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Director: Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen
Release Date: June 15, 2020
Rating: ★★★½
Review:

The Dutch online Kaboom Animation Festival was not only about shorts, it also presented thirteen feature films, of which I have seen five, the first being ‘My Favorite War’.

‘My Favorite War’ is an animated documentary and autobiography. In this feature film director Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen tells about her youth in Latvia when it was still part of the Soviet Union, “the self-proclaimed happiest country in the world” as she tells us at the beginning of the film. We follow little girl Ilze from 1974 until the singing revolution of the late 1980s, which resulted in Latvia’s independence of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Burkovska Jacobsen brings daily life in the communist, totalitarian regime back to life, which not only does look hopelessly old-fashioned when compared to contemporary Western Europe, but which also is strikingly preoccupied, even obsessed with its heroic past. Practically everything in Ilze’s life revolves somehow in defending the great Soviet Union against fascism, like the Soviets had successfully done during World War II (the favorite war of the title). In fact, much of Ilze’s life is devoted to a bleak and pointless preparation for a war that never comes.

Ilze lives near a site in which Nazi Germany managed to keep an isolated fastness until the general capitulation, called the Courland pocket, which Burkovska Jacobsen calls the Courland Cauldron, and near a Soviet army training site, and both localities make a marked impression on her daily education and social life. As if the Soviet Union wanted to make their inhabitants relive World War II constantly and persistently. Likewise, Burkovska Jacobsen’s tale often shifts back to the 1940s to tell what happened in the Courland pocket.

Even more tension comes from the contrast between Ilze’s father, a member of the communist party, and her grandfather, a so-called enemy of the state and a Siberia camp survivor. For example, to protect her grandfather and her mother, Ilze strives to become the best member of the communist party…

‘My Favorite War’ is a very sympathetic and welcome film, and tells very well how it is to live under an oppressive regime. Tales like this cannot be told enough, for they show us the values of freedom and democracy. But this does not mean that ‘My Favorite War’ is without its flaws: the film makes interesting use of collage techniques, but the designs are a little inconsistent, and could have done with bolder artistic choices. Worse, the cut-out animation is rather stiff, and at times downright amateurish, hampering the story. The dialogue, too, is dreadfully stiff, and too often fails to come to life, at all. Thus the characters on the screen remain wooden puppets, missing an opportunity to penetrate one’s heart. The best animation is when Ilze kicks the bucket of garbage she has to take outside. This is a rare moment of effective little realism in a tale of otherwise rather grand gestures.

In fact, the symbolic parts are the best. Especially entertaining is the sequence in which Ilze visualizes why her town is deprived from butter, supposedly because it’s saved for the Great War to come. And the film’s most harrowing tale, that of Ilze’s friend Ilga, is in fact told in live action, by the present Ilga herself. In the end one cannot escape the feeling that Burkovska Jacobsen has been relatively lucky to have lived in the twilight days of the Soviet Union, and to have experienced the thaw of Perestroika and the freedom following the singing revolution. But it comes to no surprise that the film ends as a pamphlet against all oppressors, for Burkovska Jacobsen knows well enough what she’s talking about.

Watch the trailer of ‘My Favorite War’ and tell me what you think:

‘My Favorite War’ is not yet released on home media

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.

Director: Guillaume Lorin
Release Date: 24 October 2020
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

I’m trying to cover as many films as possible from the Dutch Kaboom Animation Festival, which is completely online this year. It’s simply impossible to cover everything, as the festival shows more than 300 films, requiring several days of non-stop watching. One of the programs focuses on the French animation studio Folimage, which is known for its high quality animation films for children, like ‘Une vie de chat’ (A Cat in Paris, 2010) and ‘Phantom Boy’ (2015). Part of this program is a new children’s film from 2020 called ‘Vanille’.

