Black Slide

If you love animated cinema but only have the chance to attend one film festival a year, then the Annecy International Animation Festival should definitely be at the top of the list, with the 2022 edition of the festival once again providing the highest possible standards in the art form. Containing a mixture of cutting-edge arthouse animation with the types of films that could precede Hollywood blockbusters, it delivered a great report on the current state of animation. And while the features, ranging from the new Minions movie to anime, might get all of the main coverage, the short film competition is often the best place to see how animation is being pushed forward, whether it’s the types of stories being told or the way that they are animated. As with last year, DN scoured through the main competition films to provide you with ten shorts that you should definitely have on your radar.

Backflip by Nikita Diakur

AI has promised all kinds of futuristic and utopian developments, but the results so far often look rather shoddy, whether it’s the recent questionable claim of sentience for Google’s Al LaMDA or the bizarre renderings by the new Dall-E programme. In hybrid live-action/animation short Backflip, Nikita Diakur attempts to create a digital persona that can perform fantastic acrobatics, but mostly ends up causing chaos. Bizarre yet deeply funny.

Pachyderme

Pachyderme by Stéphanie Clément

Told in a painterly style and aided by poetic, deeply specific narration, Stéphanie Clément’s tale of a young girl going to stay with her grandparents is a strongly felt, yet ultimately malevolent tale, using the power of childlike imagination to convey a great sense of evil.

Black Slide by Uri Lotan

When you are an older child or a teenager, you are able to get out and explore the world by yourself, but there are still things that can scare you. A case in point are waterparks — ostensibly fun attractions with slides seemingly descending from the heavens. Uri Lotan’s Black Slide captures the thrills and fears of youth in equal measure, complete with a fantastic ride that skirts just on the edge of sci-fi.

Scale by Joseph Pierce

Based on the novella by Will Self, Scale is another fine British effort, condensing the book’s 50 pages into a fleet 14 minutes. Joseph Pierce, an animator we’re mighty fond of here at DN, tells the story of a morphine addict obsessed with motorways who is both easy to root for and a complex, almost grotesque figure, given great presence by British actor Sam Spruell.

The Invention of Less

The Invention of Less by Noah Erni

The future will bring self-driving cars and melted ice caps. But what will we do about the displaced polar bears? Maybe they will become ride-share animals in Zurich, finding loopholes in the new world order in the meantime. Both dystopian and rather sunny, Noah Erni’s The Invention of Less (which picked up Annecy’s YouTube Award this year) predicts terrible times to come but also some fantastic solutions along the way.

Of Wood

Of Wood by Owen Klatte

A mixed-media, stop-cut film created from of a block… Of Wood while also blending in a variety of real-life objects, Owen Klatte’s experimental short is a rhapsodic tour de force, taking a clever stylistic conceit and whipping it into a type of creation myth. Perhaps the stand-out film of the festival.

Bottle Cap

Bottle Cap by Marco Spier & Marie Hyon

At first glance Bottle Cap from Psyop’s Marco Spier and Marie Hyon feels like a classic Dreamworks scenario: “the animal with one purpose, who can’t do that thing!” Here we have a fiddler crab — known for their huge claws — with ‘tiny’ hands. But once he finds a solution, a bottle cap he can dig with, the film’s deeper ecological message comes brilliantly into view.

Louis I. King of the Sheep by Markus Wulf

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, unless of course, you are a sheep. This puppet animation from Markus Wulf is simply adorable, telling the whimsical and heartwarming tale of Louis, who suddenly enjoys immense privileges when a paper crown lands on his head. Naturally, he becomes something of a tyrant — explored here in strange yet delightful ways — but what would you do if one day you had all the power over the sheep kingdom?

Beware of Trains by Emma Calder

British shorts (that aren’t stop-motion!) are well-represented at Annecy, providing me with a momentary flush of patriotism. A stand-out is Emma Calder’s Beware of Trains, a phantasmagoric therapy session that blurs the lines between erotic fantasy, piercing reality and negative ideation in startling ways, all captured in a fluid, constantly shifting style that deeply immerses the viewer into the unique kind of waking state that only a long train ride can provide.

The Record by Jonathan Laskar

Animation is perfect for evoking the past because you can move seamlessly between eras with just a whisk of a pencil. “Jean-Luc Xiberras” Award for a First Film winner The Record, composed in black-and-white, is a great case in point, telling the story of a magical vinyl record that evokes difficult memories in a shop owner. Jonathan Laskar’s film is both haunting in content while boldly created.

You can find more unmissable films, like the ones featured at the Annecy International Animation Festival, in our Best of Fest collections.

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