The NFB Takes on Annecy with Animal Behavior & More!

19 Apr

National Film Board of Canada

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

The National Film Board of Canada is getting ready to take on Annecy International Animation Film Festival with five shorts going into competition. This event takes place in France from June 11 to 16th, and is considered by many as a great event to premiere unique animated works. This year, they are honouring Brazilian animation and music in this art form will be the spotlight. Fantasia and Allegro non Tropo are classic works, and to learn the composers behind them will be talking about the process will make for a nice contrast to the sneak peaks I have seen from the NFB.

Filmmakers Alison Snowden and David Fine have a screening of Animal Behaviour (Zoothérapie), and it has a sweet charm to it that I like. This team is better known for the celebrated Bob and Margaret, and I am very reminded of the same type of humour in their short. The series follows the lives of these titular characters in a mundane manner and by the end of an episode, the feelings that emerge are from 70’s TV show, Happy Days. Viewers are simply left smiling. With the short, caricatures of today’s concerns can be found. Are we truly in control of our lives? Cheryl, the praying mantis, has boyfriend problems; Lorraine, a leech, suffers from separation anxiety; Todd, a pig, has an eating disorder, Jeffrey, a bird, has pangs of guilt; and Linda is an obsessive-compulsive cat.

With Victor the ape coming in to upset the order, just how anyone survives comes into question. Dr. Clement, the canine, is the doctor here. Even he is not without his problems. Although he worked hard to get past his basic instincts, this work does a great job of poking holes. Life is difficult when these individuals give in.

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Justine Vuylsteker’s Étreintes (Offshore/NFB) may well be another work which examines skeletons in the closet, self-made or not. This work reveals a woman having a challenge with her past. As she stares at the cloudscape, the forms which emerge can passion or frighten her. This production uses an old animation device, the épinette, to give this presentation a unique visual touch. Anyone interested in looking at how this device works can visit France’s Centre national du cinéma et de l’image while at Annecy.

Other works include Patrick Bouchard’s international premiere of Le sujet and Elizabeth Hobbs’s film I’m OK (Elizabeth Hobbs/Animate Projects. The former gives a new interpretation of what body horror can embody. The latter examines Austrian artist Oskar Kokoschka’s famous love affair from 1917, where this filmmaker reflects on the impact of war upon the individual at the centenary of WWI, mental health disorders and strategies for recovery.

Screening in the Perspectives section, Un printemps by Keyu Chen rounds out the NFB’s lineup of shorts. This particular work is particularly notable, as it is inspired by Chinese ink paintings, and the narration looks at a coming of age tale of a young girl who finally decides to leave the family homestead. This animator may well be telling her own tale as she left her native homeland of China to study art, where she now has her degree and made Montreal home. Leaving family can be tough for anyone. Adapting to a new culture is even more difficult.

All these narratives are worth examining when they play at Annecy. It is not too late to plan a vacation to France and also enjoy the scenic delights at the same time!

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