‘Vanille’ is a charming little children’s film, lasting half an hour, about Vanille, a little girl from Paris who’s sent off by her father on holiday to her aunt on the Caribbean island Guadeloupe, much against her will. Vanille has many difficulties adapting to the friendly but new environment, and she is pretty homesick. But then something magical happens, involving a so-called Soukounian, a magical creature from Creole folklore.

‘Vanille’ explores very charming human designs and sets. These are combined with live action background footage of the tropical island, and the drawings and real life pictures blend surprisingly well, despite the European cartoon style of the drawings. The story remains with Vanille and her emotions, but also shows some subtle human interaction in the background, lost on the little girl. ‘Vanille’ tells something about embracing one’s roots (a theme that revolves around Vanille’s hair), but above all it’s an exciting adventure for kids. The story of ‘Vanille’ may be a bit weird, the film is a delightful little piece for children and adults alike.

Watch a teaser for ‘Vanille’ and tell me what you think:

This will be my second-to-last review of the Shorts in Competition of the Dutch Kaboom Animation Festival, which is completely online this year, allowing you to watch the festival from your home, wherever you are. Please do so, for you can watch some very good animation films here, as well as, let’s face it, less compelling ones. Let’s find out how the fifth program fares!

Orgiastic Hyper-Plastic
Paul Bush
Denmark, UK, 2020
★★★★★
Paul Bush combines stop-motion and 2D computer animation techniques to produce a surprisingly colorful visual ballet out of ordinary plastic objects, like discarded bottles, and ditto bottle caps, lighters and combs. There’s no narration, but the images are no less than mesmerizing and accompanied by intriguing music and sounds by Andy Cowler. To me this is the most interesting film of the (Human) Nature program, and one of the best in the competition, overall. Highly recommended.

Polka-Dot Boy
Sarina Nihei
France, 2020
★★★½
‘Polka-Dot Boy’ is an intriguing traditionally animated film with hand-painted frames. The scenes are very surreal and hard to decipher, but apparently Polka-Dot Boy has some weird disease that causes polka-dots on his arms. Even worse, he gets some unwelcome attention from certain members of a religious cult. I can’t make head or tail of this film, which ends all too abruptly, but I cannot deny that Nihei’s tale is a captivating one.

Popcorn
Rafael Sommerhalder
Switzerland, 2020
★★★★
‘Popcorn’ is by far the shortest entry in the competition, lasting only 15 seconds. It doesn’t even appear to be animated. In these 15 seconds we watch a very original way of popping corn.

Candy Can
Anton Octavian
Romania, 2020
★★★
‘Candy Can’ follows a ca,. fourteen years old boy who seems to live in a slum near a garbage dump. He dreams of being a soccer player, and there’s a girl he’s clearly in love with, but otherwise it’s hard to make head or tale of this film. Nevertheless, I must say that Octavian exploits a very interesting, idiosyncratic style, strange perspectives, and attractive watercolor background art. Moreover he manages to tell his tale without dialogue. There’s a sad story looming somewhere in this film, and I wished Octavian’s images were less hard to follow.

Überfrog
Tuomas Kurtakko
Finland, 2020
★★
In ‘Überfrog’ a frog chases a dragonfly into a magical land. The tale of ‘Überfrog’ is on the shallow side, and seems only to be a frame on which Kurtakko can showcase his command of CGI. For ‘Überfrog’ is apparently the only animation film in the competition to exploit photo-realistic animation, and Kurtakko admittedly knows his trade. Unfortunately, the film feels as empty as a show reel. Much ado about nothing.

Freeze Frame
Soetkin Verstegen
Belgium, Germany, 2018
★★★
‘Freeze Frame’ is an artful black and white stop-motion film depicting ice pickers and animals trapped in ice. It’s not entirely clear wether this is a narrative film or not, but the cinematography is interesting and the sound design, by Andrea Mantignoni and Michal Krajczok very fitting, adding greatly to the film’s mysterious atmosphere.

