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The Dutch Kaboom animation festival is over, but I’ll round up my reviews of the shorts in competition, ending with number six, which turned out to be the most satisfying of the seven programs on independent shorts.

Lèvres bleues (Blue Lips)
Philippe Hamelin
Canada, 2020
★★
A certain Steve tells about one night with his boyfriend. His tale is accompanied by dreamy computer generated images, showing parts of Steve and his boyfriend, interlaced with images of a canary and of Steve’s motor bike. Many of the images are shown in slow motion, and as there’s hardly any action, they are close to film stills. Steve’s tale is a sweet one, but the animated illustrations are rather boring and lifeless, and one gets distracted by images of Steve’s extraordinarily hairy body.

Praćka (Washing Machine)
Alexandra Májová
Czech Republic, 2020
★★★★★
‘Washing Machine’ is a fun little short about a man’s unconventional relationship to his washing machine. Májová uses the simplest designs and shapes on monochrome backgrounds to a great effect. Her animation and timing are spot on and even manage to turn a washing machine into an erotic element.

Jestem tutaj (I’m Here)
Julia Orlik
Poland, 2019
★★★★★ ♕
In ‘I’m Here’ we watch the last days of a dying elderly woman. Orlik explores stop-motion, using puppets of the upmost realism, not seen since the work of Suzie Templeton (e.g. ‘Dog’ of 2001). The dying woman is completely convincing and one of the most real personas I’ve seen in any stop-motion film. The story is told in many very short scenes, all taken from a single point of view, always focusing on the wrinkled lady, who isn’t able to either speak or move anymore. To watch her mostly silent distress is painful enough, but often more drama takes place in the background, as her father and daughter struggle to take care of the terminal patient.

Of the 55 shorts in competition ‘I’m Here’ was the only one that really moved me. When the title words were spoken I burst out in tears. Thus the more surprising that this film about dying was made by a student still in art school. ‘I’m Here’ won the Kaboom student award, and I say it is well deserved, because I’d crown this film the most impressive of the complete festival.

Black Snot & Golden Squares
Irina Rubina
Germany, 2020
★★★
‘Black Snot & Golden Squares’ lasts only one minute and promises us that one day we can hug again. The message is packaged in enjoyable 2D computer animation of Bauhaus-like semi-abstract images of blues, grays, yellows and blacks.

The Great Malaise
Catherine Lepage
Canada, 2018
★★★★★
In ‘The Great Malaise’ we hear a woman describing herself as for a personal ad. Her descriptions are accompanied by illustrative animations in a variety of styles and techniques, one even more original than the other. But halfway the visual metaphors get extra meaning. ‘The Great Malaise’ is a very graphic and highly original film showing the dangers of perfectionism. The film is as authentic as it is funny, and must be counted among the best of the shorts in competition programs.

Average Happiness
Maja Gehrig
Switzerland, 2018
★★★★½
‘Average Happiness’ starts with a Powerpoint presentation on statistics. Soon the graphs start to lead their own life, and the screen gets filled with diagrams, pie charts, bar charts etc. to form some very complex imagery, resembling cities and forests. Gehrig even manages to make graphs sensual. The abstract but mesmerizing mayhem is greatly enhanced by the weird soundtrack by Joy Frempong, and excellent sound design by Peter Bräker. ‘Average Happiness’ won the audience award for best short in competition, no mere feat for an abstract film!

Ja i moja gruba dupa (My Fat Arse and I)
Yelyzaveta Pysmak
Poland, 2020
★★★★½
‘My Fat Arse and I’ is a surreal and rather weird short on dieting. The short starts with the female protagonist not being able to put on her pants. This triggers a heavy diet, but the woman still sees herself as fat. On a dreamy visit to the land of walking butts she manages to beat “the God of the skinny bitches”with help of her fat image in the mirror. Pysmak explores a very rough, sketchy underground style, a modest color palette of blacks on yellow and green, and a rather rudimentary animation style. Pysmak is by no means a great animator, but her images are original and inventive, and her film, which also makes a nod to computer games, is a great joy to watch.

11:11
Alexander Dupuis
United States, 2020
★★★★
11:11 is a computer animated video clip full of ever changing, shiny and glowing abstract shapes, which form very apt images to the electronic R&B music by Raina and Jake Sokolov-Gonzalez.

My Exercise
Atsushi Wada
Japan, 2019
★★★½
‘My Exercise’ is a short comic film, lasting only two and a half minutes, in which a boy is doing exercises with help of his dog. Wada exploits his typical surreal style against a monochrome lemon background. The film is delightfully absurd, but even in these short and simple scenes Wada shows to be an excellent animator.

