Animation - Manipulate 2023

16 03 2023

Animated Highlights

Animated Highlights and Animated Womxn: International Shorts

- Humour, Depth, and Art – MANIPULATE Festival 2023

Luisa Hahn 

With beautiful and inventive artistry, a range of styles and varied techniques presented by all creators, the Animated Highlights and “Animated Womxn: International Shorts' ' screenings proved to be a focal point of MANIPULATE’s 2023 programme. As in previous years the most effective short films are those in which the story being told is complimented or contrasted and ultimately enhanced by the textural feel of the animation technique.

Films in both collections explore important political and emotional themes, such as Farzaneh Omidvarnia’s Song Sparrow and Elena Felici’s Bus line 35A in “Animated Womxn”. Song Sparrow uses stop-motion and felt dolls to narrate the journey and ultimate death of a group of refugees inside a refrigerator lorry. The piece recalls the horrible true event of 2019 in which 39 people were found dead in such a lorry in Essex, but the application of soft, normally comforting felt for the dolls and sets gives the harsh cold and devastating events an eerie quality. Bus line 35A, meanwhile, creates tangible 3D characters, digitally animated to tell a story that is reminiscent not of individual but omnipresent events. It portrays the intimidation and sexual harassment of a girl by a man on a bus in the presence of three bystanders who witness the ongoings but are caught up in their own daily lives, choosing not to step in and help the girl.

Other productions are deeply funny, intentionally using the whimsical qualities of animation. Les liaisons foireuses by Violette Delvoye and Chloé Alliez in “Animated Womxn”, for example, uses light switches and plugs transformed into teenage characters at a party, animating them to explore their first experiences with alcohol, peer pressure, and queer sexuality. Similarly humorous is AN OSTRICH TOLD ME THE WORLD IS FAKE AND I THINK I BELIEVE IT by Lachlan Pendragon, which additionally poses the philosophical question of life as simulation, breaking the wall between the animated and actual world by giving its main character consciousness as a doll and narrating its attempts to break out of his set confronted by the oblivion of his fellow dolls.

Lastly, motherhood is a topic strongly represented in differently nuanced ways. I Miss Hugs by Anna Songel explores the change of a mother daughter relationship as time passes, while On the Surface by Fan Sissoko presents a meditation on motherhood using beautiful 2D animations. Special mention in this context should be given to All My Mum’s Phone Calls by Iiti Yli-Harja from “Animated Highlights” for its combination of animation and storytelling in which the environment of the main character is morphed into chaos and order synchronously with her internal state of stress, emphasising the personhood and individuality that lies below the role of “mum”, who is constantly in demand for her emotional labour.

Uniting all films is their short duration and while it may seem that fifteen minutes and less are not enough to address complex topics, these collections prove that the short format can actually aid storytelling. Being forced to focus on and develop single aspects, the creators represented in this screening are able to tell distilled and moving stories realised through beautiful artistry.