FIAF: Animation First, 2021 – Part 3 Favorites

For the fourth time, I attended the annual animation event at the French Institute-Alliance Français, FIAF. As I mentioned in my last two posts, it was totally digital and I watched at home instead of attending in person.

In my last two posts, I shared the feature length and short films that I watched. In this post, I’m focusing in on my two favorite films, one short and one feature length. My two favorites were the full-length feature, Josep, and the short film, Homeless Home.

Wes Anderson’s film Isle of Dogs was really good. I might have picked it, except that it was a surprise addition and I’m choosing from the original line-up.


Favorite Feature: Josep

  • Dir. Aurel (Aurélien Froment)
  • 2020
  • 80 min
  • In French, Spanish, Catalan, and English with English subtitles
  • Mature Audiences

A dying gendarme [armed policeman] remembers his encounter with Catalan artist Josep Bartolí in a French concentration camp after the Spanish Civil War.

My favorite feature length film was Josep, a tribute, from one artist to another. The subject was the artist Josep Bartoli, an illustrator. It mainly focused on the period of his life in France, as a refugee from the Spanish Civil War.

“Josep”, 2020. Image from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10534996/mediaindex/?ref_=tt_mv_close

I didn’t know much about the subject, so after the film I did some research. After years of fighting, in February 1939, the Nationalists under Franco were recognized by France and other countries. Basically, they had won the Spanish civil war. Those who had been Republicans (or I suppose just didn’t support Franco) fled the country within only a few days. About 500,000 Spanish citizens left Spain for France in what’s called “La Retirada” or the retreat. When they arrived in France, the French authorities were unprepared and overwhelmed, and many of the refugees were sent to hastily built internment camps.

A few months before in France, precisely on November the 12th 1938, the government of Édouard Daladier approved a Decree-Law allowing the internment of “undesirable foreigners” under permanent surveillance. This law became the legal framework in which the French government later on imprisoned some 350,000 exiled Spanish Republicans….

So, I guess some people left in late 1938, but the resources I found described a massive migration in February 1939. Argelès-sur-Mer, is a region in the Southeast of France, just north of the Spanish border, and the location for one of the camps.

The concentration camps were known to be extremely poor and unhygienic; like intolerably unfit, with no access to clean water, poor sanitation, lack of food, and were built so poorly they barely did anything to protect the people from the winter weather. Of course, disease was rampant.

In the movie, there’s a scene where Josep actually sleeps in a hole in ground, covered by a blanket, until eventually he is apparently moved to an actual building with walls and a roof. Unfortunately, this really happened. Some of the interned people did sleep on the ground, and if they died, by exposure or by the mistreatment/torture from the guards, that’s where they were buried.

Of course, we know that 1939 was a pivotal year around the world. Those camps eventually became concentration camps for people running away from the Nazi regime, and conditions did not improve to say the least. Sadly, some of the people were sent back.

Here are some photos from Argelès-sur-Mer:

Argelès-sur-Mer

More information on the Argeles-sur-Mer camp can be found at: https://europeanmemories.net/memorial-heritage/argeles-sur-mer/


During the movie, Josep searches for his fiancee, but he has no luck. At one point, has a vision or dream sequence about Frida Kahlo. Coincidentally, I later learned, they were only born 3 years apart.

Frida Kahlo dream sequence.
“Josep”, 2020. Image from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10534996/?ref_=ttmi_tt

The narrator, then a young man (a gendarme or armed guard) working in the camps, provides Josep with drawing materials and they become what friends they can become under the circumstances. Eventually Josep escapes and he makes his way to Mexico, where he becomes one of Frida Kahlo’s lovers while she was married to Diego Riviera. At some point in his life, he leaves Mexico and ends up in New York.

In real life, both Bartoli and Kahlo seem to have had a strong influence on each other, including becoming romantically connected. But the majority of the movie is about his life and experiences in the concentration camps. Here’s an interesting video I found that’s not quite the finished film. More of an animation of the storyboard (in French).


It was difficult to find examples of his artwork, but here’s an interview with his nephew with a few images.

The interview reveals a bit more about how Frida Kahlo influenced him, in his life and art:

Q: Once in New York, did he get involved with the Spanish exile community?

A: Not really. Although he always knew he was linked to the history of the war, at a certain point—thanks in large part to Frida Kahlo—he decided to switch from black-and-white to color. In both art and life. Frida told him: “You’ll never win the civil war. Memory is one thing and life is another. You must accept the memory, but you can’t let it consume your life. You’ve got to move on to something else.” And that’s what he did. Although he never lost sight of who he was and where he came from.


