Sundance Film Festival

Draw Me A Picture: Animation At Sundance

Park City, Jan 23. While animation is not a constant among the selections at the Sundance Film Festival, this year sees a new focus with the “Animation Spotlight,” a specal program of eight short films. According to programmer Trevor Groth, “We have always dabbled in it and have tried to sprinkle it though the festival.” While the festival programmers look for workin other festivals, they have found that the animation world often seeks out the festival. “Animators by having been in Sundance they have expressed a gratitude for having an outlet for their work. For them to find an audience outside of their realm is really appreciated.”


ONE RAT SHORT



What’s most impressive about the eight films featured in the “Animation Spotlight” is the sheer range of topics and techniques, from sophisticated digital animation to cut-and-paste collage to line drawings. In the ever changing technology of animation, everything old is new again — and vice-versa. One of the newest filmmakers, Alex Weil, is also one of the pioneers of commercial animation. Having pioneered video graphics in the 70s, Weil and his company Charlex [www.charlex.com] gained national recognition with their MTV best video for The Cars and an Emmy for their work for “Saturday Night Live.” But For Weil, who’s 55, ONE RAT SHORT [festival.sundance.org] marks his entry both into digital design and narrative film. “A couple years ago,” Weil recounts, “I decided that I wanted to do a short film to test my skills. We had a tremendous gift for — and experience in — message giving in our commerical work. But that’s not story telling. I knew that to tell a story I had to make something that touches the human heart.” While the animation technique is cutting edge, Weil went back to the Hollywood of Preston Sturges, Humphrey Bogart, and Katherine Hepburn to capture a night in the life of a lonely rat.

DUCT TAPE AND COVER

While ONE RAT SHORT’s elegant and meticulous animation is a technical achievement, the other animated shorts demonstrate their creativity in very different ways. Martha Colburn uses her particular cut-and-past style to examine the Middle East conflict in DESTINY MANIFESTO [festival.sundance.org]. (Colburn also did a “Snapshot Diary” [www.sundance.tv] for Sundance Channel). British director Joanna Quinn’s DREAMS AND DESIRES — FAMILY TIES [www.acmefilmworks.com] uses a soft washed-out style to deal with family drama. Yong-Jin Park’s DUCT TAPE AND COVER [festival.sundance.org] turns government propaganda design against itself in this parody of Homeland Security instructions.

EVERYTHING WILL BE OK, from the master of hilariously cruel stick-figure animation Don Hertzfeldt [www.bitterfilms.com], returns to a classic theme — life’s empty promise. Aaron Augenblick’s GOLDEN AGE [augenblickstudios.com] sends up classic commercial animation, like the dancing hot dog and popcorn of movie theater’s intermission spots. And Brent Green’s PAULINA HOLLERS tells a moody tale about a mother’s love and Christian hell. And finally Stacey Steers’ PHANTOM CANYON [festival.sundance.org] pulls from classic independent art and animation to unfurl the director’s fanciful vision.

Peter Bowen

Senior Editor, Filmmaker Magazine