Short of the Week

A Family Portrait

A family’s awkward photo session brings its underlying issues to the surface in this surreal animation.

His previous film, Stand Up, was outstanding and earned our praise here on Short of the Week, but Joseph Pierce hasn’t been resting on his laurels. He earns a rare second feature, this time for his award-winning A Family Portrait, debuting today. The film has enjoyed a healthy festival run, winning awards at the big animation festivals—the Grand Prize at Stuttgart, Best Debut Film at Hiroshima as well as non-animation festivals, garnering the Prix de la Presse at Clermont-Ferrand.

The story takes place during an awkward family photo session where a wife’s suspicions of her husband’s infidelity slowly builds to intolerable lengths. But as we soon learn, she harbors a secret of her own.

For the animation, Joseph used his own personal rotoscoping technique involving filming live actors, printing out each frame, drawing and coloring every frame, and then scanning and recomposing the sequences digitally. But what’s most interesting is what Joseph does outside the captured image. At key moments he reveals the psychological undertones of the characters through surreal exaggerations. When the wife sniffs the husband for suspicious fragrances, her nostril expands to envelope his entire head. It’s an amazing effect that does well in telling the untold story.

Joseph continues to make short films. His most ambitious film yet, called The Pub, is due out in the near future. Follow him on Twitter or his website, and read our Q&A with him which delves deeper into his inspirations and processes.

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Andrew makes no attempt to hide his love for the magic art of animation. He appreciates compelling visuals but never forgets that in this modern age, a strong story always reigns supreme. You can see his work at andrewsallen.com or his latest film The Thomas Beale Cipher.
  • Daniel Bottoms

    This is a wonderful piece of work. All those thinly veiled skeletons waiting to break out and the tension released with a pillow fight. Clever and insightful of how very dysfunctional families can be, but still stay together.

  • http://jasonbkohl.com Jason Kohl

    Absolutely remarkable visual storytelling; when that blonde hair (what a specific choice) falls off of his jacket, you know everything. Great piece, thanks for sharing.

  • Shprots

    ??? ????????

  • sherlock

    what secret is the mother hiding?

  • Tara

    This captures so subtly the little cracks that appear along the surface of a seemingly happy family – exaggerated by the animation, which zooms in on each little fault and blows it up in this unsettling, surrealist style. The choppy dialogue serves to highlight the building tension between the parents, in contrast to the photographer’s more relaxed tone as he attempts to coax out a perfect, ‘happy family’ moment to keep frozen in time. The ending did strike me as a bit drawn out and disturbing, but I think that’s part of the effect the story’s supposed to have – where you’re left wondering about the many things that are left unsaid.

  • Tara

    This captures so subtly the little cracks that appear along the surface of a seemingly happy family – exaggerated by the animation, which zooms in on each little fault and blows it up in this unsettling, surrealist style. The choppy dialogue serves to highlight the building tension between the parents, in contrast to the photographer’s more relaxed tone as he attempts to coax out a perfect, ‘happy family’ moment to keep frozen in time. The ending did strike me as a bit drawn out and disturbing, but I think that’s part of the effect the story’s supposed to have – where you’re left wondering about the many things that are left unsaid.