As for the director, who is himself an illustrator, obviously the movie itself is an example of his work. I found some information about his background:

Aurélien Froment’s practice involves the use and making of films, exhibitions and books through a diverse array of collaborations with artists, institutions, friends and numerous image manipulators. https://imma.ie/artists/aurelien-froment/


More information about the Spanish Civil War and memorial websites for La Retirada and the camps are below:


On his relationship with Frida Kahlo:

My Bartoli…I don’t know how to write love letters.  But I wanted to tell you that my whole being opened for you. Since I fell in love with you everything is transformed and is full of beauty…. love is like an aroma, like a current, like rain.  You know, my sky, you rain on me and I, like the earth, receive you. Mara” — Frida Kahlo, October 1946

https://observer.com/2015/04/passion-penned-frida-kahlos-intimate-love-letters-of-an-illicit-affair-up-for-sale/#ixzz3YG4hFCq7

And just before writing this, I learned that Josep won the 2021 César Award for Best Animated Film.


Favorite Short Film: Homeless Home

  • 2020
  • Dir. Alberto Vázquez
  • In Spanish, with English subtitles
  • 15 min
Trailer for Homeless Home
No one can escape their roots, however rotten they may be.

I absolutely loved this film. I probably watched it at least 6-7 times while I had access to it.

As the director states in the interview below, it takes place in a medieval fantasy land, and features a love triangle between a witch, an ogre, and an orc. However, most of the story features themes and questions that are very modern and human:

  • Is home always the place where you grew up, or is it a new place?
  • What if your home has no opportunities or future — should you feel obligated to stay?
  • What happens for people as they grow old, who will take care of them if everyone is gone?
  • Is it even possible to leave; who will buy a house if everyone is migrating away?
  • And what about the relationships we have with other people?
  • Are these the relationships we have because they’re good for us, or because they’re comfortable?
  • What will we put up with because we’re lonely?
Interview with Homeless Home director, Alberto Vasquez (3:12) – In English

The film opens with a short speech by the Necromancer, some type of lord/master character, at the top of a castle. He gives a universal speech about how he accomplished everything in his life based on his own hard work, probably too much work. The myth of self-sufficiency.

And he gestures to point out the lands of what used to be the home of his vast army. Now, he says, the young people are all drunks and drug addicts as the scene changes to show a beach, with many young people falling over, clearly intoxicated. Millennials have ruined everything!

He’s later described derisively by one of the other characters, the Ogre, — who is, depicted as lazy, without goals, and who drinks too much — as a selfish and frail old man.

Necromancer nostalgically surveys his lands.
“Homeless Home” 2020, Image from https://en.unifrance.org/movie/50131/homeless-home

The soundtrack featured a single cello and had a melancholy quality. I find cello can be played at a higher pitch, but generally sounds best at lower registers, which is how it was played. It was the perfect choice. There was also chanting/singing chorus, featuring women’s voices. It sounded kind of Celtic, or I suppose exotic, and meant to evoke a conjuring; a supernaturalness. It was effective where it was used.

The entire movie was in black and white, with some grey, and splashes of red depicting blood.

In one scene, the simple colors and the soundtrack came together so well. The Orc character reminisces about his army exploits to his Witch friend (girlfriend?), about his life of conquering and the appeal of leaving his small town. In a flashback, he beheads a soldier on a giant pile of bodies, then he literally baths in a river of blood as the female chanting grows in crescendo. The flashback ends and the scene returns to the quiet of the forest, as he sits next to the Witch. Neither of them seem particularly excited by the possibilities remaining in their hometown.

The Orc reminisces with the Witch about his life of conquering in the Necromancer army.
“Homeless Home” 2020, Image from https://en.unifrance.org/movie/50131/homeless-home

In the early part of the film, there are short interviews from other characters, including the Ogre who plays a bigger role later. He talks about the importance of hobbies, “to help have an inner life”, as he later falls back against his house drinking. The Ogre is very ogre-like: blunt, brutish, not too smart. He doesn’t offer much emotional support for his Witch girlfriend, who is caring for her aging mother, and treats her like his own object, not recognizing her own agency.

The Ogre tries to romance his Witch girlfriend.
“Homeless Home”, 2020. Image from https://en.unifrance.org/movie/50131/homeless-home
In this scene, the Ogre drinks while sitting with the Witch under a tree. The Witch is unhappy.

Cover for “Homeless Home”, 2020. Image from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12185772/mediaviewer/rm2581050113/

In other scenes, I loved the subtle references to everyday activities, but with a morbid twist. For instance, the witch suggests she and the ogre visit “Oblivion Falls” where the waters make you forget who you are. And at a beach cookout, the Orc is one offered one of two choices from the grill: pork or carne de humano.


