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Reinvigorating Animations

Animation holds a special place in our hearts at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival. Join us as we take a look back at some of the best animated shorts of the past five editions of the ASFF, films that deal with themes of loss, loneliness and life’s big questions. All are available to watch in the ASFF Library.

Type | Lesley-Anne Rose

Rose, who has carved out her career writing, producing and directing stop-motion shorts, here worked with the BFI on this exemplary 15-minute short, which played at ASFF 2022. Jodie Whittaker voices Franny, a young woman with chronic allergies who is increasingly isolated thanks to her illness. Co-starring David Bradley as the doctor she visits, the film is about a search for connection and community in an oft-cruel world. Imaginatively animated, it’s also charmingly scripted (especially Franny’s ode sung to the joys of eating pizza).

Shopping Trip | Barry Wilkinson

Programmed at ASFF 2020, Wilkinson’s atmospheric animation captured everything we were all feeling about the pandemic-related lockdowns. Vividly realised in monochrome, in a style “inspired by” Playdead Games, the Danish company responsible for the superb Limbo, this traces one man’s journey as he sets off to the shops alone in the dead of night. A film that reminds us of what became “the new normal”, the eerie experience of watching it is amplified by Matthew Walker’s haunting soundscapes. A perfect 3-minute film.

The Curious Child | Howard Vause

“For anyone who’s ever asked why” says the tagline for Vause’s tale about an inquisitive little girl who loves to ask questions. “But why am I alive?” she asks, speaking to the animals around her, a question that will take her on a surreal life-long journey of discovery. Narrated by Bethan Dixon Bate, the film, which Vause brought to ASFF 2019, tackles deeply philosophical dilemmas in an entertaining way. Using a hybrid style, Vause’s animation feels inspired by Terry Gilliam’s work for the Monty Python team, although there’s nothing derivative about it.

Leave a Print | Christina Nerland

The Norwegian-born Nerland’s 2016 graduation film, Leave A Print has enjoyed a remarkable ride ever since, playing at over 75 festivals in 40 countries. ASFF welcomed it into the 2018 edition, where it was a festival favourite. This elegantly told 2D film tells about a family of Arctic foxes that learn to cope when they discover one of their number is literally fading away. A film that deals with themes of loss, it also benefits from the heartfelt score by Eduardo Andrade.

Tough | Jennifer Zheng

Animation isn’t just for children, as Jennifer Zheng’s moving short shows. Here, a Chinese mother, who grew up during the Cultural Revolution in the era of Mao Tse Tung, and her British-born daughter speak for the first time as adults. Illustrated with Zheng’s images, struck in blacks, blues and reds, the film sees the two speakers explore issues they’ve never touched on before. “Were you sad during the Cultural Revolution?” asks the daughter. “I was naive,” replies her mother. Some things can only be understood with maturity.

Take a look at other films in the ASFF Library.

Cover image: “Zidane Roulette” dir. Emy Mirel Ivasca

Words: James Mottram