One of three short film programmes in the Panoranimation section of the 9th Panorama of the European Film included 10 shorts from Torino’s Italian National Film School’s Animation Centre, screened at Karim Cinema 6 November.
The film school, also known as Centro Sperimentale Di Cinematografia (Experimental Film Centre), has its headquarters in Rome where it was founded in 1935, and is the oldest film school in Western Europe for the art and techniques of cinema, including animation.
The Torino shorts range in subject matter and treatment, from the comic to the subdued, and in technical styles from fluid charcoal drawings to 3D playdough characters in stop motion.
While visuals and animation techniques are the heart of this genre, today’s technology has made audiences used to them, and so a lot of weight is also put on the ideas presented in the films.
Concise and sweet, animation shorts are the best place to find fresh ideas, each an imaginative world compressed into a few minutes. Nearly all of the films in the programme are silent, highlighting the universal power of visual storytelling, even without a single spoken word.
A couple of films in the programme from Torino provided thought provoking alternate perspectives, such as the stop motion film Imperium Vacui (Vacant Imperium), directed by Linda Kelvink and Massimo Ottoni.
The film sets up a dystopia, captures it’s eerie essence and provides witty (if dark) insight in five minutes and five quick scenes about power and dictatorship.
Imaginative, simple, well-paced, and sharp witted, the film stays with you for much longer than its screen time. It is so tightly wrapped, that to describe it would spoil the element of surprise, which works very well for the film.
Another alternate reality can be seen in Office Kingdom, by four directors: Salvatore Centoducati, Eleonora Bertolucci, Giulio De Toma and Ruben Pirito.
This film takes us behind the scenes of bureaucracy, a common problem in most corners of the world, not just Egypt where it’s screening is highly relatable.
When a beautiful but grumpy government official very reluctantly agrees to stamp papers for a man, we get to see why it takes so long for papers to be completed.
The journey to acquire the stamp is far from anyone’s expectations, as the official faces an underground world of many monsters she must fight, evade, and outsmart just to get the stamp.
Office Kingdom achieves two things simultaneously: poking fun at bureaucracy and how it can often be absurd, while also leading us to appreciate the work of the grumpy faces behind officialdom's` desks.
Office Kingdom (Photo: courtesy of Zawya)
Mentioning the office, another animation short addresses women and mothers’ rights in the workplace.
Titled Maternity Protection at Work, the short draws from the ILO convention on paternity protection (No 183), which safeguards the rights and economic security of women and their families.
Six points from the convention are animated as short clips, each one in a different style. Different women in different scenarios illustrate the points, such as the right to paid maternity leave.
Only the last clip was a bit strange, with a lion and lioness living in a human home to illustrate how males can support the working mother in caring for their child. This "casting" choice seemed inconsistent with the film’s other clips.
Women are further visited from a different angle in Mama Mia, which depicts two portraits of mothers through the accounts of their daughters, directors Milena Tipaldo and Francesca Marinelli.
This is one of the few films in the selection that is not silent. The Italian voiceover was a bit fast when translated to English subtitles, making it difficult to follow the story’s details. The humour, though, is still identifiable, and the peculiarities of different mothers can be seen comically, as one story tells of how her mother put everything in separate plastic bags, and the other how her mother forgot her only daughter’s name because of how large the family is.
Some films tackled more serious subjects, such as Nana Bobo. The story builds a clever analogy comparing robbing children of their toys to robbing them of their childhood, referring to child prostitution and sexual tourism.
Effective as a social service advertisement, Nana Bobo gently makes its case relatable, drawing people into the story with suspense, and revealing it’s disturbing topic without shocking imagery that may turn off some audiences.
This is contrasted by another film about children, which plays on a much lighter note.
The six-minute Dove ti Nascondi (Where You Hide) celebrates the spirit of wonder and imagination in children’s minds. The dialogue is a recording of children having a very serious and existential discussion about where babies come from. The animation takes their words and ideas and portrays them in light childlike drawings sure to make anyone smile at these young free minds.
More smiles can be found in La Pasticcere (The Pastry Chef), a comic dystopia where people eat like vicious monsters, oblivious to the meticulous care and passion the chef puts into making each desert.
When the pastry chef finds one woman in the crowd who relishes the pastry and appreciates it as much as he does, he falls head over heels in love and will do anything to attract her attention.
Little Spider Dance (Photo: courtesy of Zawya)
Pircantaturi is another comedy in the selection, with a little less to offer in terms of ingenuity, but a lot in terms of visual language.
Set in an Italian town with a flavour of the Wild West, a mysterious man instills fear and prompts panic among everyone who sees him, especially the barrel-shaped man he has come for as he pressingly waits outside his door.
The depiction of the dusty street and stone homes provide a very distinct sense of place, as do the details and scenography inside our protagonist’s home. The tense mood and pressing hot weather are set through the film’s harsh lighting, with high contrast and sharp shadows of a midday scorching sun. All these elements make the film very cinematic in terms of treatment, despite it’s simple plot.
In La Danza Del Piccolo Ragno (Little Spider Dance), a woman dances her fears away after falling asleep in a field and getting bitten by a little red spider. With beautiful charcoal and ink drawn choreography, her dance is a personal journey of becoming, as she emerges afterwards fearless.
The movement is emotional, fluid and surreal, as the landscape changes around her. The powerful soundtrack plays a strong supporting role to the choreography, with drums, percussion and violin adding to the urgency of the dance.
Il Naturalista, by Giulia Barbera, Gianluca Lo Presti, Federico Parodi and Michele Tozzi, portrays a less fruitful attempt at pursuing peace and happiness.
The short film follows a man retreating to spend a day in a pleasant field and sunny forest. His good willed desire to enjoy nature ends up in disaster. Like a bull in a china shop, every move he makes wreaks more havoc and disrupts the larger ecosystem. The animation style here is interesting, as the animated characters move about in images of a realistic landscape.
The Panoranimation section is an exciting addition to Panorama and should be attended and enjoyed by adults and children alike. The scheduling of films in the programme placed shorts during morning screening times, away from the evening prime time for adult moviegoers.
While it’s understandable that the evening screenings are reserved for important feature films in the festival, perhaps next year the animation programme can be distributed between morning and evening screenings, to target the wider audience it deserves.
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