Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

{Nine Nation Animation will screen at the Northwest Film Forum from 1/1 to 1/6}

Coming to the Northwest Film Forum this week for a limited engagement is Nine Nation Animation, a collection of animated short films. Put together by the “World According to Shorts” organization, the most coherent thread linking the works together is that they are all visually creative – and that none  of them came out of America. Taken together, it’s a grab bag of largely experimental-leaning works with two serious gems in the mix.

I’m a big fan of shorts packages based on the personal mantra, “…don’t love what you’re watching now? That’s OK, just wait 5 minutes.” Unfortunately I’m not as big a fan of animation, especially in the short format. While I like visual effects, what mostly gets me excited in a theater is story. There’s distinct subset of animated shorts that deliver a display of naked graphical talent but fall short of pulling my mind (as opposed to my eyeballs) in. That said, when the chance to see a curated set of “best of” international shorts presented itself I was excited to give it a shot.

Firstly, Nine Nation Animation delivers nine strikingly unique visual styles – a good thing. If your yen for creative animation is strong, and that taste enjoys a bit of experimental film mixed in then this is don’t miss cinema. Those such as myself with more of focus on the emotional pull of a story have less to get excited about.

With the exception of two of the films, I was impressed with the look of everything on an intellectual basis, but felt less than fully into the whole affair. If you do attend be sure to be awake towards the end for Home Road Movies and Never Like the First Time! These two are excellent, with Home Road Movies being one of the top animated shorts I’ve seen in quite a while (even though it seems to date back to 2001). Both have compelling visuals that work with the story AND an emotional depth.  Most importantly I felt the story aspect was enhanced by the use of animation vs. live action.

Here’s a quick rundown on what to expect

Deconstruction Workers (Norway) – Using a mix of techniques, two animated construction workers (made of photographic cutouts) have a deep conversation about the meaning of existence, or perhaps their role in it as they build upwards while the city around them burns.

Average 40 Matches (Turkey) – Stop motion animation about matches gone bad, or matches getting their nicotine fit, or about be careful what you wish for, or something…

Bamiyan (France) – I was staring so hard at the most unusual animation technique I’ve ever seen that I wasn’t quite sure I got the story part right until I looked it up post film.  A Chinese monk and his tiger buddy who is not named Hobbes travel through Afghanistan where their adventures include running into the giant Buddhas later destroyed by the Taliban. It’s very hard to explain the style, other than to say it looks as though the animation is done as a series of brush strokes through brightly colored sand. Very impressive look, and one of the visual gems.

Please Say Something (Ireland/Germany) – a futuristic/surreal and clearly abusive relationship between a cat and a mouse. Not in the Tom and Jerry sense, more in the domestic violence “oh, I’m sure he’s changed this time” sense. Wouldn’t say this was one of my favorites of the bunch.  But it will be unlike most things you’ve seen before.

Flatlife (Belgium) – cute, funny, simple. What may be a painting of four apartments comes to life as the inhabitants intrude on each other in cartooningly annoying ways. Ways which would probably be far less palatable if these were your actual neighbors. May make you think twice before banging on the ceiling with a broom.

She Who Measures (Croatia) – figures march through the desert led by a clown, their attention focused on nothing else but the tv strapped to their face.  With an occasional stopping of their shopping carts to pick up discarded consumer goods. Yep, super subtle that way. Purposefully ugly/crude style works well for the subject.  Though did I mention the scary clown?

Home Road Movies (United Kingdom) – a truly beautiful summary of the narrator’s father’s relationship with his family, whose focus on providing a great childhood for his sons manifests through an unusual devotion to their family car. Home Road Movies is the single best reason to see Nine Nation Animation. It’s a bittersweet and very real presentation where wonderful animation enhances the telling. Should you see the whole package just for this one? I’m tempted to say so, though as I felt awfully sleepy during some of the earlier ones. Dunno – it’s listed with an initial release date of 2001, so it may be available in different outlets as well.

The Tale of How (South Africa) – Wacky, musical number of the life of history of some birds. In English, though oddly could have used subtitles IMHO.

Never Like the First Time! (Sweden) – Four documentary interviews about people’s first time.  No, not first time at the movies, the other first time – you know, the one all the endless American Pie movies seem to be about. The documentary interviews are presented through animation styles that differ, chosen in way to match the tale or the author’s era. The accounts range from sweet to horrible – but none are dull and all are slickly matched in terms of animation style.