Nepali Times Asian Paints
Critical Cinema
Short cuts


Kathmandu's three-day festival of animated short films explores an eclectic range of themes and issues, swinging between reality and fantasy and positioning them into five different categories.

The opening slate, 'Social' is an appropriately diverse selection of styles and techniques that sets the tone for the rest of the festival. It brings together the festival's more ostensibly political pieces and those dealing with heavier subject matters, and also some of its best. Concrete, an Israeli film and one of the few non-French entries, is a statement against militarism. It strikes a very successful balance between realism and fantasy. On one hand, with an almost documentary-like attention it portrays typically human mannerisms and pursuits - a soldier brewing coffee, two playing backgammon. On the other, it embraces the cartoon logic to push its point across with zany and comical hyperbole. Ears Have No Lids takes an elliptical route to focus on the Nazi concentration camps. In the silences and absences it employs, it generates a plaintive emotional space and viscerally communicates the violence.

The 'Ah Love!' program unsurprisingly strikes a much lighter note. Among them is Fallen Angel, a story about an angel that falls from the sky and the gentlemen who discovers her suitcase of magical potions, a piece that seems to take its inspiration from Alexandre Saint-Exup?ry's The Little Prince; and Silhouettes, that take its inspiration from the movie Ghost. For me The Beauty of the Golden Woods outstrips the rest purely on charm and a very clever conceit. Taking up the Sleeping Beauty fairy-tale, this beauty wakes up in a modern world quite by accident and has to adapt, still bereft of her prince. What is Love For? comes second, a giddy, rambunctious short that zips through a love story with Edith Piaf's iconic voice providing one part of a punchy duet. 'The Short and the Long of it' program that follows Ah Love!' includes some older shorts with one piece from as early as 1944. The program favours the surreal and the fantastic, including one where giant snails devour a city.

The 'Break of Dawn' program is - quite inexplicably - a collection of animated shorts revolving around dogs and wolves - some meaning lost in translation, I presume. It starts with a charming rendition of Three Little Pigs retold by a series of narrators not too familiar with the plot and depicted with 'Caldur's Circus' inspired figures, which are basically twists of simple wire that suggest their subjects. The White Wolf, which follows it, is a strange and beautiful story of two young brothers in a family that lives in a forest. It is a compelling mix of fantasy and reality that probes the romanticism of childhood reconciling it with the pragmatism of adulthood.

If your hunger for animation has yet to be sated, the last program 'We Are Not Machines' provides another gallery of shorts. As the title suggests, the subject matter has largely to do with our increasingly mechanised lives - though there's little that hasn't already been said in Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece, Modern Times. The animation tends towards the slick computer generated fare. The Process explores a dystopic modernity of dangerous uniformity with pencil-like animations, dream-like logic and a trip-hoppy score. The Windmill, a pen and ink animated short, tells an eerie and affecting gothic tale of a rustic town whose inhabitant literally runs by the turn of a windmill. The hugely tasteless Berni's Doll is a story about a factory worker who assembles (and uses in various stages of its creation) a sex doll. Get past that and you will be rewarded with the creatively conceptualised and cleverly executed Bob, a story about a worker who rebels against his erasure of his identity and whose individualism spreads, inciting his colleagues and corrupting the machinery. With a few elements and two-dimensional graphics, a throw-back to video games of the Atari era, Bob is deceptively simple, but undeniably effective and entertaining.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)