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Reality bites: Animated films dig deep

Michael McGee | 5/1/2014, 7:35 p.m.
Ray is transported to the execution chamber in Huntsville, escorted by an armed guard. Courtesy of the Dallas International Film Festival

The Dallas Examiner

The Dallas International Film Festival presented a roster of emerging talent during the Animated Shorts Competition at the Angelika Film Center April 7 and April 8. The short films, which employed fantasy, fear or reinterpretations of factual events to impact the audience, brought a variety of visions and voices to the yearly cultural event.

“I think it’s a really diverse program of different art and styles and mediums,” said Sarah Harris, the senior programmer at DIFF, about this year’s fare. “Animated shorts are always fun because they are so creative in their storytelling. They’re also creative in how they tell their stories, the media of it.”

The media Harris spoke of took the form of stop motion animation for the U.S. and U.K. joint production, Marilyn Myller; colored sand animation captured a new look in A Tangled Tale from the U.S., and film footage was overlaid with paint in Flesh (Carne), an entry from Columbia.

Other shorts in the competition were Hart’s Desire and Everything I Can See from Here from the U.K.; Yearbook and The Missing Scarf from the U.S., and Astigmatismo from Spain.

Crime: The Animated Series was created in a style that used a combination of hand-drawn images and computer work, the dominant colors within the film were red, white and black; the uniting colors within the Olympic flag and the divisive colors of Nazi party banners.

The limited color palette wasn’t to show off the talents of the art designer but rather to link different stories with a similar visual theme.

The film stood out for its presentation of vignettes featuring a multiethnic cast. Expressions of disgust, horror and humor in the lives of real people, most of them city dwellers, who experienced the emotional and literal wounds caused by crime, were evoked by the 19-minute piece.

Whether it was the African American man Samson Styles – gunned down in front of his home in New York – or an unnamed Caucasian woman in Tennessee – who described the murder of her adoptive parents by her adoptive brother – the black and white was a reflection of shared brutality. The presence of red throughout the stories represented the flow of blood, or impassioned anger, that connected the lives of otherwise disconnected individuals.

Eddie Henderson, a Metroplex director working on his own animation project, described the film as “fun” because it mixed serious notions with the humor that can strangely be found in desperate situations.

“I loved that myself. Even for my live-action films that are serious about the human nature,” he stated. “They’re about life and loss and love and angst of life, but there’s still definitely levity there. We have to laugh … we have to laugh.”

The film was a production from Canada and the U.S. by Alix Lambert and Sam Chou.

The Last 40 Miles was a Texas entry. The 15-minute piece, written and directed by Alex Hannaford and based on a true story, featured an African American lead character named Ray. Wrongly convicted of murder, Ray narrates the last day of his life, revealing his earthly journey in a series of flashbacks. The 40 miles refers to the distance between the Polunsky Unit prison in Livingston to the execution chamber in Huntsville, Ray’s final destination.