Some of the scenes that stuck out for me involved a fat beast, an animal with a sort of elephant-like body but a human face. He spits when he talks, which the other characters rightly find disgusting. He has a master, who rides him and whips him, and many of the other characters call him a “dumb animal” and treat him cruelly. He internalizes their claims that as a dumb animal, he has no feelings and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Yet, towards the end of the film, he clearly does as he remarks on his complex inner thoughts. He says “Master, I don’t know if you can understand me, but sometimes I feel apathetic, empty like I’m a little dead.” His master responds, “Ah yes. That’s because here in this place, we’re all dead.”

Of course, all the dialog is in (European) Spanish. As an English speaker, that somehow adds to the other worldliness for me.

“No one can escape their roots, however rotten they may be.”
Spanish language poster for Homeless Home, 2020. Image from https://en.unifrance.org/movie/50131/homeless-home

Although this film was only 15 minutes, I found the themes really resonant. As a short film, it cut away all the extraneous character development and plot to cut to the core themes the film makers wanted to convey. For example, the generational divides, the limited opportunities in small towns, etc.

I think many people who move away from home to bigger cities or seek opportunity away from old friends and family, face these questions and mixed feelings of nostalgia and regret, even if they don’t recognize their emotions for what they are.

There are some, like the Ogre, who end up jealous, bitter, and angry. Others, like the Orc, try to reconnect with old friends and family but fail because they’ve ultimately moved on and can’t readjust to their old life. There are those like the Witch who want a better life, but their obligations to their home are too strong and they can’t bring themselves to leave. And there are the friends who seem to admit that there aren’t many benefits to staying, yet continue celebrating the basic comforts of their lives despite the obvious mediocrity.

Even living in a big city now, I sometimes feel like the Witch, the Ogre, and the Orc at times. Jealous, bitter, disconnected, and yet obligated. Maybe we all feel like this sometimes, regardless of our home. Or maybe I feel like this because I’ve moved so much.


Clearly I’m not the only one who liked it!

FIAF: Animation First, 2021 – Part 2 Short Films

For the fourth time, I attended the annual animation event at the French Institute-Alliance Français, FIAF. As I mentioned in my last post, it was totally digital and I watched at home instead of attending in person.

My last post was on feature films. This one will be on shorts.


Shorts!

I love watching shorts. Like animated, narrative short stories. Sometimes just art. These are the shorts I’ve seen, so far.

Shoom’s Odyssey, 2019

L’Odyssée de Choum
  • Dir. Julien Bisaro, with Clair Paoletti
  • France, Belgium
  • 26 min
  • In French with English subtitles

My quick take: Great film for kids, calming to look at. Great effects and sound effects.

This heartwarming tale is set in a seaside town inspired by a lush Louisiana bayou. Born in the midst of a storm, baby owl Shooom must fend for herself and her unhatched sibling before she even leaves her nest. Against all odds, she is determined to find her mother, be it an alligator or a squirrel.

This is a film that was originally intended for very young audiences, so there isn’t much dialog. It’s really beautiful and pastel colored. One thing that stood out for me were the very interesting animal sound effects, which unfortunately they didn’t get to in the making of discussion below.


Making of Shooom’s Odyssey with Claire Paoletti and Julien Bisaro

FYI: The interview had a translator, which many FIAF events often have, though honestly the film makers seemed to understand English very well.


A Doonesbury Special, 1977

  • Dir. Garry Trudeau, USA
  • 26 min.
  • In English
  • Mature Audiences

This film was selected by special guest, Wes Anderson.

I found a copy on the Internet Archive (for now).

Along with filmmakers Faith and John Hubley, Trudeau pondered an important question of the day: Do you sell out your idealism and your thirst for political and social change as you grow older? Or more specifically, do you stop building a commune to build a condo? As Mike Doonesbury searches for meaning, he muses on gender and racial relations, Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret Mead, football, and pot smoking, bringing an unexpected profundity to the holiday primetime special. Trudeau’s efforts were recognized. A Doonesbury Special won a Special Jury Award at Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar in 1978.


Peter and the Wolf, 2006

  • Dir. Suzie Templeton
  • United Kingdom, Poland, Norway and Mexico
  • 29 min.
  • Silent
  • Ages 8 and up

My quick take: What can I say? Peter and the Wolf, depending on who tells the story, is sad. Peter, the puppet, looks a bit maniacal, at times.

Unlike previous animated adaptations of this classic fairy tale, director Suzie Templeton forgoes a narrator and sets Prokofiev’s beloved score in the harsh modern-day Russian countryside. Against this strikingly stark background, Templeton’s vibrant puppets come to life—a playful bird, tottering duck, mischievous cat, the fearsome wolf, as well as the sensitive Peter and his grandfather.