Något att minnas (Something to Remember)
Niki Lindroth von Bahr
Sweden, 2018
★★½
‘Something to Remember’ is a curious stop-motion film in six scenes. In each scene an animal character, introduced in the scene before, sings a verse of a Swedish song. This short is well-made, with beautiful, intricate sets, but what’s the point? The film leaves me completely puzzled why it was made.

Flying Squirrels and the Pyrotechnician
Momoka Kato
Japan, 2020
★★★½
‘Flying Squirrels and the Pyrotechnician’ looks like an amateur version of anime, with garish designs, hand-colored frames and rudimentary animation. But in some respects Kato goes back to the roots of Japanese animation, albeit in color. He even exploits his own benshi, a traditional storyteller doing all the voices. Even the subject matter somehow reflects Japanese animated cinema of the 1920s. Some flying squirrels challenge the greatest pyrotechnician of the world, a little girl with an unmistakable anime design. Kato’s film certainly is no masterpiece of animation, but his short is funny and delightfully tongue-in-cheek.

Plantarium
Tomek Ducki
Poland, 2020
★★★★
‘Plantarium’ is a moody short about a man caring a garden inside a cave below the ground. One day he discovers a baby growing in one of his flower pots…

‘Plantarium’ is animated in emblematic but effective stop-motion. Ducki’s character design is intriguing, as the man and baby are seemingly made of wrinkled paper. Much better even is his lighting, which give the sets a mysterious, glowing atmosphere. At the end there’s also some traditional 2D animation.

Cage Match
Bryan Lee
US, 2019
★★★★½
A businessman finds himself trapped inside an elevator full of hostile warriors. ‘Cage Match’ is as bizarre as it is funny. Animated with ballpoint both the designs and the soundtrack are distinctly Japanese, with all the Japanese voices done by Brandon McNeil. The result is quirky, but irresistible nonsense.

This is my sixth review of the Dutch Kaboom Animation Film Festival, which is completely online this year, allowing one to attend the festival from one’s living room anywhere in the world. This time I’ll review the 4th program of Shorts in Competition, which, unfortunately, is the weakest of the seven.

De passant (The Passerby)
Pieter Coudyzer
Belgium, 2020
★★½
‘The passenger’ takes place in one long street in Belgium. We watch a character cycling this street, with the events happening in the background. All the action takes place on a very long background which we watch from right to left and back. This original idea is worked out in a kind of computer generated cut-out animation, rich in after effects. ‘The passerby’ is by all means a virtuoso piece of animation, but the drama remains distant, and the film never touches the heart. Moreover, the film uses way more dialogue than necessary, and lacks a certain show don’t tell quality, with some scenes played out way too thick.

The Last Train
Ross Hogg
UK, 2019
★★½
‘The Last Train’ tells about a very, very rowdy night train. Like in his earlier, much better film ‘Life Cycles’ (2016) Hogg uses a first-person perspective, as if the viewer is the principle actor in the film. And by all means the angular designs and the simple and tight color schemes are very appealing, but the whole film feels rather pointless and empty, and fails to make a lasting impression.

Naked
Kirill Khachaturov
Russia, 2019

In ‘Naked’ a man has the strange ability to walk through matter. This gift doesn’t bring him any joy, however. ‘Naked’ undoubtedly has atmosphere, with its faded images of degenerating buildings, but Khachaturov’s character designs are grotesque, and downright ugly. Even worse, his 3D computer animation is terribly wooden and stiff. At no point one has the idea his characters are even alive – they walk through the sets like zombies. In the end very little happens during the film, and the action is so terribly slow that these are fifteen very long minutes, indeed. Can I say I hated it? Yes, I can, I really hated this movie.

