As the 22nd Bristol Encounters Film & Animation Festival gets underway, we report back with a review of the animation screenings and other events so far.
‘A Terrible Hullabaloo’ dir. Ben O’Connor
Tuesday: The Aardman 40th Anniversary Special
It was a cracking start (groan) to this year’s Bristol Encounters Film & Animation Festival on Tuesday, with the Aardman 40th Anniversary Special, a retrospective by co-founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton of Britain’s most beloved animation company. The event began with a whimsical review by Peter Lord of the company’s history, from their experimental films as teenagers, through years of developing a small yet highly specialist team to the industry-leading organisation that Aardman have become today. A true love story that encouraged artists to follow their hearts.
This was proceeded by a treat for all audience members (but perhaps even more so for those with fond memories of the 80s) with the premiere of a newly digitally remastered HD version of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’. The screening was introduced by David Sproxton who recounted the difficulties faced tracking down the original film negatives, only to eventually find a treasure trove of additional film, including screen tests and footage from the wrap party, all of which provided a unique insight into the very different technical and collaborative processes of the time.
The event was rounded off with a lively Q&A that revealed that despite their many years in the business, Aardman still have plenty more stories they wish to share.
Wednesday: Animation 1 & 2 ‘The Weight of Humanity’ & ‘Moving Pictures’
The first two animation programme screenings on Wednesday included some real gems from the worlds of puppet and 2D animation. A possible first for Animated Encounters was the inclusion of a real-time puppetry short, ‘A Terrible Hullabaloo’ directed by Ben O’Connor. The short, which told the story of a young boy fighting for Ireland in the Easter Rising, combined rod and string puppetry with digital animation for a distinctly odd yet humorous feel. Another short that used evocative hand-crafted imagery was ‘Come Alive’, an abstracted paint-on-glass animation directed by Darcy Prendergast and Xin Li that portrayed the desolation of women hunted as witches in colonial Tasmania.
‘Analysis Paralysis’ dir. Anete Melece.
In the evening, several shorts captured the imagination. ‘My Home’, directed by Phuong Mai Nguyen was a beautifully surreal exploration of a young boy’s struggle to accept his mother’s new relationship. ‘Analysis Paralysis’ directed by Anete Melece used digital cut-out and quite striking felt tip drawings to deliver a quirky and funny tale about the dangers of over-thinking. Last, the haunting stop-motion short ‘Lili’ directed by Hani Dombe and Tom Kouris, told the bittersweet story of a young girl’s battle to save her childhood from a sandstorm (more about the production and fabrication processes can be found on the studio blog.)
All in all, it’s shaping up to be another great festival.
Bristol Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival runs until Sunday 25th September at the Watershed and other venues. Key animation events include programmes 3,4, 5 and 6, which run from Thursday 22nd – Friday 23rd September. Also on Friday is a masterclass with Hugh Welchman, co-writer and co-director of ‘Lovin Vincent’, an animation hand-painted by over 100 artists that celebrates the life of Vincent Van Gough. Further, several workshops for adults and children are running on Friday and Saturday, including Animation Therapy and Build Your Own Gromit or Shaun the Sheep.
For further information and to book tickets/passes, visit the Encounters website: http://encounters-festival.org.uk