L’Amour a ses réseaux (Fail in Love), 2019

  • Dir. Cécile Rousset & Romain Blanc-Tailleur
  • France
  • In French with English subtitles
  • Mature audiences

These were 5, 4-min episodes using interviews with Tinder/Grindr users on their experiences that didn’t go quite right. I thought it was really funny, and I liked the use of, sometimes fantasy, imagery translations of the spoken words.

Funny, quirky, and at times cruel, this web series illustrates real-life dating mishaps, fantasies, and creepy encounters. Through these personal stories, we see traditional and new means of seduction, as well as the triumphs and pitfalls caused by apps and their algorithms. L’Amour a ses réseaux (which translates literally to “love has its networks”) was adapted from the column “Tinder Surprise” for French news website Rue89 and originally aired on Franco-German television channel Arte.

Videos not available in the US. More information can be found at arte.fr.

The translations are a combination of FIAF and the Arte website, plus my own having watched these shorts.


Bite on the side (Petit Piment)

Newly settled in Berlin, Ernestine uses Tinder to find new friends. When her date invites her to a party, she wonders: is she free to do what she wants? Even flirting with this handsome Swedish guy? 

L'Amour a ses réseaux (3/13). Bite on the side. A cupid holding a red bird.
Bite on the side (Petit Piment)

Mazeltov!

After a romantic failure, Jeanne goes in search of a little affection on Tinder. But, when the moment of the meeting comes, stress quickly pushes her to say everything, and especially anything.

L'Amour a ses réseaux (11/13). Mazeltov. Sketch of a woman with a sheet pulled over her face.
Mazeltov!

Prince and Princesses (Prince et princesses)

Elegant, thoughtful, funny, Catherine thinks she has found her Prince Charming on Tinder. But life is rarely a fairy tale and the gallant’s castle seems full of secrets….

L'Amour a ses réseaux (1/13). Prince and Princess. Sketch of a man dressed in Shakespearean clothing crying next to a fountain.
Prince and Princesses (Prince et princesses)

Homo Habitus

One evening, Max meets a compulsive liar on Grindr. But rather than scare him away, his little number begins to intrigue him. Let the show begin! 

L'Amour a ses réseaux (6/13). Homo Habitus; Sketch of a kaleidoscope of a man with a mustache.
Homo Habitus

Under the moonlight (Sonate au clair de lune)

When an astronomy enthusiast invites her to observe the sky for a first date, Carole accepts her proposal, even if it involves crossing the entire county. But she begins to doubt her lucky star when her date shows himself less and less willing to let her go …

L'Amour a ses réseaux (4/13), Under the moonlight (Sonate au clair de lune). Sketch of a woman in a box.
Under the moonlight (Sonate au clair de lune)

Women Undercover (Les Espionnes racontent), 2020

  • Dir. Aurélie Pollet, 2020
  • France
  • Mature Audiences
  • In French with English subtitles

What if 007 was a woman? This riveting series follows a journalist as she interviews the spies who penetrated top-secret government circles. The three episodes included here expose the undercover experiences of Moscow-based Geneviève, Martha from Panama, and Yola in Tel Aviv.

A series of short videos, animating true interviews with female spies. Very intriguing. The three 6-min episodes I watched are below.

These might be available to play in the US on arte.tv/fr, for now, in French with subtitles. Eventually copyright might kick in and these will become restricted, so I don’t know.

Les Espionnes racontent – Geneviève : La liste russe de la DST

Focus on African Animation

Selections:

  • Black Barbie, Dir. Comfort Arthur, 2016, 4 min, Ghana
  • The Cora Player (Joueur de cora), Dir. Cilia Sawadogo, 1996, 7 min, Canada
  • Afropower (Afreupouvoir), Dir. Manohiray Randriamanantsoa, 2010, 5 min, Madagascar
  • L’Ambouba, Dir. Nadia Rais, 2010, 9 min, Tunisia
  • اغتراب Fade, Dir. Alaeddin Abou Taleb, 2018, 13 min, Tunisia
  • Prince Lesono, Dir. Jean-Michel Kibushi, 2004, 29 min, France and Belgium

I really liked Afropower. This was a short story following a dog that leaves a pile of 💩 , flies and all. This 💩 is sniffed out by a man who rises out of the ground, dressed in colonial attire. He gets the idea to exploit the 💩 by turning it into some kind of drug for the people. The people then revolt and while they’re fighting their king, the man appears again. He cuts through a pipe, that’s feeding the king’s throne. Out pops piles of jewels, which he begins to swallow. When he’s done, he goes away, disappearing again under the ground. Meanwhile the 💩 transforms again. It grows a head, a face, then a full body. The 💩 , which has been shown as green, falls away and reveals a man, and the man takes his new place on the throne. The man has become a fascist dictator, put in place by colonial powers exploiting the literal crap of Africa and creating chaos. It had no words, just a soundtrack, so I liked that it got the message across without explanation.

