Deirdre de Grae found a lot to love in the animated shorts programme at the 29th Galway Film Fleadh.
The animated shorts programme is always a personal festival highlight of the Galway Film Fleadh, for me. It’s the ideal Sunday morning cure following a hectic week of film screenings and post-film partying – nerves are calmed and eyes are soothed during this perfectly-timetabled programme of Irish short animations. As usual, there was a large audience attendance, including cast and crew.
The competition for entry into the programme is typically tough, resulting in an excellent showcase of Irish animation. This year’s hopeful entrants were up against some well-funded and seasoned filmmakers, so to be selected for this programme is a prize in itself. Not as many student films were included as in previous years, and I missed their creativity and energy. The films curated included animated shorts from a current student and new graduate, as well as established industry professionals. Further animations were screened as part of the Irish Film Board’s showcase on Saturday 15th July 2017, and are reviewed as part of that programme.
The stand-out animated shorts from this programme are An Béal Bocht/The Poor Mouth (winner of Best First Short Animation and The Don Quijote Award for Best Animated Short Film), directed by Tom Collins, and ‘Sorry I Drowned‘, directed by David Habchy and Hussein Nakhal.
An Béal Bocht / The Poor Mouth (dir. Tom Collins), is an adaptation of the novel by Flann O’Brien (A.K.A. Myles na gCopaleen/Brian O’ Nolan), of whom I am a huge fan. The absurdist, satirical comedy is realised incredibly well by the director, Tom Collins, and talented principal animator, John McCloskey. As with any favourite book adaptation, I was nervous to see if it matched my imagined world. However, I had no need for fear, and was delighted to see some hilarious elements retained, such as the never-ending rain, which sometimes seems an accurate portrayal of life in the west of Ireland. And I am happy to report that the pig fart jokes went down very well with the kids in the audience. The casting is particularly on-point, and I can imagine there was some fun in the sound recording booth with, for example, Bob Quinn as ‘The President’, Tommy Tiernan as ‘Ó Bánasa’, and Mícheál Ó Meallaigh as ‘the Drunken Pig’. The animated film was realised using the original Irish version of the novel and cleverly used Flann O’Brien’s own English translations for the subtitles, thus retaining the original wit.
The animation was a co-production of Raw Nerve Productions (Pearse Moore) and De Facto Films, and was animated at the Nerve Centre in Derry. It was funded by Northern Irish Screen (Irish Language Broadcast Fund), TG4 and the BAI. The cast includes: Owen McDonnell ,Tommy Tiernan, Donncha Crowley, Bob Quinn, Seán Mistéal and Mícheál Ó Meallaigh.
Sorry I Drowned
‘Sorry I Drowned‘ (dir. David Habchy and Hussein Nakhal) is a monochrome animation, using Arabic voice recordings, inspired by a letter purportedly found on a drowned person fleeing war. The animation was commissioned by Medicins Sans Frontiers and produced by Studio Kawakeb, Lebanon.
The style and content are reminiscent of both Persepolis (black and white / female voice) and Waltz with Bashir (video footage / war themes). Visuals of pixellated, 1980’s computer-graphics delivered in stark monochrome, serve as the foreground to the Arabic words, spoken by a woman. Ideally, the eyes and mind could rest on the images while the words are spoken, but due to my lack of Arabic, I had to rely on the (too-small) subtitles, which distracted from the fast-moving visual images. It is a fantastic, moving animation, but was screened out of competition as it is not an Irish production.
Dylan Nevin’s Blackout was the only student animation shown, and the team deserve kudos for that. This is a dystopian, futuristic, short animation from the perspective of an art student, who rebels. Dylan Nevin is studying animation with the Ballyfermot College of Further Education (BCFE). His work can be seen at www.bcfe.ie
Dillon Brannick, A recent graduate of Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT), directed ‘The Line’, which explores the dynamics between parent and child, during mourning. In his animation, the baby and father switch places, with the large adult-sized baby taking care of the tiny father. The result is a gentle portrait of loss and grief. Dillon’s work can be seen at dillonbrannick.com
Wooden Child, directed by Joe Loftus, is a disturbing examination of death, to a Country and Western soundtrack. Joe works as an animator at Boulder Media and is a graduate of the IADT animation degree programme. His work can be seen at vimeo.com/joeloftus
Animated short films screened in this programme:
Wooden Child (dir. Joe Loftus), Coranna (dir. Steve Woods), The Line (dir. Dillon Brannick), Dreaming of Sleep (dir. Leon Butler), Blackout (dir. Dylan Nevin), Sorry I Drowned (dir. David Habchy & Hussein Nakhal), Cyber (dir. Diarmuid Hayes & Sarah Whicker), Tete a Tete (dir. Natasha Tonkin), An Béal Bocht/The Poor Mouth (dir. Tom Collins).
New Irish Shorts: Animation were screened on Sunday 16th July 2017, as part of the 29th Galway Film Fleadh (11–16 July 2017).