With all the controversy surrounding diversity in the Oscar nominations this year, let’s turn our focus to the lesser known nominees – the usually intriguing, sometimes brilliant and always fascinating stories in the nominated short films. These are the five nominees for this year’s Oscar for Best Animated Short.
Sanjay’s Super Team – director Sanjay Patel
Sanjay, a young boy, is watching his favorite superhero cartoon on TV. His father is trying to pray before his Hindu shrine, set up close to the TV in the same room. Both the father son duo seems bothered by the other, but it’s the father who gets up and takes away Sanjay’s action figures and turns off the TV. As his father is distracted, Sanjay tries to retrieve the figure which accidentally catches fire inside the shrine. As Sanjay is trying to put out the fire he finds himself transported into the midst of a large temple where Ravana (the demon Hindu god) is attempting to steal the weapons of all other Hindu deities. With Sanjay standing right in the middle of this battle royale, all the deities come alive and what follows is a stunning display of animation genius by Patel.
Rooted in Hindu mythology, this short transports you to a world of a child’s vision of Hindu gods turned into his superheroes. Exploring childhood interpretation of faith and perhaps the foolhardy adult subscription to it, this is a must watch.
Prologue – director Richard Williams
This film is like a window into the future of humanity some two thousand years ago. A little girl witnesses the brutal and gory battle between two warriors (Spartan and Athenian) who evidently embody the barbarian nature of humanity that is all-pervasive and ever-existing. The two battle to their deaths, as the little girl runs to find comfort in the arms of her grandmother. The brevity of the film doesn’t take away from what the world set out to become all those years ago and sadly the premonition, if any, came true.
World of Tomorrow – director Don Hertzfeldt
This short film takes Emily into the future, where she meets her clone, who speaks to her about the future and what the world will look like. The heart of this story is the juxtaposition of how the innocence of childhood (representing our early human realities) to the mechanical, technologically driven attempts at immortality in the future. The animation is simple, and though it uses considerable voiceover to drive home the message, the conversations between Emily and her future clone are remarkably telling of where we are headed.
Sanjay’s Super Team
We Can’t Live Without Cosmos – director Konstantin Bronzit
An outstanding short from Russian filmmaker Konstantin Bronzit, the film follows the childhood dream of two friends, who trained together to become astronauts. Just before they are ready for their first space mission, it emerges that only one of them is destined for space and the second is only a backup. As the friend left behind watches his friend ascend to space, the mixed loss and pride of a childhood dream grabs you and makes you part of this friendship. The narrative turns and explores the nature of the bonds of friendship and the related dreams we nurture.
Bear Story- director Gabriel Osorio
This is a tender story of a bear who takes his mechanical diorama and sets himself on a street corner. For a coin, he lets people peek into the world he left behind when he was captured by a circus. This film speaks to the world, the real (albeit humanized) world of animals and how human brutality steals their lives from them and continues to go about its merry ways as animals continue to remain shackled to entertain our sad and empty lives. Touching on the evils of capitalism, brutality towards animals and the inhumanity of their subjugation, the film is a touching tale of a family’s dream of being reunited.
As most film watchers know, the genius of the short film medium is to explore and tell a tale, in all its maturity, in the few minutes that the filmmaker/writer have. I am positive there are so many more great films that have been made in the past year that didn’t make the cut, but the animated short film movement continues to thrive and grow.
The nominated shorts are showing at Cinema du Parc until February 11th.