Wade
Kalp Sanghvi & Upamanyua Bhattacharyya
India, 2019
★★
Unfortunately, ‘Wade’ is not much better. This film takes place in Kolkata (Calcutta) in a near future, in which the whole city is flooded. A group of eight humans tries to survive in this hostile place. ‘Wade’ certainly is well animated, and Sanghvi and Bhattacharyya are very able to tell a story without dialogue. And yes, heads off to the background art, which is very evocative. But the characters are drawn in a semi-realistic comic book style that is, frankly, pretty ugly. Add some unnecessary gore, and a surprisingly pointless and empty story, and the end result is as disappointing as it is forgettable.

Asim C – Brown Skin
Ingi Erlingsson
UK, 2020
★★½
This is a video clip for the British rapper who tells us about institutional racism in the UK. Erlingsson exploits 2D computer animation to bring us an impressively drawing rich clip, in which Asim C floats down past all kinds of political symbols and images. This video is by all means well-made, if not too subtle agitprop.

My Galactic Twin Galaction
Sasha Svirsky
Russia, 2020
★★★
In ‘My Galactic Twin Galaction’ the film maker tells us what story he wanted to present us, and how it got different in the end. The voice over is accompanied by 2D computer animation in a very avant-garde, underground style, employing pen drawings and collage techniques. The tale itself is outlandish to begin with, and the images are downright insane. ‘My Galactic Twin Galaction’ resembles little else, and certainly is the most adventurous and one of the more satisfying films of this program, even if it never becomes near anything serious.

Affairs of the Art
Joanna Quinn & Les Mills
UK, Canada, 2021
★★★★½
In ‘Affairs of the Art’ a middle-aged woman tells us about her passion for art, about the quirky obsessions of her husband, her grandmother, and especially her elder sister, who even in her youth had a morbid fascination for death and decay.

‘Affairs of the Art’ is a very funny film, showing perfect comic timing, but most of all this is a very, very, very well-animated film. Quinn’s full animation style is refreshingly accomplished. She has perfect command of perspective and the human body, and exploits all classic techniques, like squash and stretch and follow-thru to a seemingly effortless effect. What a delight to watch such a high quality of animation again amidst all experimental, but often wooden and lifeless films crowding all the competition programs! Joanna Quinn is only 59 (in fact the same age as the narrating character in this film), but she already feels as a Nestor, as a master from a past in which full animation was practiced much more. I certainly hope she can pass on some of her extraordinary skills to a next generation.

I continue my reviewing of the Dutch Kaboom animation film festival with another entry of Shorts in Competition. The festival is 100% online, and can be viewed from everywhere. I’m watching complete programs, but you can easily browse and watch individual films, if you’d please. Anyway, on with the review!

Précieux (Precious)
Paul Mas
France, 2020
★★★½
‘Précieux’ is a rather disturbing stop-motion film about Julie, a little girl who doesn’t quite fit in in her class. Then one day, Émile arrives, an autistic child…

‘Précieux’ is a film about bullying and child cruelty. Mas’ stop motion is very effective in letting Julie’s complex emotions come across. In this film all the kids look the same, except for Julie and Émile, accentuating their disconnection to the rest of the class. The adults are not really helpful, either, and in the end the lesson Julie learns is a very doubtful one.

Genius loci
Adrien Mérigeau
France, 2019
★★★★½
In ‘Genius loci’ we’re inside the head of Reine, a young black woman who appears to be seriously traumatized. Unfortunately, it’s hard to decipher what’s going on inside her head, because Reine seems to be hallucinating almost all the time. The narrative is difficult to follow, anyway, as the animation often switches from the real to the abstract and back. The images, partly based on the artwork of celebrated comic artist Brecht Evens, are absolutely gorgeous, however. Mérigeau en Evens exploit a form of digital water coloring, and often the images are reminiscent of Paul Klee and Der blaue Reiter. One part is done in another very attractive style evoking woodcuts. ‘Genius loci’ is a rather challenging, even hermetic film, but an absolutely beautiful one, with practically every frame being a beauty of art.

