NZ International Film Festival
A compilation of graduation films from the Arles campus of the increasingly-famous French animation school. The course is five years long, and graduating students work on these short films for an entire year in groups of about five or six. They’re obviously not there to mess around – there’s a very high level of craft here, and the best of the films haven’t had their sense of spontaneity crushed by the long production process.
The most calculated of the films are obvious Pixar clones, which is disappointing if you’re looking for stylistic originality, but makes perfect sense for a showreel (if you want to work at D.C. or Marvel, you put together a portfolio of superhero comics, and I’m assuming this course wasn’t cheap). Amusingly, despite the sophistication of the hardware, the usual obsessions of people in their early twenties (who may not have had the widest of life experiences yet) keep bubbling up – lots of video game influences and almost no roles for women, for a start.
Slimtime -a lengthy “homage to Jacques Tati” (tenuously) which looks like The Incredibles and seems to have lost something in translation despite having no dialogue. A slight one to start off with, and proof that these things need to be formed around a bloody good concept.
Split -fantastic, kinetic and original, shows what you can do with a great soundtrack and a straightforward concept (something to do with angry self-replicating dominoes).
Meet Buck -A hipster deer meets his girlfriend’s hunter father. This one’s funny and it looks great, proving you can still have engaging character designs while looking unlike Pixar.
Hambuster -The French don’t really like some things about American culture, do they? A horror short with some amusing film poster pastiches at the end.
Aleksandr -A Russian fairy tale which should-have-been, not as clearly-constructed plotwise as some of the others but with some engaging childlike imagery.
8BITS -For fans of Scott Pilgrim and oppressively loud video games everywhere.
D’une rare crudité -Plant life isn’t much fun… original, stylish and frequently creepy.
Hezarfen -A fairly conventional but fun romp (based on the story of the Turkish aviator) which tries a bit too hard to look like a Pixar short… I wonder if those are the ones who get the jobs? What a gamble.
Chernokids -Tasteless and repellant, as you can tell from the title. Thousands of people still suffer from the effects of Chernobyl, it’s callow to satirise them for a graduation film.
Botanica Liberta -Um… the only film where the animation actually looked cheap. Our heroes, a group of rampaging plants, look fine, but the clunky humans unlucky enough to cross their path demonstrate how hard it is to get this sort of thing right.
Telegraphics -Probably the most original work here, an old-fashioned informational video about a new scientific technique which allows matter to be transformed in startling ways. Not funny or conventionally entertaining, but not trying to be anything except a showcase for visual work.
Matataro -A striking and surreal bullfight. You can sense the accomplished animators’ delight at showing off their skills.