Annecy International Animation Film Festival returns to the fold once more with its 2024 edition and, once again, DN is here to recommend a selection of shorts that we had the pleasure of catching from the festival over the past week. As we’ve said in our previous Annecy roundups, the most exciting aspect of the festival is getting to see work the world’s leading animation film festival regards as worthy of its programme. Now, obviously that doesn’t mean the festival sees itself as superior to its animators, it just means there’s a high bar of entry, which makes the process of narrowing down the programme to a tight selection of ten shorts pretty tricky. In fact, there are a handful of excellent films left off this list as they have recently appeared in other DN Best of Fest roundups including Circle and Kawauso from Berlinale, and Tennis, Oranges and Beautiful Men which played SXSW back in March. With that in mind though, let’s head to the recommendations, a collection of short films that stayed with me long after their credits rolled.

Wayback – Carlos Salgado

A precise and intricately crafted piece of science fiction animation, Carlos Salgado’s Wayback feels like an ode to the great cinematic sci-fi adventures. The story follows an astronaut who is sent on a mission to retrieve an alien plant and bring it back to his planet. It’s a plot that Salgado uses as a jumping off point to create beautifully realised worlds full of grand landscapes, exotic flora and fun robotic creations. It’s no surprise that he was drafted back in 2011 to work on Del Toro’s Pacific Rim and has since gone onto be an art director for the Star Wars: Visions episode SITH.

Hurikán – Jan Saska

The story of an anthropomorphic pig who needs to retrieve a keg of beer for his favourite beer stand. I think what I liked most about Jan Saska’s short is its dark sense of humour and open approach to genre. What starts as a lightly comical drama quickly ventures into a chase sequence followed by slapstick comedy and even straight up action. The use of a synth-led score which, at one point, sounds like something straight out of Sonic the Hedgehog was a welcome surprise too.

In Perpetuum – Birute Sodeikaite

Canada-based Lithuanian animator Birute Sodeikaite’s In Perpetuum is a playful short in every sense of the word; formally and narratively. The journey of one woman as she tries to keep up with the selves she’s evolving into. Sodeikatie seems to blend modes of animation too with real finesse and subtly.

Percebes – Alexandra Ramires & Laura Gonçalves

Alexandra Ramires and Laura Gonçalves’ animated documentary Percebes follows the life cycle of a mollusk that grows off the coast of the Algarve, Portugal. Its soft, painterly visual style allows the film to flow seamlessly from one segment to another, showing us the various contexts of how the shellfish impacts different parts of the local community, its workers, and the tourists.

Kaminhu – Marie Vieillevie

Inspired by her own experience travelling, Marie Vieillevie’s Kaminhu is the tale of a spontaneous relationship marred by a clash of cultures and honest truths. The entire film is told from the perspective of Joanna, a European traveller who is visiting the Cape Verde Islands where she forms a relationship with Lito, a local fisherman. Vieillevie chooses to lock the audience’s perspective in with Joanna’s, only subtitling the Portuguese she and Lito converse in and withholding any translation of the Creole spoken by the other islanders. It’s an important creative decision that underlines the film’s themes of privilege and perspective.

Return to Hairy Hill (Retour à Hairy Hill) – Daniel Gies

An ambitious animation about a daughter caring for her siblings after their mother flies away. Daniel Gies’ short Return to Hairy Hill has a fantastical edge to it but never veers away from its grounded themes of struggle and familial bond. It’s also worth mentioning the design of the character models in this one, which have a layered construction to them highlighting the strong yet breakable spirit the characters possess.

The Car That Came Back from the Sea (Samochód, który wrócił z morza) – Jadwiga Kowalska

With all the exuberance of a snappy comic strip, Jadwiga Kowalska’s short The Car That Came Back from the Sea is a road movie tracking six friends and their frivolous escapades across the Polish Baltic coast. It’s not all fun and games though as the country, much like their car, begins to fall apart.

Drizzle in Johnson – Ivan Li

It would be futile to put into words what Ivan Li’s eerie, beguiling short film Drizzle in Johnson is doing because it feels like a work that should just be experienced. A nightmarish, nocturnal odyssey of a film that initially plays like a David Lynch directed video game cutscene from a forgotten 90s survival horror series before growing into something much more abstract. It certainly won’t be for everyone but, for those it is for, much can be found in its madness.

Margarethe 89 – Lucas Malbrun

A character piece as much as it is a portrait of an era, Lucas Malbrun’s Margarethe 89 is about the titular young punk who dreams of breaking out of the psychiatric hospital she’s confined inside in order to find her lover, a punk musician named Heinrich. What makes Malbrun’s short so compelling is the blend of form and narrative. Rendered with a graphic, illustrative style, Malbrun’s design has a loose yet refined feel that makes it a perfect match for his story of personal rebellion.

Flower Show – Elli Vuorinen

The striking and cartoonish characterisation is what immediately struck me when I watched Elli Vuorinen’s wonderful satire Flower Show. There’s an old-school, Quentin Blake-style comical sharpness to the characters which made them unlike anything else I saw at the festival. It also makes them the perfect foil for the witty commentary the short is making, using the flower show as a metaphor for the ways society has been cultivating women for generations.

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

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