Wood Child and Hidden Forest Mother
Stephen Irwin
UK, 2020
★★★
Animation films can be weird, but some are very weird. ‘Wood Child and Hidden Forest Mother’ is one of those films prompting the question how one comes up with this shit. The film’s story is no less than insane and the images are an amalgam of utter strangeness.

The film starts with a hunter shooting everything in sight. Then he discovers a little gnome… Irwin exploits a sort of digital cut-out animation, with lots of added aftereffects. His designs are a pleasant, if disturbing form of underground, akin to Gary Baseman and Dave Cooper. If you’re in for something mental, this is the film for you.

Já fólkið (Yes-People)
Gísli Darri Halldórsson
Iceland, 2019
★★★★
This comedy short follows the life of six people living in the same apartment block. The only featured dialogue is ‘já’ (yes), hence the title. Halldórsson exploits a very handsome 3D computer animation style, making clever use of photographic backgrounds of 1970s interiors. The characters and backgrounds are blended by rendering them both into a grainy overall style. ‘Yes-People’ is less impeccable and less funny than the similar, but much more accomplished ‘Flatlife’ (2004), but still a fun short to watch.

Bach-o-matic
Vincent Flückiger
Switzerland, 2020
★★★
‘Bach-o-matic’ is a short comedy film in which Johann Sebastian Bach visits a photo booth. The result is amusing if forgettable nonsense in a charming black and white cartoon style, rendered in effective 2D computer animation. The best part may be when Bach plays a Moog synthesizer.

Dziewczyna z filmu porno (The Girl from the Porn Movie)
Janek Koza
Poland, 2020

This is a music video to a song by Polish singer-songwriter Hiob Dylan. Dylan accompanies himself with a pleasing banjo, but unfortunately his song is rather talkative, and Koza’s black and white images full of simple, sketchy drawings rather uninteresting. It doesn’t help that many images recur within the short time frame of 5 minutes.

Mom – The Worst Punishment
Su-kyoung Kim & Kyeong-wook Jo
South Korea, 2019
★★
This film starts at some space station called ‘Gonjan Doron-X’ but turns out to be a film about the plight of Korean mothers. Unfortunately, Kim and Jo try to tell their message in a rather ugly and wearisome comic style and fairly traditional 2D computer animation. The images are too often blunt and overblown, verging on downright propaganda, and one longs for a more sophisticated approach to get the welcome message across.

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.

This is my third program review of the Dutch Kaboom Animation Festival, which is completely online this year, allowing one to watch more than 300 films from his own home. Today I’ll focus on the commissioned shorts in competition. This is a short program, lasting only 45 minutes, but with its 16 short films this turns out to be long enough.

Clipphanger: Waarom worden meisjes ongesteld? (Why Do Girls Get Their Period?)
Natali Voorthuis
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★★
This Dutch animation short tells children in ninety seconds why women have a period. The voice over is accompanied by cartoony visuals in a traditional style that are simple and effective to get the message across.

#Stolen Memories: Johannes
Leo Rey
Germany, 2020
★★★
In this very stylized short Johannes tells his life story. During the film it becomes clear that Johannes’s memories are reconstructed from the little material we know from his life, for Johannes perished in a concentration camp during World War II. Hence the title ‘stolen memories’. The narrating voice over is accompanied by stark and highly stylized black and white images rendered in effective 2D computer animation. The result is a very effective film on the cruelty of war.

A Dog by Your Side
Selina Wagner
United Kingdom, 2019
★★★½
The message of 2 minutes long film I that “life is better with a dog by your side”. Wagner illustrates this with very beautiful 2D computer animation of semi-transparent silhouettes against gorgeous colored backgrounds. The film illustrates several phases of a life in rapidly succeeding short scenes set to music. Apart from the beautiful artwork Wagner’s inventive use of frames should be mentioned.

Halloween Promo -Veronica
Sverre Fredriksen
The Netherlands, 2020
★★½
This is a very short promotional film, lasting only 27 seconds. The Halloween theme is evoked in rather old-fashioned stop-motion, which is as amateurish as it is evocative.