Prince Lesono was a stop-motion animation. It was about a king who wishes to have a son, but has to follow certain customs and cooperate with his community in order to achieve his goal of having an heir.


My Life in Versailles (La vie de Château), 2019
  • Dir. Clémence Madeleine-Perdrillat and Nathaniel H’Limi, France
  • 29 min.
  • In English
  • Ages 8 and up

A little girl loses her parents and becomes a ward of the state. According to her parents’ will, she is sent to live with her uncle who is a gardener or worker at the Versailles Palace museum. This short is actually a tv show, and this first episode is about how he struggles to adjust to fit a very young girl who misses her family into his life.


Best of Annecy Film Festival

Selected:

  • Awoko 70’s, Dir. Rose Gallerand, Caroline Leibel, Faustine Merle, Claire Pellet, May Taraud, and Chloé Van Becelaere; 2020; 1 min
  • Wade (La Noyade), Dir. Upamanyu Bhattacharyya and Kalp Sanghvi, 2019, 11 min
  • Genius Loci, Dir. Adrien Mérigeau, 2019, 16 min
  • Pile, Dir. Toby Auberg, 2019, 3 min
  • Homeless Home, Dir. Alberto Vazquez Rico, 2020, 15 min
  • Physics of Sorrow (Physique de la tristesse), Dir. Theodore Ushev, 2019, 27 min
  • Kinshasa 2100, Dir. Florian De Chelle, Marine Corbineau, Valentin Giuili, Armand Goxe, Marin Inbona, Alexis Maurice, and Tom Rameaux; 2020, 1 min
Genuis Loci
One night Reine, a young and solitary person, sees in the urban chaos a lively and vibrant movement, a kind of guide.
Wade (La Noyade) Directors’ statement and preview

I really enjoyed this one. As mentioned by the directors, this film is an exploration of the effects of climate change, one of which being flooding. It’s an interesting premise, tigers in urban areas crossing paths with climate refugees.

The film has a mystical quality. After the first tiger attack, a new tiger appears. It has eyes like the blind girl and can walk on water. However, a baby begins to cry, and like in MASH, it’s killed (drowned). This causes the blind tiger to suddenly become pregnant and bear a cub, who briefly shows signs of having human fingers. The attacking tiger tries to take the human-tiger cub, but it’s throat is slight by a knife and it runs away. The mother tiger begins to sink below the water and the other tigers take the tiger baby away.

Here’s a video of the awards ceremony (in French; English CC available).

Award ceremony for Wade
Directors’ statement for Wade (La Noyade)

Family Friendly Selected Shorts:

  • Melting Heartcake (Cœur fondant), Dir. Benoît Chieux, 2019, 11 min — Ages 3+
  • The Atelier (L’atelier), Dir. Bianca Mansani, 2019, 4 min — Ages 3+
  • Nature, Dir. Isis Leterrier, 2019, 3 min — Ages 3+
  • Northern Lights (Au pays de l’aurore boréale), Dir. Caroline Attia, 2019, 15 min — Ages 4+
  • The Last Day of Autumn (Le dernier jour d’automne), Dir. Marjolaine Perreten, 2019, 8 min — Ages 4+
  • Louis’ shoes (Les chaussures de Louis), Dir. Marion Philippe, Kayu Leung, Theo Jamin, Jean Geraud Blanc; 2020; 5 min — Ages 8+
  • The Breakaway (L’échappée), Dir. Benoît Michelet, 2019, 7 min — Ages 8+
  • We’re Taking Bernie to Grandpa (On va ramener Bernie chez Papi), Dir. Arielle Besse, Shiuan-An Lin, Lilamirana Rakotoson, 2020, 5 min — Ages 8+
  • TommeLise et l’Ogre, Dir. Cécile Robineau, 2018, 8 min — Ages 8+
  • Sheep, Wolf and A Cup Of Tea… (Moutons, loup et tasse de thé…), Dir. Marion Lacourt, 2019, 12 min — Ages 9+
  • Un diable dans la poche, Dir. Antoine Bonnet, Mathilde Loubes; 2019; 5 min — Ages 9+
Un diable dans la poche, Dir. Antoine Bonnet, Mathilde Loubes; 2019; 5 min

Most of these were relatively cute films. But the last one was a little sinister, and luckily available outside of the festival.


