Director: Uri Lotan
Countries: Israel, U.K.
Awards: Best International Short Film at Chilemonos International Animation Festival, Heartland Indy Shorts Animated Grand Prize
The 2022 nominees list was the first since 2009 not to include an entry from Disney, with three out of five nominees being independent shorts. Ultimately one of those independently-produced films – The Windshield Wiper – took home the Oscar, so this has us asking, Can an indie do it again in 2023?
Director: Sander Joon
Awards: Palm Springs International ShortFest Best of the Festival Award & Best Animation Award, San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Award for Best Animated Short, GLAS Animation Festival Audience Award
Pictured at top: “Letter to a Pig,” “Blackslide,” “Amok”
Director: Špela Čadež
Countries: Slovenia, Germany, France
Awards: Grand Prix Anima (Brussels), Annecy Jury Award for Best Short Film
Taking top honors at Annecy with only your second short is no small feat. Amok is a mile-a-minute genre comedy about a man’s battle with his inner – and outer – demons. It infuses a deep, saturated color palette with heaps of pop culture references, elements of fantasy and horror, and a foundation of rock and roll to form a complete, if irreverent, package.
The Garbage Man (O homem do lixo)
Containing segments of his father’s first (and last) stop-motion animation from 1980, Sierra is a father/son race car adventure told with signature Estonian absurdity, deep laughs, and a generous amount of skillful, dance-like movement. Sierra is Joon’s fourth short and feels like a culmination of all the elements that made the previous three successful: style, impeccable timing, humor, and a natural emotional side.
A contemporary Holocaust story, the latest short from animator, artist, and art director Kantor, Pig highlights the threat of a generational disconnect from mistakes of the past and the missing internalized understanding of lessons learned. A survivor reads a thank you letter he wrote after the war to a high school class, the gravity of which is lost on all but one girl. Her resulting nightmare takes over the bulk of the film, playing on Kantor’s signature monochromatic use of rotoscoping, infusing just enough color at key moments to be most impactful.
Director: Laura Gonçalves
Awards: Grand Prix Zagreb, Zagreb Audience Award for Best Short Film
Before September 30, short films must either win specific awards at an Oscar-qualifying festival, win a Student Academy Award, or meet certain public exhibition criteria to be considered for nomination. Here is an early look at nine animation hopefuls that have performed well on the festival circuit during the first half of 2022. Most, though not all, have met Oscar eligibility by winning at a qualifying festival:
Letter to a Pig
Director: Balázs Turai
Countries: Hungary, Romania
Awards: Annecy (Cristal Prize for Best Animated Short, France TV Award for Short Film)
Director: Joseph Pierce
Countries: Belgium, United Kingdom, France, Czech Republic
Award: Best Animation at Vila do Conde International Short Film Festival.
Uri Lotan is a Tel Aviv-based animator whose graduation film, The Ballad of Poisonberry Pete (2012), which he co-directed with Adam Campbell and Elizabeth McMahill, premiered as part of Cartoon Brew’s Student Festival and won the 2013 Annie for Best Student Film. Black Slide follows Eviah, a young man who finds that no matter how hard he tries to forget his troubles, he can’t. Using a creative narrative structure and the metaphor of an intimidatingly high waterslide, Lotan clearly conveys the complex doom of Eviah’s home life and the resulting weight of impending inevitability.
It’s been another busy year so far for animated shorts, and as we head into the last part of 2022 it means that once again the Academy Awards qualification deadlines are approaching.
Though Pierce released live-action short The Baby Shower in 2016, Scale is the first animated short from the filmmaker since The Pub in 2012, and earned the distinction of a Cannes Critics’ Week appearance this summer. This heady film leverages Pierce’s signature psychedelic skew to adapt a Will Self story by the same name about his father’s battle with addiction. Supported by literary narration, sections of the image expand and contract constantly, playing on the central metaphor of addiction feeling like a loss of scale.
Director: Tal Kantor
Countries: France, Israel
Award: Animafest Zagreb Zlatko Grgic Award (for best first film production apart from educational institutions)
Director: Diana Cam Van Nguyen
Countries: Czech Republic, Slovakia
Awards: AFI Fest – Grand Jury Prize – Animation, Krakow Film Festival Silver Dragon for Best Animated Film (and Jury Award for Best European Film), Seattle International Film Festival Grand Jury Prize – Short Film Competition
Ice Merchants, the first independent short from RCA-graduate João Gonzalez, is about isolated ice sellers, a father and a young son, who perform daily superhuman feats to stay afloat. A filmmaker’s first post-graduation film appearing at Cannes’ Critics’ Week is impressive enough on its own, let alone winning a prize there.
In the follow-up to her successful 2017 film Drop by Drop (Água Mole), animator Laura Gonçalves tells the story of her uncle Botão – a garbage man for 30 years in France – through the voices of the family members who knew him best. With a pastel-like aesthetic, this animated documentary, which won the grand prize at Zagreb, evokes the fond nostalgia of a storybook and uses the freedom of animation to show details of her uncle’s life that live outside the words heard in the narration. Between the interview audio and the visual storytelling, Gonçalves creates a loving portrait of a playful man who existed well beyond the label of his job.
Love, Dad, is a filmmaker’s attempt to reconcile the true circumstances that pushed her father to make choices that would devastate his family with a real love shown in a series of moving letters years later. Cam Van Nguyen uses animated objects and clever photographic re-enactments to achieve what feels like real documentation of her life. Love, Dad has been screening for longer than most films on this list, and over time has built a steady momentum of wins and accolades.
Director: João Gonzalez
Countries: Portugal, France, United Kingdom
Award: Leitz Cine Discovery Prize at Cannes Critics’ Week