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Written by Kieron Monks
24 Monday 24th November 2008

Citystates

This year ‘Citystates’ was chosen as the festival theme, inciting a raft of dramatic interpretations, from the dystopian to the serene. Nothing captured this idea more than a short film compilation of the same name. Featuring 20 pieces, it represented every nation from Lithuania to China and more visual tricks than a magic eye book, with most films using some form of animation. Funnels should have been distributed free for the audience to drink it all in.

The compilation kicked off with the extremely seductive Love letter to Hong Kong, from digital director Jean Julien Pous. Trawling the back streets in sexed up Manga, the city plays the siren to perfection, tormenting our hero as he contemplates lost love. Shot through with black and red, this is one that will stay on your retinas long after the credit’s roll.

Equally impressive was local boy Alex Robinson’s film London. His world is grey but never dull, while the camerawork is a dizzying blur of swoops and fades. Narrated by William Blake’s poem of the same title, a suited businessman takes a lonely tube ride to oblivion, while demons swarm around him. Ominous and disturbing, it gets under the skin of alienated city life. Robinson spoke before the screening about how much he loves London, but you wouldn’t know it from watching.

London by alex robinson

The Irish piece Defaced is also smart, inverting the roles of criminal and worker with a genuinely funny premise. It begs the question of who has the right to mark our environment, with graffiti-ed characters having a dance off against people in a billboard advert. Full of zest and life, it is a great antidote to the darker films. Jonathon Harris’ Hikikomori is another success, seizing hope from the jaws of despair. His is a simple but hard-hitting story, addressing the boredom and inertia of young people in suburbia. His character hides from the world, taping up his windows to lurk in the dark with his screens, never emerging from his room. When it comes, the final redemption is as heartening as it is surprising.

Lorcan Finnegan's Defaced

Doodle Earth and Holotronica

Doodle Earth

Doodle Earth

Once I’d had my eyes and ears assaulted, I wanted to give something back. These installations offered me that chance. For scale it’s hard to match Doodle Earth, a whole wall dedicated to people’s drawings of their homes, with felt tip markers provided. A novel way to involve people, it became a collage of perspectives, fascinating to look at as a whole.

Holotronica captured the other end of the scale - icy, cutting edge and ultra-tech. Giant flat screens jumped out at you with holographic images, while frames were layered over one another to create a multi-montage with extra fizz. Pure, balls-out gimmickry, but my eyes were on stalks, while a banging electro-tech track complemented the visuals.

J-Star ‘08

But if the cusp of modernity is where you hang your hat, then you’d be right at home with J-Star ’08. A collection of Japanese shorts, it’s so in your face you wont be able to breathe. Many of them use the amazing graphic design as a substitute for characters, script and plot but the surprising thing is how often it works. Why were we wasting our time with all these sideshows when we could have been watching a 3D cube multiplying and dividing? Granted some of the films (Yosawya San in particular) are glorified gameboy fodder with all the charm of a Tetris block, but you don’t need to look far for something original and entertaining.

tsuyoshi hirooka + yohei ito: yosawya san / japan

Clear Skies in May is a seamless blend of classic and hi-tech, telling an old story from the pages of a scroll in beautiful 2D animation. But as the story progresses, the shapes become more abstract and tell new stories. In the space of three minutes 21 seconds you are taken on such a journey you won’t remember how it started.

For a more familiar Japanese style, check out the Banzai-infused adventures of Usavich the Rabbit. Over three episodes his posse of oddballs cut a streak through the countryside, smashing everything in their path. There is so much high-octane slapstick on show that you won’t be at all surprised when a turd starts talking. Fast, funny and fluffy.

A final mention must go to Nike id, just how did they get in there? It’s basically an advert. But by the time that came around I didn’t have the will to resist. J-Star is an aesthetic delight, but don’t expect an easy ride.

kan eguchi [koo-ki]: cosplay / nike id / japan

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