Documentary Shorts:

  • Esperança, Dir. Cécile Rousset, Jeanne Paturle, Benjamin Serero; 2019; 5 min
  • Mild wildness, Lasting Lunacy (Folie douce, folie dure), Dir. Marine Laclotte, 2020, 18 min
  • And yet we are not super-heroes (On est pas près d’être des supers héros), Dir. Lia Bertels, 2019, 13 min
  • Exuvie, Dir. Antoine François, Ornella Hildevert, Camille Ringuet, Adèle de Girval, Anaïs Crowyn, Ceridwen Bizeul; 2019; 4 min
  • Richie, Dir. Romane Granger, 2019, 8 min
  • 5 Years After the War (5 ans après la guerre), Dir. Samuel Albaric, Martin Wiklund, Ulysse Lefort; 2017; 16 min
Trailer for Folie douce, Folie dure

The film I highlighted was a very interesting concept. It was about a care home for developmentally disabled adults. It’s one thing to have a child who needs extra care. But what about when they’re 50 years old.


Films I didn’t watch…

New French Shorts Part 1 and 2

  • Disoriented (À l’ouest), Dir. Jérémie Cousin, France, 2019, 4 min.
  • To the dusty sea (À la mer poussière), Dir. Héloïse Ferlay, France, 2020, 12 min.
  • When We Leave (Cuando nos vamos), Dir. Mitchelle Tamariz, France, 2019, 4 min. Silent.
  • Trona Pinnacles, Dir. Mathilde Parquet, France, 2020, 13 min.
  • The Song of the Angel-Fish (Le chant des Poissons-Anges), Dir. Louison Wary, France, 2019, 7 min.
  • Purpleboy,Dir. Alexandre Siqueira, Belgium, France and Portugal, 2019, 14 min. In Portuguese with English subtitles.
  • Precious (Précieux), Dir. Paul MasFrance,202014 min.
  • Souvenir Souvenir, Dir. Bastien Dubois, France, 2020, 15 min.
  • Inès, Dir. Elodie Dermange, France and Switzerland, 2019, 4 min.
  • Airhead! (Tête de linotte !), Dir. Gaspar Chabaud, Belgium, 2019, 6 min.

  • Rivages, Dir. Sophie Racine, France, 2020, 8 min. Silent.
  • Tadpole (Tétard), Dir. Jean-Claude Rozec, France, 2019, 13 min.
  • Windshriek (Hurlevent), Dir. Frédéric Doazan, France, 2019, 6 min. Silent.
  • Artifice, Dir. Judicaël Ceva, Adrien Douay, Coline Della Siega, Coraline Hun et Diana Lao, France, 2019, 4 min. Silent.
  • Average Happiness, Dir. Maja Gehrig, Switzerland, 2019, 7 min.
  • Flow, Dir. Adriaan Lokman, France and Netherlands, 2019, 14 min. Silent.
  • Boriya, Dir. Min Sung Ah, France, 2019, 16 min.
  • Traces, Dir. Hugo Frassetto, Sophie Tavert Macian, France and Belgium, 2019, 13 min. Silent.
  • Machini, Dir. Frank Mukunday, Trésor Tshibangu, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Belgium, 2019, 10 min.
  • Sous la canopée, Dir. Bastien Dupriez, France, 2019, 7 min. Silent.
  • Empty Places, Dir. Geoffroy de Crécy, France, 2020, 8 min. Silent.
  • X.Y.U., Dir. Donato Sansone, Italy, 2019, 1 min. Silent.

That’s it. Unfortunately I didn’t get to watch everything. There were several student competitions that I didn’t see although I have seen student shorts before.

The next post will be on my favorites. I also saw a lot of feature length films, so check out that post.

FIAF: Animation First, 2021 – Part 1 Feature Films

Yes, it’s that time of year again. For the fourth time, I attended the annual animation event at the French Institute-Alliance Français, FIAF. This time it was totally digital and I watched at home instead of attending in person. Not only that, but the dates for the festival were extended, so instead of 3 days, now there’s 11 whole days!

I saw some great films and here are some titles I want to share. Since I had time to watch so many, I’m going to write 3 posts. One on feature films, another on shorts, and the final on my favorites. This post is on feature films.


Feature Films

Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary, 2020

Calamity, une enfance de Martha Jane Cannary
  • A film by Rémi Chayé (with his co-writers Sandra Tosello et Fabrice de Costil)
  • France and Denmark
  • 85 min.
  • In French with English subtitles

My quick take: The animation style is really simplistic; at first I thought this was created in MS Paint! But then I thought even if it was created in MS Paint, creating a feature film that way should be commended.

Trailer: Calamity Jane — US Premier at Animation First 2021 from FIAF on Vimeo.

1863, a convoy in the American West, Martha Jane needs to learn how to take care of horses to drive the family wagon. Except she ends up wearing pants and cutting her hair. The scandal that its stark character provokes will force to face all the dangers in a gigantic and wild world where everything is possible.