Clipphanger: wat was apartheid? (What Was Apartheid)
Hilde Buiter
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★½
A second entry in the Clipphanger series, which apparently explains several subjects to children in a mere ninety seconds. Buiter illustrates the explaining voice over with images in traditional animation in a simple, cartoony style and rather jumpy animation, which, combined with the strong sound-effects, reach their goal easily.

De scheppende mens (The Creator)
Maarten Treurniet
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★★½
This short showcases the importance of art and design, both intrinsically as economically. This message certainly is a very welcome one in The Netherlands, in which the attention for the arts have been in a steady decline the last ten years. Treurniet accompanies the explaining voice-over with very attractive moving infographics in 2D computer animation in a graphic style that harks back to the 1950s.

Facing Water
Daphna Awadish
Israel, 2019
★★
‘Facing Water’ is an acoustic song on water, illustrated with painted animation, combined with highly edited live action footage, resulting in a rather granular visual style. The images are poetic and evocative, but the film the film floats by calmly without making a lasting impression.

Gardener & Bumblebee
Ignas Meilunas
Lithuania, 2020
★★★
In only 34 seconds Meilunas tells about the importance of bumblebees for gardeners in Lithuania. The narration is illustrated with very charming, if rather childish stop-motion, more fit for toddlers than the intended audience.

Gouda Cheese Experience Mindset
Stef Holtz
The Netherlands, 2020

Some commissioned films feel more heavily edited by their commissioners than others. This opening short for the ‘Gouda Cheese Experience’ in Gouda comes across as if all heart has been taken out of it due to too much influence from the commissioning Cheese industry. Holtz’s 3D computer animation is of a reasonable quality (especially his rendering is very good), but his visual style is awfully conventional, and the end result pretty annoying. ‘The Gouda Cheese Experience Mindset’ completely misses the mark, and I pity the poor audience having to sit through it.

Let Love Live on
Daniel Stankler
UK, 2020
★★★
‘Let Love Live on’ is a ninety second promotional film for organ donation. Stankler illustrates this with 2D computer animation, in a very bold and handsome indie design, which is completely his own. Unfortunately, I’m not sure whether his vague images make the message come across.

Tonke Dragt: An Animated Biography
Iris Frankhuizen
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★
A charming biography of Tonke Dragt, one of the best children book’s writers of The Netherlands. This biography only lasts ninety seconds, and makes clever use of several of Dragt’s famous book titles. Frankhuizen’s visual style and 2D animation is pleasant and colorful, if rather unassuming.

Letter to My Body
Elyse Kelly
US, 2020
★★
‘Letter to My Body’ is a poem, which Kelly illustrates with virtuoso 2D computer animation, partly based on drawn and painted material. Kelly’s sense of color must be noted, but the most interesting aspect of this film is the camera, which constantly moves to the right. Otherwise neither the poem nor the visuals make any lasting impression.

Life at Oranjehotel
Studio Motoko
The Netherlands, 2020

‘Life at Oranjehotel’ is by far the longest film in this program, lasting 12 minutes. Unfortunately, it’s also the most disappointing one. The short tells about a prison in Scheveningen in which people of the resistance were imprisoned during World War II. No doubt this black episode in Dutch history needs attention, but Studio Motoko uses a hideously ugly combination of 2D graphics and 3D computer animation, which they hardly master. Especially the human movement looks wooden and unnatural. In fact, the looks of this film are so deplorable, I stopped watching it after several films. This is a pity, because the concept art shown during the end titles is much, much more attractive.

Warming up: Vliegen
Sverre Frederiksen
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★½
Frederiksen returns with another stop-motion illustrating the disastrous emissions of short flights within Europe. As in ‘Halloween Promo – Veronica’ Frederiksen’s stop-motion is very simple, even rather old-school, but highly effective. He certainly does manage to get the message across in a mere 41 seconds.

