Being that I’m in the middle of post-production for my own short film, I’ve recently gained a new sense of appreciation as to how difficult actually finishing a film can be. And to those who choose to tell their stories through the field of animation, I can only weep with empathy and respect.
But in light of that appreciation, I was able to snap up a ticket to one of the screenings at this year’s British Animation Film Festival. With 22 films in total, it was a solid two hours of laughs, tears and everything in between.
While it wouldn’t be practical for me to review all 22, I did want to touch on a few that stood out in an already overachieving field.
If The Cuckoo Don’t Crow
Directed by Steve Kirby / Runtime: 2 minutes
For those readers not lucky enough to have been raised in the British Isles, there are a few opinions and stories that every citizen is taught in childhood. For example:
- Dick Van Dyke has a shitty cockney accent in Mary Poppins.
- In football, the four nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Island all hate each other. Unless one of us is playing the French.
- And we all hate the French. Unless they’re playing the Germans.
- The only reason we keep losing Eurovision is because all the Eastern European countries are mean and keeping ganging up on us!
- And Michael Fish made a REALLY bad weather call in 1987.
It’s this last one that’s relevant as weatherman Michael Fish famously said on national TV:
“Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way; well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t!
That night, one of the most violent hurricanes in British history hit the nation and the rest is history.
If The Cuckoo Don’t Crow is a hilarious exploration of who exactly that mysterious woman was and how she knew about this violent storm.
If The Cuckoo Don’t Crow is available to watch on Vimeo.
Directed by Robert Dollase / Runtime: 9 minutes
A good time travel film is always appreciated; and in Quitting Time we have a great animated comedy adventure about a rather stubborn professor.
With animation that could honestly rival some of the big studios, this film follows said professor as he travels back to the prehistoric dinosaur age. While at first all seems to be going well, he’s soon interrupted by something rather unexpected.
To Build A Fire
Directed by Fx Goby / Runtime: 13 minutes
With well over 20 film festival acceptances, and several award wins under their belt; the team behind To Build A Fire have easily been one of the most successful films playing at the BAFF.
Based on the Jack London short story of the same name, To Build a Fire follows a trapper and his dog as they journey through the icy wastelands of the Yukon territory. While fairly simplistic in story, the entire journey is elevated by an astounding score from Mathieu Alvado; which also happens to have been performed by members of the London Symphony Orchestra! An absolute must see.
Directed by Heidi Stokes / Runtime: 4 minutes
One of the most interesting aspects of this film is that it was inspired by a real life meeting on a train.
For Ray tells us the story of a former solider, aboard a train begging for money from strangers. By some coincidence, he meets someone from the same regiment and a lengthy conversation endures.
Though the conversation is only touched upon (as you might expect from a film that runs 4 minutes); it nonetheless is an excellent depiction of how even the smallest acts of kindness can make a profound difference in a person’s life. Beauty at its finest.
Directed by Lenka Ivančíková / Runtime: 14 minutes
One of the more longer films at BAFF, First Snow follows a young hedgehog who wakes up from hibernation. Leaving his parents, he only intends to explore the outside world for a little while.
But heavy snowfall hides the entrance to his home and he soon becomes lost. Sad and alone, the hedgehog must endure many dangers in his attempt to find his way back.
First Snow is a breathtaking accomplishment of animation and storytelling. Heavily reminiscent of the stop-motion animation used in Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox, the film is an excellent example of the fine cinematic work coming from the Czech Republic.
Directed by Amalie Næsby / Runtime: 10 minutes
While the story of a zebra and its connection to its stripes has been done to death in cartoons and literature; Ztripes easily stands out from the crowd by introducing a musical aspect.
We follow a zebra called Ziggy, the coolest and most amazing dancer on the savannah. One day when Ziggy goes for a dip in the watering hole, he takes his stripes off (as you do!), and they end up being stolen. Will Ziggy still be accepted by his zebra friends?
Completely sung through from beginning to end, Ztripes is incredibly captivating in its musical beats; and provides a perfect accompaniment to its already awe-inspiring animation.
The Moon is Essentially Gray
Directed by Hannah Roman / Runtime: 5 minutes
There are an abundance of difficult problems that children must endure in real life. And portraying these issues in live-action can sometimes be difficult due to the innocence of any potential child actor.
It’s for these issues that animation can really show us something that would otherwise be impossible. The Moon is Essentially Grey tackles this head on by exploring how children who experience neglect sometimes use escapism to try and bring meaning to their lives. A heart-breaking and moving piece of cinema.