Annecy International Animation Film Festival is the great bastion for the art of animation. Every year thousands flock to the alpine town in southeastern France to celebrate the best work being created by animators across the globe. From short films to features and everything in-between, Annecy is the place to be when it comes to catching the most impressive work currently being made in the imaginative and boundless art form. The short films on display, which we’ve covered for a number of years now, feature animators new and old, some making their first shorts after graduating film school, others 30 years into a career. This year’s films are true to that once more and, in particular, showcase a strong engagement with the creative breadth afforded by the form. Many of the shorts utilise a variety of techniques to bring their stories to life and the results are a joy to behold. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a selection of ten films from this year’s crop that left a last impression on us here at Directors Notes.

Sweet Like Lemons – Jenny Jokela

Filmmaker Jenny Jokela who’s no stranger to DN’s pages takes the feeling of trying to escape a toxic relationship and turns it into an ever-flowing tapestry of colour and paint that is equal parts terrifying and cathartic. What’s so impressive is that despite being only five minutes in length, Joel lays it all on the table creating a fully-encompassing experience of heartbreak and escape.

Our Uniform – Yegane Moghaddam

Yegane Moghaddam portrays the reality of Iranian school life through a series of animations presented across a background of school uniform fabric in her playful and poignant animation. It’s a short that opens with a disclaimer reading, “This film is not criticising hijab and people who wear it. It’s a mere depiction of school in Iran, where full hijab is mandatory”’, a powerful sentiment that sets the tone and highlights the film’s desire to present the truth of a culture that frequently poses a threat to women’s rights.

Box Cutters – Naomi Van Niekerk

The monochrome palette of Naomi Van Niekerk’s short perfectly encapsulates the bleak and defined sense of morality at play within it. Box Cutters is a black and white animation about a young woman who ventures to the store to get some bread. On her way back she is jumped by three men who attack her, then as she wanders through the street afterwards, blood-soaked and seeking help, she is ignored by those around her. The images of Van Niekerk’s stark and poignant film unfurl through a sand-like effect, creating a portrait of memory that smoothly fades from one to the next.

Wild Summon – Karni & Saul

Long time DN alums Karni & Saul turn their dynamic creativity towards nature this time around, telling a surreal story about the journey wild salmon face in the natural world. The directing pair take the bones of a typical nature doc, a quaint voiceover (provided by the instantly recognisable Marianne Faithfull) coupled with soaring shots of rivers snaking through wide landscapes, and imbue it with their signature imaginative flair, which in this instance is the use of a human/salmon hybrid in place of the fish itself. The result is a remarkable short, which DN spoke to the filmmakers about ahead of its world premiere at Cannes last month, that calls attention to humanity’s destruction of the natural world.

Intersextion – Richard R. Reeves

The most purely abstract film on this list, Richard R. Reeves’ oscillating animation communicates, in essence, a bond forming between two symbolic beings of energy. What’s so successful about Reeves’ animation is how through this imagery he’s so clearly able to transmit a message of pure love and connection. The images are abstract but the subtext is clear. The sound design is incredible on this one too, with a sizzling electrical feel that pops and fizzes as the two forms converse and merge.

Love Me True – Inés Sedan

A vibrant and colourful depiction of a young woman’s journey into the world of online dating. Inés Sedan’s film takes an absurdist approach to its character design, with her protagonist’s potential dates taking the form of surreal animal-headed caricatures drawn in an assortment of forms. The general art style is similarly expressive and non-conforming, with a wide breadth of forms utilised to showcase the terror and chaos that is putting yourself out there in these strange and reactionary spaces.

Her Dress for the Final – Martina Mestrovic

I’m a big fan of Martina Mestrovic’s portrait of an ageing woman who decides to dye her wedding black. The core theme of coming to terms with the passing of time extends beyond this core conceit and into the animation itself. As Mestrovic’s character picks up the ornate objects around her house the visual style shifts from 3D to 2D, activating these previously cold objects and subtly showing how life is lived not through our items but through us and the meaning we bestow upon them.

11 – Vuk Jevremovic

Veteran animator Vuk Jevremovic’s evolving short film is a whirlwind blend of styles and forms. The tale Jevremovic weaves is one set in the realm of football and the constantly-shifting mindset of the player. Through a broad amalgamation of styles, ranging from crayon-based sketches to painted textures, an intense and frenetic world is created and the audience is thrust onto the pitch, a place where goals are scored and reality is warped. It’s a fascinating and interpretive film that’ll vary in meaning from person to person.

Nun or Never – Heta Jäälinoja

With a style that is reminiscent of Quentin Blake, Heta Jäälinoja’s animated short is a quiet comedy about a nun who loses her grip on daily life. There’s such charm to how Jäälinoja realises her characters, who are drawn with sketch-like linework that feels like it’s lifted directly from a classic children’s book. It’s the perfect tool to accentuate the comedic nature of their actions and the ups and downs that life brings them.

World to Roam – Stephen Irwin

The darkly comic fairytale sensibility of Stephen Irwin’s short feels akin to the early experimental work of Tim Burton, in particular his pre-feature student films and the shorts he made whilst working for Disney. Irwin, whose work we’ve been featuring since DN first opened its doors, tells the story of a family, whose baby wonders into the world every night and come morning has to be tracked down by his parents. Then, as the boy’s outings begin to escalate, the parents must come to terms with who he is becoming. The fable-esque quality of the film comes through in its flickering, hand drawn design and the buoyant, orchestral score underpins the boy’s joyful excursions.

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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