By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
October 28 – November 7, 2021
Vancouver, BC‘s Spark Animation Festival has always been on my radar for years. To finally get to see the short and feature length films offered here meant this organization finally made the call to fully stream all of their programming. This includes the works theNFB has scheduled in this event and include past favourites which I saw at Fantasia.
Last year’s show (pardoning the pun) sparked my interest in watching more of their selections. The timing of this event falls in October, sometimes before Fan Expo Vancouver, which, for a short time, ran in November. The option to attend in-person is often tough because of my budget on how often I can make trips to the mainland.
From the handful of pieces I saw as midnight rolled in, the two annual programs that deserve full attention are:
After Dark Shorts Program
One standout in this selection of shorts is Memento Mori. It’s a work Edgar Allan Poe would highly approve of and it’s 100% perfect to introduce Halloween weekend. In context to the timeline in this story’s case, it’s any typical day for this post-mortem photographer in Victorian age London. He narrates this haunting piece about a recently deceased young woman that’s been dropped off one stormy night. This individual talks about how he sets up all the corpses before decay sets into the body, and is buried. But this night is more haunting. Normally, he doesn’t buy into all the superstitions and doesn’t fear ghosts. Or does he?
On the dead girl’s possession is a letter addressed to him. He’s unwilling to read it, but as the night wears dank and dreary, all those noises become even more deafening. It’s like she’s alive; we have trouble distinguishing when he’s dreaming and when he’s awake. He has a job to do before the undertaker returns in the morning to take the body away.
This piece by Paul O’Flanagan (better known for Danger Mouse) is a sinister haunting piece that just works at every level. The colours are muted, and the sound is dissonant enough to evoke that sense of soft dread. But as for what becomes of this photographer, well….
Made in Canada Shorts Program
The Rhino & the Redbill mixes up visual influences which I feel are straight out of Nelvana’s earlier works. There’s Fern Gully and Rock and Rule. Well, the latter has a style which I can easily recognize because of the mutant rhino cum adventurer named Niles. He has a travelling bird named Red, as his companion. They are trying to survive a post-apocalyptic world, and I suspect takes a slight influence from Aesop’s most famous work. Can the two depend on each other?
The end credits imply this piece is the start of a series and I’m 100% hooked! The drought-ravaged Scorchwater Valley is on the verge of collapse. These two are out to preserve the ‘new life’ that now exists. To say too much would spoil the love and attention put into world building and developing these characters. I can feel for them.
This festival is not to be missed because this pilot short by Alex Henderson can potentially be picked up and developed for either HBO or Netflix. And the big bonus for this year’s event is that more than half the programming are available to watch world-wide.