Hot Flash
Thea Hollatz
Canada, 2018
★★★★
This program of shorts features a lot of animation by female animators, and it’s clear that they can tackle subjects that will never be picked up by men. Thus, ‘Hot Flash’ covers a topic that I’ve never seen before in film, animated or otherwise: the menopause. In this comedy short Ace Naissmith, a weather presenter, experiences hot flashes, which hinder her greatly at her work. Not only is the subject matter highly original (which itself is weird as ca. half of humanity will experience this…), but Hollatz tells her tale very well, too. This means that men like me can relate to Ace’s plight, too. Hollatz exploits a very pleasing cartoon style, with an appealing color design. Her animation is top notch, too, and shows a great sense of comic timing.

The third program of Shorts in Competition of the Dutch Kaboom Animation Festival is called ‘Stranger Things’, and rightly so, because this is quite a bunch of weird animation films. And to think there’s also a program called ‘Bonkers Shorts’… Remember, this festival takes place completely online, and you can tune in and watch endless animation films, anytime (until Sunday the 4th that is).

The Surrogate
Stas Santimov
Ukraine, 2020
★★★
‘The Surrogate’ is a body horror story in the tradition of Charles Burns. Santimov manages to tell his creepy tale without dialogue, and his digital painting animation fits the uncanny, even repulsive narrative very well. Unfortunately, the short seems to end prematurely.

Warum Schnecken keine Beine haben (Why Slugs Have No Legs)
Aline Höchli
Switzerland, 2019
★★★★★
This funny little parable tells us about three very slow slugs (still with arms and legs), who lead a very relaxed life inside the fast and busy insect world. Unfortunately, they grow more and more at odds with their economical surroundings… ‘Why Slugs Have No Legs’ indeed reveals why slugs don’t have legs, and elevates the slug to a life-loving creature, free from the duties of the world. Höchli’s drawing style and traditional animation are both very attractive, and the tale is told very well through the animation only. The fun atmosphere is greatly enhanced by the use of two weird tunes by Bollywood singer Gurpreet Kaur.

Black Sheep Boy
James Molle
France, 2018
★★★
In ‘Black Sheep Boy’ the main protagonist Boy tries to find the meaning of life. On his voyage he meets all kinds of characters, who are all struggling with life in their own way. Molle’s 8bit designs and vintage computer-game style of animation contrast greatly with the philosophical themes of this short. The dialogue is displayed under the scenes, while the characters utter electronic sounds. The result is a cartoon of utter weirdness, but also one that could have used some editing and with its 15 minutes length outstays its welcome.

Elo (Tie)
Alexandra Ramires
France/Portugal, 2020
★★
‘Tie’ is a dark, surreal and wordless tale of a man and a woman finding each other at a swamp. The events are bridged by images of a rotting carcass of a dog. Although ‘Tie’ is essentially a tale of love, the atmosphere is grim and rather unsettling, with Ramires’ scribbly animation taking place on a dark canvas. The result is weird and original, but also a bit tiresome, and not very rewarding, with the weirdness giving way to a fairly conventional ending.

Jo Goes Hunting – Careful
Alice Saey
France/The Netherlands, 2019
★★★★
‘Careful’ is a very attractive videoclip for the otherworldly indietronica music of Jo Goes Hunting. The strange sounds are accompanied by virtuoso 2D computer animation depicting circles, in which all kinds of plants, animals and humans can be detected. Sacy’s employs a handsome graphic style, and a beautiful color design. Both music and images are simply mesmerizing in their strangeness, and this non-narrative short is over before you know it.

Good
Chun-ting Ou
Taiwan, 2020
★★½
In ‘Good’ a little girl tries to be good, in fact, way too much so. Ou’s 2D computer animation is attractive, but at times becomes quite disturbing. Some of the girl’s facial expressions are pretty unsettling. ‘Good’ may show us that mere perfectionism will bring us nowhere, on the contrary.

Strange Occurrences: Bukit Bulabu
Shi Teng Wong, Gloria Yeo & Hana Lee
Singapore 2020
★★★
‘Strange Occurrences: Bukit Bulabu’ is a spoof of ghost hunting programs on television. This ‘episode’ focuses on a supposedly haunted toilet and features interviews with three people. The short never becomes serious, but Wong, Yeo & Lee’s stop motion is top notch, giving the rather simple puppets a very believable presence during their interview sessions, giving their characters natural gestures comparable to the work of Aardman. Nevertheless, it’s nice to watch the use of jiggly pieces of paper as tears. ‘Strange Occurrences: Bukit Bulabu’ makes no sense, and cannot be taken seriously, but it does show that Wong, Yeo & Lee are very able stop-motion animators.

Seoulsori
Kyoung-bae Kim
South Korea, 2020
★★★
Seoulsori is a music video for an instrumental track by South Korean rapper Peejay. The video starts with a bespectacled man looking at a painting. Before soon, he’s immersed into a nightmarish world. Kim’s 2D computer animation is accomplished, if rather derivative, and the constant flow of images is a perfect companion to Peejay’s attractive triphop music.

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