Whatever You Call It
Moth Studio
UK, 2019
★★★★½
This is a delightful little short featuring a happy song about death. Moth studio illustrates all synonyms of dying featured in the song with charming, child-friendly 3D computer animation to a highly entertaining effect. These are 70 seconds very well-spent, indeed.

Jabberwocky
Sjaak Rood
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★
The animator of ‘Coffee’ (2012) and ‘At First Sight’ (2018) illustrates Lewis Carroll’s famous nonsense poems in his idiosyncratic scribbly pen style. Unfortunately, Rood clearly makes some shortcuts in animation, hampering the illusion of movement, and some parts of this 2 minutes long film are hardly animated, at all. The result looks a little cheap. Moreover, Rood’s cartoony rendering of the poem fails to evoke its weirdness. Thus, ‘Jabberwocky’ may be fun, it’s not the best illustration of Carroll’s work. Nevertheless, ‘Jabberwocky’ is a nice little fun short. Note Mark Nieuwenhuizen’s quasi-medieval music in the background.

This is my second program review of the Dutch Kaboom Animation Festival, which is completely online this year, allowing one to watch more than 300 films from his own home. I’ll hope to review several more.

The Physics of Sorrow
Théodore Ushev
Canada, 2019
★★★
Based on the novel of the same name by Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov this half an hour long film use a voice over telling partly of youth memories and partly giving us a bleak, depressive outlook on life. The narration is accompanied by stunning painted images, mostly in browns and ochers. These images are essentially realistic, but often very expressive and sketchy, verging on the abstract, with the impasto strokes being very visible. Nevertheless, one can see that they’re often based on live action footage.

Ushev’s animated paintings are by all means a visual tour de force, but frankly the voice over is already very evocative without them, and one wonders whether the novel really required these moving illustrations.

Vieille Peau (Old Hag)
Nicolas Bianco-Levin, Julie Rembauville
France, 2020
★★★½
‘Old Hag’ is a short comedy film in which a French business man visits a voodoo witch doctor in the middle of a Louisiana swamp. He wants the witch doctor to do something for him… ‘Old Hag’ is animated traditionally and has a classic visual punchline. The result is entertaining, albeit on the shallow side.

Meow or Never
Neeraja Raj
UK, 2020
★★
In this rather quirky mini-musical a kitten is on her way to planet B-206 in her cardboard box-shaped spaceship to find the meaning of life. Will she find it?


‘Meow or Never’ is as odd and tongue-in-cheek as it is trite and tiresome (especially the musical parts get on the nerve), but the stop motion animation is wonderful. Especially noteworthy are the gorgeous sets, which have a very attractive handicraft look. During the hallucination scene the film switches to traditional animation, which is also fine, if lacking the charm of the stop-motion scenes.

Pilar
Yngwie Boley, JJ Epping & Diana van Houten
The Netherlands, 2020
★★★½
‘Pilar’ tells about two people who are trying to survive in some post-apocalyptic world, barricading themselves against something rather unclear. However, more interesting than the story are the film’s visuals. The film uses no dialogue or music, but features very virtuoso painted animation on a visible canvas, and fitting sound effects. The color designs and animation are both of a stunning quality. It’s a pity the film makers couldn’t tell a more engaging story with their admirable command of technique.

Kosmonaut (Cosmonaut)
Kaspar Jancis
Estonia, 2019
★★★★
‘Cosmonaut’ tells about an aging ex-Cosmonaut, who lives in an apartment with his daughter and son-in-law. After some images of the young Cosmonaut in space we watch the apartment in a state of disarray, with the woman frantically trying to set things straight. We’ll soon learn how this has happened…

‘Kosmonaut’ is told without dialogue in very clear traditional animation, featuring Jancis’ own version of the ligne clair drawing style. The film exploits an almost perfect unity of space and time, with all the action taking place inside or just outside the tiny apartment. The film is much less absurd than we’re used to from Eesti Joonisfilm, but still has its quirks. The story has its funny moments, but is mostly tragic, with its protagonist living in the past, as the present clearly has nothing to live for.

