of which is wonderfully realised through surreal hand-drawn animation which lends its pulpish blood-soaked finale a strong sense of humanistic catharsis.

Domo Dreams – Jack Wedge

I’m not going to lie. I had no idea what was going on in Domo Dreams, Jack Wedge’s acid trip of an animation, but that didn’t stop me absolutely loving it. From what I did make out it follows a cat, named Doro, who ventures forth into a variety of surreal dreamscapes, each of which is realised through a variety of animated techniques. The whole short is wonderfully strange and brilliantly baffling and it’s absolutely packed with imagery which flies by at a rapid pace. One of my favourites of the fest and it’s part of a greater series of shorts Wedge creates for Adult Swim. Totally dreamlike and totally awesome.

Salvia at Nine – Jang Nari

Jang Nari’s animated drama Salvia at Nine plays out like a waking life. The character of Silvia encounters multiple strange situations; sleeping next to two men watching erotica, watching an old pervert chase small children, and attempting a shoplift that fails at the final moment. Each of these situations cinematically fold into each other through Nari’s genuinely gorgeous visual style, and despite their inherent uncomfortableness they are constructed without an avert sense of drama, allowing them to tap into, perhaps, the most worrying thing about these scenarios, the regular mundanity of their nature.

shapes.colours.people. and floatingdown – Peter Millard

Certainly one of the festival’s most abstract offerings is DN alum Peter Millard’s shapes.colours.people. and floatingdown, a series of revolving painted faces that contrast thick colour through locked off shapes. Millard’s trademark visuals are accompanied by a frantic synthesised score which adds to the brilliant bafflement. For a work such as this, which can be widely interpreted, it all congregates into a wonderful piece on, for me, performance and the faces we all wear day to day. A perfect way to round out your GLAS Animation watching.

You can find more unmissable films, like the ones playing GLAS Animation 2021, in our Best of Fest collections.

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