Despite the film being based on a real person, it seemed very original. And even though the characters are meant to be American, the lead female character Jane had a certain “French woman” quality I feel I’ve recognized in other films, not just animation: a little spunky, a little independent, someone who takes charge of her life. I could be overgeneralizing.

Learn more about this film on the FIAF site, cineuropa.org, or by watching the making of video below.


Making of Calamity Jane with Rémi Chayé

You can also watch an interview with the director, on the FIAF Facebook page.

They talked quite a bit about the actual animation production. I wanted to learn more about the song at end, which was very poetic.


The Plague Dogs, 1982

  • Dir. Martin Rosen, USA
  • 86 min.
  • In English

Quick take: Very dark, but I liked it. A selection from special guest, Wes Anderson.

In this stunning adaptation of Richard Adams’s eponymous novel, two dogs, Snitter and Rowf, break out of a research laboratory where they are repeatedly abused for testing purposes. Once free, they meet Tod, a cunning fox, who helps them survive in the wild. Though the lab director tries to keep the escape quiet, an increasing number of sheep are discovered dead and rumors that the dogs are carrying the bubonic plague start to spread.

This was one of the selections by special guest, none other than director Wes Anderson. As he says in the introduction, it starts off unsettling and basically stays that way throughout the whole film. It’s by the director of Watership Down, Marten Rosen, and like that movie it’s also quite dark for an animated movie. Not really for kids, even though they rated it as age 10+.

Also, the film has some pretty well known names lending their voices, including John Hunt, Christopher Benjamin, Nigel Hawthorne, Patrick Stewart.


Josep

  • Dir. Aurel (Le Monde cartoonist)
  • France, Spain and Belgium
  • 80 min
  • In French, Spanish, Catalan, and English with English subtitles
  • Mature Audiences

A dying gendarme remembers his encounter with Catalan artist Josep Bartolí in a French concentration camp after the Spanish Civil War.

I really don’t know that much about the Spanish Civil War, other than it was neighbor against neighbor. I know Picasso made a famous painting about a bombing. But after I saw this film, I did a little research about the artist and looked up some of the camps. He lived a very interesting life, outside of his experiences in internment camps. The internment camps had people living in extremely poor conditions. Pretty sad. Very good film.


Aya of Yop City (Aya de Yapougon)

  • Dir. Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, 2013
  • 84 min.
  • In French with English subtitles
  • Ages 10 and up

Aya, a 19 year old girl lives with her parents in Yop City, a neighborhood in Abidjian. She spends time with her best friends Adjoua and Bintou. While Adjoua and Bintou like to spend her evenings dancing, drinking and flirting, Aya would like to become a doctor. Trouble starts when Adjoua realizes she is pregnant by Moussa who is the spoiled son of one of the richest and most feared men in the whole country.

I’m glad I made time to see this. Funny and with a few side stories here and there. It’s based on a comic by the same name, which makes sense because there are some real characters!


Isle of Dogs

  • Dir. Wes Anderson, 2018
  • 1h 45min.
  • In English and Japanese
  • Ages 10 and up

When, by executive decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, 12-year-old Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.

Ok, they snuck this one in last minute. I was not expecting to be able to see this at all, because it wasn’t on the list. But it was, of course, very entertaining. One of my favorite scenes is towards the end, where the boy character recites a haiku and everyone’s mind is blown.


That’s it for the full-length films I saw. Next are shorts!

7 Simple WFH Exercises

Even the most dedicated couch potato can get use out of these exercises.

HIIT training, Crossfit, and other workouts have become really popular. But they’re not for everyone. It can feel discouraging to even get started because these exercises feel like a big production. I can say for myself, all my workout clothes are gathering dust in the closet.

The good news is that all this working from home we’ve all been doing has helped show how a simple walk can be very beneficial for your health. I sometimes don’t free up my time or mental space until after 4PM. Living so far on the East coast, that means a walk at that time will be when the sun is starting to set. And walking in the dark is still effective but not as enjoyable.

But lately, I’ve come to realize there are simple stretches and exercises I can do at home that don’t require any special equipment, but are still really helpful — especially after sitting at a computer for a few hours. Working from home means I can easily do these at any time of the day without feeling embarrassed.

Here’s a list of 7 exercises that pretty much anyone can do at home.


Basic Exercises

These basic exercises are very simple. Easy to do at anytime and could do them more than once per day if desired. I do them whenever I need a quick break or with the other exercises.

Arm Circles

Simple arm circles, forward and back, to help keep your arms toned and joints moving.

Air Cycles

Air cycles help keep hip joints flexible and can give a little stretch in the hamstrings.

