Film Review: CACOPHONY (USA) Animation/Drama

Played at the December 2016 Best of Family/Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

CACOPHONY, 2min, USA, Animation/Drama

Directed by AiHsuan Shih

Through the eyes and ears of a young girl, the viewer can escape the harsh sounds of the urban environment and find solace in a serene inner world.

REVIEW by Kierston Drier: 

Coming to us by Melody Shih, Cacophony is hard to look away from. Filled with bright colors, high contrast, rich textures and expertly crafted blend of artistic styles, this is a movie to capture the soul of an artist.

 

Our hero, an introvert in a crowded metropolis, deals with the high-octane, high-stimulus noise and visual clutter around her. Sounds pop, honk and tweet incessantly and synesthetically in every direction. Somehow, despite the vibrancy and high-color world outside her, we find our way inside her. Whether we are seeing her mind’s eye, or her metaphorical spirit it is left for the viewer to decide. Regardless, the effect is masterful. The internal world of our hero is serenely still, with contrasting dark undertones against brilliant, effervescently bright simple designs. Like music made visual, like liquid made light, our hero reverts into themselves before the hum of the outside world draws her out to real life.

 

If you appreciate art or experimental cinema, find a way to see Melody Shih’s Cacophony, a beautiful tribute to the people who may see the world differently- as energy, as sound and light and texture. And if you do not love experimental film, see this anyway, as it may change your mind.

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Film Review: PHANTOM CITY (Canada) Animation/Crime

Played at the December 2016 Best of Family/Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

PHANTOM CITY, 6min, Canada, Animation/Crime

Directed by Patrick Jenkins

A woman with a mysterious suitcase and a man in pursuit… just one of the tales in the Phantom City. A magic realist detective story.

REVIEW by Kierston Drier: 

If film Noir and silent animation had a baby, it would be Phantom City, written and directed by Patrick Jenkins. The plot is simple, a woman enters a movie theatre to watch a mysterious spy versus spy style cat-and-mouse story, only for it to end in a supernatural twist that comes vibrantly to life. A simple, yet utterly engaging story line. What makes Phantom City sparkle, is how much it uses artistry in its work. It uses color sparingly, so as to add emphasis, it uses texture within its black and white frames. It makes dynamic use of sound, while minimal use of of dialogue. Artistically speaking, it is a film of depth, richness and visual complexity.

 

The story-within-a-story aspect is equally compelling with a nod to the classic Pulp Fiction. The supernatural twist at the end leaves the viewer with questions they long to have answered. But why should we watch Phantom City? See it because it effectively straddles multiple types of artistic mediums. See it because it is a compelling and visually entertaining piece. See it for its’ Noir-esque overtones and its’ rich animation. See it, if for nothing else, because it is a joy to watch.

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Film Review: STUTTER (USA) Drama/Family

Played at the December 2016 Best of Family/Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

  MOVIE POSTERSTUTTER, 13min., USA, Family/Drama
Directed by Ivo Huahua

A strong-willed widower with a heavy stutter is determined to win the respect of his son by speaking to the boy’s class on Career Day.

REVIEW by Kierston Drier: 

Directed by Ivo Huahua, Stutter is a powerful poignant piece with much to unpack. In the wake of his wife’s’ death, our Hero, a master gardener with a severe stutter, must try to reconnect with his teenage son who shares the difficulty. Determined to come to his sons’ parent career night, we see our hero go to lengths to work on his diction. It is with a tangible feeling of relief we see him succeed. And yet, victory in front of his son’s class proves much harder. And confronting the children who bully his son for his speech, (and their parents) proves equally challenging.

 

Ultimately, what sets this movie apart is its’ stunning ability to show love, compassion and pride through the lenses that is the tense and often turbulent relationship between a father and his teenage son. It holds a huge emotional weight for such a small piece. It expertly and subtly weaves grief, embarrassment, resolution, pride and triumph into a 13 minute piece and leaves you feeling as though you have carried a weight that has been lifted off you.

 

In this way, we must nodd to Huahua, for the excellent job that has been done in Stutter. For a movie where the characters struggle to be heard, it has so very much to say.

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Film Review: WHAT’S WEARING MUMMY (UK) Family/Comedy

Played at the December 2016 Best of Family/Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

  MOVIE POSTERWHAT’S WEARING MUMMY, 15min, UK, Family/Comedy
Directed by Oliver McMillan

What’s Wearing Mummy? tells the story of two little sisters, Sofia and Matti, who believe their mother has been taking over by aliens due to her suspicious behaviour, and will do anything in their power to get mummy back.

REVIEW by Kierston Drier: 

Whats Wearing Mummy,  directed by Oliver McMillian, is a step back into a time when our lives were alight with the wonder and magic of youth. Enter the imaginative world of two young sisters, Mattie and Sofia, their sense of adventure being nurtured by their stay-at-home-dad. This film, which has a well balanced mixture of comedy and suspense, takes the audience through a supernatural mystery as seen through the eyes of childhood.

 

After witnessing the disgruntled scene of their mother coming home late from work to find them not ready for bed, and their father feeding their appetite for spooky science fiction, Sofia and Mattie agree that something must be up with mom. They sneak through the bathroom, where they discover strange things- like their mothers recently discarded face mask- and jump to the conclusion that she is definitely being possessed by some sort of evil alien.

