Beginning life back in 1995, when it was originally envisioned as a one-off short film event, the Encounters Short film and Animation Festival has developed into one of the world’s leading lights in showcasing short films and their talented creators. A qualifying festival for the Academy Awards and a gateway to the BAFTAs and the Cartoon d’Or, if you’re a short film buff and within reach of Bristol in the UK, then Encounters is a gathering you’ll certainly want to be a part of.
With a similar ethos to that of Short of the Week, the festival aims to promote the importance of short film as a means to develop the next generation of filmmakers. Eager to find out more about the event, we took a dip into the 2013 programme and picked our 6 highlights of the festival (it was originally a top 5 but the line-up was too good):
Here to Fall
When a girl receives a call from her father she is set on a frantic journey through a chaotic world.
Shortlisted for this years Short Animation Bafta, along with Eamonn O’Neill’s I’m Fine Thanks and eventual winner The Making Of Longbird, by Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson, Here to Fall’s inclusion in this prestigious and competitive award category means it’s a film that comes with high expectations and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The debut 6-minute short from creative duo Kris Kelly and Evelyn McGrath (aka Blacknorth), mixes striking animation with a bold narrative exploring concepts of separation issues between parents and children within a digital age. Poetic, haunting and brimming with emotion, Here to Fall’s experimental narrative approach may not appeal to everyone, but those prepared to dig a little deeper and allow the film to wash over them will find it a truly rewarding experience.
In the Air is Christopher Gray
Christopher Gray has been in love with Stacey for quite some time, and no amount of lemonade can cool his desire. Meanwhile, Barry Flint has just bought his son a five-foot python from the pet store.
Expanding on his distinct stickman style first witnessed in Keith Reynolds Can’t Make It Tonight, Animator Felix Massie returns to the arena of short film with his latest dark comedy In the air is Christopher Gray. A tale of young love, Massie’s unique animated short focuses around the attempts of its titular character to win the heart of his neighbourhood sweetheart. Whilst the synopsis may have you thinking you’re about to witness an animated version of an 80′s John Hughes movie, the truth is that whilst this is a film with a romantic heart, there are some dark undertones gently bubbling under the surface. Bitterly funny, narratively engaging and visually impressive, Massie’s short should appeal to both festival and online crowds and be his biggest hit to date.
Orbit Ever After
Nigel has fallen in love. But when you live in orbit, aboard a ramshackle space hovel with the most risk-averse family imaginable, it isn’t easy to follow your heart – especially when the girl of your dreams is spinning around earth the wrong way!
A short of exceptional production values, Jamie Stone’s sci-fi adventure combines an experienced cast, industrious set design and some gravity defying visual FX to create an ambitious and memorable film. Set in an unspecified future where life in space has become a reality and starring Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game of Thrones) and Mackenzie Crook (Pirate of the Carribean), Stone’s story (like Massie’s) is one that centres around young love, as its teenage protagonist takes huge leaps to try and meet the girl he’s admired from afar. Since graduating from the National Film and Television School in the UK, director Stone has two features and a television series in development and was recently picked by Screen International as one of their filmmaking stars of tomorrow – if Orbit Ever After is a taste of what’s to come, we can see why.
In London’s bustling, yet desolate Trafalgar Square, an ancient, rather hungry corpse meets a pigeon.
Emanating from the Beakus production studio (Thursday & Train of Thought), Gergely Wootsch’s dark, but charming animation provides a fresh new take on the tale of the living dead. Revolving around the unlikely friendship of a grumpy reanimated corpse and a presumptuous pigeon, voiced by Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean & Harry Potter) and Stephen Mangan (Episodes), the gritty aesthetics of The Hungry Corpse are perfectly complimented by the heart-warming tale of solidarity between two outcasts. Further adding to an already impressive catalogue from Beakus and proving Wootsch’s well-received graduation film This is not Real was no fluke, The Hungry Corpse successfully mixes an eye-catching visual style with a universally likeable story. Long live The Hungry Corpse
‘Charlie Says’ follows a young boy whose lie cuts through the calm of a family holiday and leaves a trail in its wake that threatens to grow into something more dangerous as dusk approaches.
Having already caught my attention with his 2009 prison-based short Stained and more recently with narrative-driven music video/short film Meet Me Halfway, Lewis Arnold’s Charlie Says has been on my ‘one to watch’ list for sometime. Tackling similar concepts to the classic Aesop’s Fable The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Arnold’s measured short once again showcases the directors confident style with a subtle tale of a young boy’s misguided attempts to get attention. At almost 24-minutes long, Arnold’s dramatic NFTS graduation piece was in danger of being one of those shorts that overstayed its welcome, but thanks to an engaging narrative, an outstanding cast and some excellent production values this is never the case.
Ever since he was a child, Woody has dreamt of playing piano. The problem is that he only has wooden paddles for hands. Stuck in a job he doesn’t want, Woody spends his days dreaming of being a concert pianist. His dreams are big…but they’re about to get out of hand.
Described as an epic labor of love by its creators, Stuart Bowen’s dialogue-free stop-motion short Woody is the enthralling tale of one wooden man’s reluctance to stop wishing for something better for his life. Playfully employing wooden mannequin’s as its cast, the creative team behind Woody kept costs low by dressing their cast in Barbie outfits sourced from Facebook, building sets out of paper and cardboard and shooting black and white because coloured ink was too expensive. Despite its modest budget, Bowen’s 10-minute short shows no signs of lacking in any department. It’s inventive narrative and meticulous attention to detail ensuring that the universe the director and his crew have created is one that you can fully commit to, and become absorbed in, from start to finish.
As Encounters is one of those festivals recently featured in our The Essential List of Festivals and Online Eligibility article, as being an event that will still accept films even if they are already online, there are also a number of excellent films playing the festival that are already available for viewing including:
- Fear of Flying – Conor Finnegan
- Astigmatismo – Nicolai Troshinsky
- The Carousel Family – Te-Yu Liu
- Anatole’s Island – Chris Shepherd
- Gamma Scape – George Johnson