Some of the world’s most garlanded short films have been recognised by the Academy this year in both the live-action and animation categories. John Hazelton profiles the contenders
Animated short films
Fabrice O Joubert worked as an animator for DreamWorks in the US and Aardman in the UK before returning to France to make this CG short for Pumpkin Factory and Bibo Films. The film about a businessman in a Parisian café who discovers he has lost his wallet owes its distinctive look to a technique of projecting 2D painting onto a 3D set. French Roast won the best of show prize at Siggraph 2009. Like the rest of this year’s animated and live shorts, French Roast will be released theatrically in the UK and North America on February 19 in a programme distributed by Shorts International and Magnolia Pictures.
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
Inspired by a character in Irish writer Kathleen O’Rourke’s stand-up comedy show, Nicky Phelan’s Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty is a feisty new take on a classic fairy tale. It is produced by Darragh O’Connell for Brown Bag Films, with backing from the Irish Film Board, Irish broadcaster RTE (on which the film will debut) and the Arts Council. The film has won audience awards at festivals in Ireland, the US and Australia and will have an Irish theatrical release through Paramount Pictures.
The Lady And The Reaper (La Dama Y La Muerte)
The Grim Reaper and a self-satisfied doctor battle over the life of an old woman in this short from Kandor Moon, the Spanish animation studio formed by Kandor Graphics and actor Antonio Banderas’ company Green Moon. Written and directed by Javier Recio Gracia, the film — also nominated for a Goya — received support from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture, Junta De Andalucia and Caja De Granada and recently debuted on Canal Plus in Spain.
This satirical short from producer Nicolas Schmerkin’s Paris production company Autour de Minuit creates a city out of trademarks and brand names and populates it with Michelin Man cops pursuing a criminal Ronald McDonald. Francois Alaux, Hervé de Crécy and Ludovic Houplain of Paris-based commercials and music video outfit H5 wrote and directed with Addict, Mikros Image and Arcadi co-producing. The film won the Kodak Discovery award at Critics Week in Cannes in May and the audience award at Cinanima in Portugal and screened last month at Sundance.
A Matter Of Loaf And Death
Oscar-favourite Nick Park has already won four Academy Awards with his signature characters Wallace & Gromit (including best animated feature for 2005’s Wallace & Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit). Now Park gets his fifth animated short nomination with the characters’ latest comic adventure, in which they feature as bakers embroiled in a murder mystery. The Aardman Animations production premiered in the UK on the BBC, drawing a record-breaking audience of 16.1 million. Last year it won the Annie and Bafta best animated short awards.
Live-action short films
Produced by Ireland’s Octagon Films but shot in Ukraine with subtitled Russian dialogue, The Door is about a family in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Juanita Wilson, producer of Irish feature Inside I’m Dancing, makes her directing debut and Octagon’s James Flynn produces. The film was made under the Short Cuts scheme of the Irish Film Board and RTE and last year won the Irish Film & Television Award for best short.
Instead Of Abracadabra
In this Swedish comedy drama from director Patrik Eklund and producer Mathias Fjellstrom, a man who dreams of being a magician puts on a bizarre show for his father’s birthday. Direktorn & Fabrikorn produced, with funding from Film I Vasterbotten, Filmpool Nord and the Swedish Film Institute. The film won best Swedish short at the 2008 Gothenburg festival, and has screened at festivals in Lille, Brussels and Los Angeles.
Kavi was writer-director Gregg Helvey’s university thesis film and has already won him the 2009 Student Academy Award gold medal in the narrative category. Filmed on location in India, it tells the story of a young boy who is forced to work in a brick kiln as a modern-day slave. The film also won the grand jury prize for best short film at the USA Film Festival and was named Best of Fest at the Palm Springs International ShortFest.
Australia’s Druid Films made this drama about a young boy who sneaks off from his unhappy birthday party and wakes up to find his dream that everyone would go away may have become a reality. Luke Doolan, a film, commercials and music video editor, directed and Drew Bailey produced, with backing from QOOB TV, Screen Australia and Blue-Tongue Films. Honours won thus far include the Sydney festival’s Dendy award and the best short fiction prize at the Australian Film Institute Awards. Worldwide sales are being handled by Paris-based Premium Films.
The New Tenants
Shot in New York’s Chelsea Hotel with a cast including Vincent D’Onofrio and Kevin Corrigan, this dark satire about the inevitability of death focuses on two men who move into a new apartment and are entangled in its terrifying history. New York-based Danish commercials director Joachim Back makes his fiction debut, with Tivi Magnusson (previously nominated for an Oscar in this category for The Pig) among the producers for M&M Productions and Park Pictures.