 

They attempt to catch their mother off guard and get the alien out of her, scenes that are often cushioned in the background by their perpetually high-stress mother taking out her frustration on her husband. When Sofia and Mattie enlist their father to help them catch their mother and get the alien out of her, he agrees to help, with surprising results.

 

This is one of those magical films that comes together through the strong moral core- that compassion and thoughtfulness can diffuse anger, and that childhood is not something that can only be enjoyed while a person is young. Whats Wearing Mummy invites and reminds us to enjoy childhood all over again, as both a viewer and a participant, whether through a movie or by actually interacting in the lives of young people.

 

A charming family story with a happy ending, this delightful film has a nice twist. Our heros, Sofia and Mattie aren’t totally wrong that something is up with their mom. Her recent behaviour might actually be related to a new development in all their lives. But what is it you ask? This reviewer can’t possibly spoil the surprise. You’ll have to watch and see.

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Film Review: THE GRAVEYARD SHIFT (USA) Animation/Comedy

Played at the December 2016 Best of Family/Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

  MOVIE POSTERTHE GRAVEYARD SHIFT, 2min, USA, Animation/Comedy
Directed by Lara Arikan

It’s long past midnight when the tired and jumpy waitress decides to go and investigate the ominous noise she hears right outside the roadside coffee shop she’s working at.

REVIEW by Kierston Drier: 

Coming to us from Laura Arikan, Graveyard shift is a quick comic splash of fun, sprinkled with some horror. Sweet and largely silent, Graveyard Shift is a great example of the trite cinematic rule of “Show, don’t tell!”. A young girl, bored and alone at the night shift at her truckstop cafe is terrified to find her small coffee shop filled with Zombies. But no, they don’t want her brains. They want coffee.

 

It is not totally clear if coffee magically cures the zombie truckers, or if it is a metaphor for the long and solitary transport job putting its’ patrons into sluggish grey stupors, but it is likely the latter. No worries though, because this quick two minute animation delivers enjoyment whichever way you interpret it! A delightful cinematic romp into imagination, now comes with a caffeinated kick.

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Film Review: BIRTH WEAVING LIFE (Japan) Animation/Documentary

Played at the December 2016 Best of Family/Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

  MOVIE POSTERBIRTH WEAVING LIFE, 6min., Japan, Animation/Documentary
Directed by Arisa Wakami

This is a documentary animation on the very beginning and the mystery of life, told from the point of view of a mother.

REVIEW by Kierston Drier: 

Welcome to the incredibly personal stories of three women as they recount the birth of their children. Each tale exquisitely told from a unique voice and animated differently, Birth-Weaving Life will make you laugh and hit you right in the “feels” with it’s honest emotional portrayal of new parenthood being a time of panic, pain and fear, but also utter joy.  

 

Each story is set against simple artistry that nevertheless creates effective storytelling, masking the intimacy of childbirth with the colorful visual metaphor. Waves and Rollercoasters are used to describe something that is hard to imagine if one has not been there.

 

These film is a collaboration piece, making it a rich tapestry of human experience. Most beautifully, perhaps, is the tender honest and authenticity that can be felt through the subtitles and transcends the different language it is spoken in. This film recounts an essential human experience that speaks across any social barrier.  

 

Birth- Weaving Life is a beautiful and poignant look at child rearing from inside the mind of the mother- the fear, the worry, the pain and the incredible, unmatchable happiness that accompanies the creation of life.

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Film Review: MAN’S BEST FRIEND (UK) Family

Played at the December 2016 Best of Family/Animation FEEDBACK Film Festival.

  MOVIE POSTERMAN’S BEST FRIEND, 7min. UK, Family/Animation
Directed by Rob Sprackling

10 year old Zach loves his football – and his football loves him back. They enjoy playing in the garden, going to the park and spending time together, just like a boy with a faithful dog. But when his ball gets lost, Zach must team up with his neglected Mum, to find his best friend. In doing so, Zach and his Mum re-find each other.

REVIEW by Kierston Drier: 

Man’s Best Friend, written and produced by Rob Sprackling, is a classic story of companionship with an unusual twist. Hovering somewhere between My Dog Skip and Toy Story, Man’s Best Friend takes a look at the relationship children develop with the objects in their life that carry significant weight. In this case, a soccer ball.

Our young hero has a steadfast and deep connect with his soccer ball, which has been cleverly anthropomorphized with the simple addition of an animated smile. A clear metaphor for a boy with a pet, the two characters are inseparable and find deep joy in each other’s company. But while out one night the ball is kicked into neighbors yard by bullies, and our hero cannot find their friend. He and his mother attempt to locate the ball, and even consider getting a new one, but no dice- this ball cannot be replaced.

Beside the clever metaphor for the ball being a pet, what makes this film unique is its’ utter simplicity. The film has no dialogue and functions with only one beautiful piano song throughout. The acting, directing and cinematography are all to be commended. The animation is simple but incredibly effective and the whole movie is wrapped up in a family-friendly feel-good bow. Yet there is also deeper meaning lurking in this piece. On the surface it is a boy and his friend, but it is also a story about a boy and himself. It is a story about what happens when we lose a part of ourselves. Unlike a dog, that is dependant on their owner, this boy has lost the passion of his life- his ability to play soccer via the ball. And unlike a dog, which may need to be returned by another person, this ball returns to his master all by itself. Or, rather, our Hero reconnects with his passion, on his own terms. A simply story with some profound undertones, Man’s Best Friend it a true delight.

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