Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Next Big Thing

The seven short films chosen by art and design collective Tomato from this years’ graduates show that in these dark economic times, filmmakers seem to be satisfying the public appetite for a little escapism.

Organised by Film Friends Forever, the selection of seven films contained elements of magic and surrealism, a mixture of quirkiness and poignancy.

Royal College of Art graduate Rafael Sommerhalder’s animation piece Wolves, set the tone for the evening - a tale of two lonely commuters on the tube becoming part of a lupine-esque mating ritual. The simplicity of the sparse black and white animation enhanced the humour as well as the painful awkwardness of the character’s interactions.

What followed was the sole exception to an otherwise animation dominated bill - London College of Communication’s Luke White's Tide is a dreamlike story of a father sending his son down a small tunnel, equipped with a camera to bring back footage from a place very different from the bleak, barren landscape they inhabit. Inter-spliced with 16-mm projections, its ominous, dramatic atosphere was reminiscent of sequences from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Helen Piercy of the National Film and Television School (NFTS) presented Goodbye Mr Pink, a mixture of live action and stop-motion animation in which two children, on discovering their pet rabbit has died, perform an amateur autopsy and imagine the afterlife in store for the eponymous Mr Pink. With elements of twee and the sinister combined, this film had a distinct Roald Dahl feel.

Another NFTS graduate, Li Marhaban’s film End of the Line is a stunningly crafted mixed media animation of a woman navigating a city, run down by hours of work and commuting. Beautifully evocative, End of the Line was tipped by Tomato as the pick of the bunch, followed by Seong Jun Lee of the RCA’s experimental animation Cityscape, which conjures up scenes of London through flowing layers of spidery line drawings.

The evening closed with two funnies. Yellow Belly Up, from Philip Bacon, also of the NFTS, depicted an assortment of people wearing animal suits jumping of a cliff, meticulously recorded by a bespectacled, bird-suited, jellybean-eating overseer. Comparisons can be drawn with the black humour implicit in the work of young animator David Firth, creator of Salad Fingers.

Lastly, David Lopez Retamero, again from the RCA, showed us Sam’s Hotdog’s . Hot-dog vendor Sam introduces us to his life, his girlfriends and his vicious pet bear. As well as sublime animation, the comic dialogue set thsi film apart from the other, less talky pieces and ensured it drew the biggest laughs and audience response of the night.

The animation and cinematography of the films is uniformly beautiful and highly impressive, but what is interesting is the total absence of grit or realism. While, as a society we are in need of a good cheering up, the occasional change of tone wouldn’t have gone amiss to avoid the tone becoming mono. None the less, independently, each piece is impressive and the creators are definitely ones to watch.


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