Thursday, 26 November 2015

Les Sommets du Cinéma d’Animation 2015

reviews by Nancy Snipper

Genius of animation and poignant messages within these powerful films

I had the pleasure of watching several shorts that showcased in this international festival that features 135 films from all over the world.  Each of these films – some in 3D and 2D – brought to life creations brimming with originality and power.

 In The Master, a sweet dachshund dog has to endure the home wrecking of a chimpanzee who escapes from his small cage. The owner of these two animals is nowhere to be found. The ending is devastating. This dark film was directed by the “mastermind” Riho Unt from Estonia.

 The Race was an exceptional film that ingeniously presented the myriad of ways that circular forms are used and incorporated into people’s lives: clocks, machines, telescopes, games, religious events and symbols and so much more created a visually compelling kaleidoscope of forms which seemed to meld into one another. This black and white masterpiece was directed by Michael Le Meur from France.

The stunning music of Arvo Part was used in Squame. Directed by Nicolas Brault, the film cleverly showed marbleized fragments of forms imploding and exploding into forms that coalesced and emanated from the human body.

Marzavan by Vergine Keaton was a touching stop animation short about retracing a woman’s heritage as she returns to her roots in Armenia. She is Greek Armenian in search of her past. As a displaced person, traveling over mountains and into valleys, she finally revisits her home and sees her mom rocking her in the cradles where she sleeps. Touching with appropriate pathos that visually translated into tonal shades of brown and grey, this 9-minute film made a big statement.

Auto Portraits was so humorous. A car is singing Que Sera sera. She ahs a filmay and soon cars start multiplying until no more oil is left in the world, and they end of in the trash heap. This film is Oscar winning.

The opening film was the astounding feature The Magic Mountain– directed by Romanian genius, Anca Damian. Using layering and 3D and 2D multi-media techniques, the film vividly recounts the story of Adam Jacek Winkler, an amazing Polish climber intent on saving the world from Russians. He was only two years old when he lost his family during the 1940 Katyn Massacre perpetrated by the Communist Red Army. Determined to go to Afghanistan to fight with the Mujahieen, he embarks on a treacherous journey through France. His gola is fraught with perilous situations which on more than one occasion he nearly loses his life. The incredible aspect to the story was how the director showed the life of the brave Afghani fighters raging against the weather’s harsh elements, hiding in caves, starving and yet successfully beating the Russians in a long protracted war. We see this and hear it via Winkler (voice narration in French by Crisope Miossec). 

Ms. Damian even traveled to Afghanistan to do research. She was able to show 50 years of this period in history and the role the hero played in it. It goes all the way up to 2001. This is a multi-award-winning feature that is poignant and the visuals are amazing.


Piano was one of my favourite shorts. A sexy woman is trying to move her piano down the sidewalk towards her apartment. She slinks, she does contortions to move it, she even strides it. Meanwhile the janitor of the building where she lives is called down to an old woman’s apartment to unblock the kitchen sink. The old woman is sweet on him, as we see her offering him a heart-shaped cookie. We follow him into his own apartment to see he has stacks of these cookies. He finally musters the courage to bring her flowers and ask her out, but she has slipped on some spilled olive oil and appears to be dead. The piano lady has tried to open the old lady’s sliding glass door and gets her hand caught. Everything seems to be chaos until the piano on the sidewalk starts playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, and everyone is revived. There are many other humorous details in this film that truly make this  gem  – directed by  Kaspar Jancis – a force in the genre, proving once again, the Estonia’s animators are leaders in animation.

Difficult to follow any story line, the next two films are left to your own imagination for interpretation.
Via Curiel 8, by children’s book illustrator, Mara Cerri, takes us from the real to the unreal. A woman walking up her apartment stairs bumps into a man. She enters her room full of toys from childhood. The man hides under the stairs and she seems to peek into his life – both now children who met at school. Taken from the book with the same title that introduces these two characters, Dario and Emma, the film uses more than 4000 drawings, painted in acrylic on paper – which have been shown in a traveling exhibition in Italy.
San Laszlo contro Santa Maria Egiziaca, directed by Magada Guidi is a fun short featuring a crazy guy wearing a yellow sombrero who dances to the music on the radio. He battles demons, a rock star, a snake, meets Jesus and even manages to walk on water. Inept gods and weird monsters add sassy punch to this humorous piece of animation.

Three little gems: When the Day Breaks (Wendy Tilby, Amanda Forbis): a lady pig witnesses a car accident which compels her to seek comfort in her daily life in the city outside. Amusing and touching. Le Hérisson dans le Brouillard (Youri Norstein) has a Chagall-like style that takes a hedgehog into a huge fog where he meets animals that both scare and  assist him in getting his parcel of fruit leaves to a bear. It’s charming and dreamy.

The Street (Caroline leaf) is based on a short story by Mordechai Richler. A selfish boy who shares a room with his sister wants his own bedroom and is waiting for his grand mom to die to he can take her room. But when she does, he has no desire to move in. A glimpse into an aspect of Jewish life in the Montreal area of Esplanade Street where Jews used to live.

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