The Dutch Kaboom Animation Festival, a 2019 fusion between the original Klik! and Holland Animation Film Festivals, has started yesterday. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic the festival is completely online, with few real-time events, allowing the viewer to complete his own program out of the more than 300 shorts and features. More on the festival, which can be watched in ‘total’ for a mere €14,99: www.kaboomfestival.nl.

The advantage of this is that one can make notes immediately after watching a film, the disadvantage, of course, is that making notes and blog posts means watching fewer films. I’m curious how I’ll balance this act. Anyway, I’ve chosen not to browse too much, but to watch complete programs of films. Yesterday I saw two of the seven Shorts in Competition programs: No. 1 and No. 7. This post will be about No. 1, which consists of eight brand new and very different films:

Kkum
Kangmin Kim
South Korea, US, 2020
★★★★
In this intriguing black and white film Kangmin Kim tells about four dreams his mother had about him. The result is a gentle ode to the film maker’s mother, which stands out for its original looks and technique, using stop motion animation of simple, angular shapes out of Styrofoam.

On est pas près d’être des super héros (And Yet We’re Not Super Heroes)
Lia Bertels
Belgium, Portugal, France, 2019
★★½
Animator Lia Bertels illustrates the musings of nine children on growing up with poetic images, mostly in blues. Her images are very beautiful, but also associative, and often only remotely related to the voice over texts. Unfortunately, the images are less interesting than the text, and add little to it. In this respect one must judge this film a cinematic failure.

Dayfly
Baoxingchen Yi
China, 2020
★★★★½
‘Dayfly’ is a strikingly beautiful film on life and death, using the mayfly as a central metaphor. Baoxingchen Yi exploits an extraordinary array of styles and techniques, even live action, and shows a stunning command of metamorphosis and perspective animation. Also noteworthy is her creative use of split-screen techniques, and the moving, melancholy soundtrack. The result is a surprisingly idiosyncratic film to come out of China.

Shapes.Colours.People. And Floating Down
Peter Millard
UK, 2020

Simple painted faces change into abstract shapes and back, in hard primary and secondary colors, accompanied by a hectic soundtrack by the film maker himself, which is more interesting than the repetitive images. Clocking just over three minutes this film feels three times too long.

Little Miss Fate
Joder von Rotz
Switzerland, 2020
★★★½
In ‘Little Miss Fate’ a man tries to reach his girlfriend in time, but God decides otherwise. But then God’s cleaning lady takes over… This is a rather strange, quite surreal comedy in a unique underground style, with a fitting synthpop soundtrack by Philipp Schlotter.

Invade
Man Sze Wong
Hong Kong, 2020
★★
Abstract images, made with charcoal accompany the progressive rock music of More Reverb. The images are mostly fuzzy, organic shapes, but at times we can see squares. Unfortunately, the music is far more interesting than the images.

Cherry on the Cake
Chloé Farr
Belgium, 2020
★★★★
‘Cherry on the Cake’ is a very strange and highly original comedy. Farr’s visual style is completely her own, but the animation is clearly based on that of vintage video games, with fitting sound effects and dialogue in text balloons.

Ties
Dina Velikovskaya
Germany, Russia, 2019
★★★½
In ‘Ties’ a young woman leaves her parents in Russia to live on her own in Berlin, but she remains tied to her parental home… literally. This film seems to want to say something about being connected to one’s parents and to start a life on one’s own, but unfortunately remains stuck in a nice, but one-dimensional gag. Much more interesting is the film’s visual style: the characters and objects in ‘Ties’ are animated in 3D pen, a technique I’ve never seen before. These animated images blend in cleverly with the real 3D wire objects, and are truly awe-inspiring.

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