I really enjoy these. I find when I do them, my hips sort of “reset” after a few cycles. I also like to do really wide cycles, and this helps me get a little stretch in my hamstrings (back of the legs) after sitting for a few hours.

Cat Camel Stretch

I really love this one. I confess that I don’t always have the best posture while sitting at my desk. This one helps make sure my lumbar spine gets a good flex.

Wrist Stretches

“Wrist Love” exercise: A post shared by KADEEFIT Launching 2021 (@kadeefit)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t embed the actual video, so I just took a screenshot for part of this exercise. As you can read by the caption, this is helpful for people who spend a lot of time on a phone or computer.

I first saw this exercise guru mentioned on Reese Witherspoon’s Instagram, while she was demonstrating what looked like a pretty easy exercise. So I checked her out for other tips. She’s the one who gave me the idea to do arm circles!

To watch her Wrist Love video, click the link in caption or below: https://www.instagram.com/p/CIyy465HtbZ


Advanced

As you’ll see, advanced is a bit of a stretch. But it is possible to accidentally overstrain a muscle or joint doing these, so some extra care is necessary. I usually only do these exercises once per day. And these might require a door frame.

Neck Stretches

Take it easy with neck stretches. Neck circles, going in a full circle around, are actually considered outdated and dangerous because the movement combines stretching and movement. Doing just one stretch keeps them safe. But also don’t strain yourself if you’re feeling tight. And probably not a good idea to do these too much in a single day.

4 Easy Stretches for Neck and Shoulder Pain Video, by Veritas Health.
Levator Scapula Stretch is my favorite!

I again couldn’t embed the video (only 1 min), so again here is a screenshot. There are 4 stretches in this video and the one in the screenshot is my favorite.

Leg Lifts

I typically do these at the end of the day. My routine is 10 front, side, and back, before switching legs. Just like a dance class. I like to stand in the doorway to my bathroom because there’s a step of about 1″ giving my moving leg some clearance.

Standing in the doorway also allows me to brace myself with my arms against the door frame. This helps me to keep my torso upright and my chest open, so I’m not hunching my shoulders or leaning too far forward, especially while doing the lifts to the back.

When I do these, I’m not trying to get my legs up high. I’m just focused on getting them moving in different directions in order to use different muscles.

Correcting Poor Posture

While searching for one of the earlier exercises, I came across this video for the upper shoulder area to help correct poor posture. I might throw this one in, too.


So these are a few simple stretches and exercises to do at the end of the day, or even throughout the day, to keep your joints mobile and active. To summarize:

  • Arm circles
  • Air cycles
  • Cat-Camel stretch
  • Wrist exercises
  • Posture corrections
  • Neck stretches
  • Leg lifts

Easy to do in 15-20 minutes or as needed, throughout the day.

Looking Back at 2020: Comparing Two Epidemics

I rarely discuss politics on my blog. Actually, this is my first ever politics post! Here at the end of 2020, the United States has reached an incredible milestone and it needs to be said.


The other day I saw this video on Facebook, shared by Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York. This was a hearing with members of the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma.

The reason for the hearing is that Purdue Pharma has been held liable for having responsibility in causing what’s been widely and unanimously called the opioid crisis or opioid epidemic. This hearing was held to examine the personal role of family members in their company’s opioid crisis and whether they acted in such a way to avoid compensating their victims.

…There is no excuse for what you did.”

Representative James Comer

During the hearing it was reported that politicians from the left and the right agreed that the family’s actions were reprehensible. From the Dec 17 Reuter’s article, Sacklers apologize but deflect blame at U.S. congressional opioid hearing:

Representative James Comer, the committee’s top Republican, emphasized he was pro-business.

“But there are bad actors,” Comer said. “And to the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma, let me be as clear as I can be: You all are bad actors. And there is no excuse for what you did.”

It seems kind of rare to find political agreement these days. However, despite political disagreements, everyone seems to agree that there has been an opioid epidemic for the past several years. And not only that, there appears to be widespread agreement, including from left- and right-leaning politicians, that this family should be held to account for their role in creating the situation.

And yet….

Sadly, so much about the 2020 coronavirus pandemic has become so politicized and there is far less agreement about who should be held responsible and what actions the government should take. We all agree that there’s an opioid crisis, yet many people still don’t take the coronavirus seriously.

The other day, I heard a program on the radio where a reporter said that while he had a visceral, emotional response to September 11, 2001, he said he doesn’t feel the same now. This is despite the fact that on some days, more people pass from the coronavirus than from the terrorist attacks. It’s like people can’t put 300,000+ into perspective.

Comparing the numbers

After I watching this video, I started thinking about how opioid deaths related to COVID-19 deaths. Right now, we’re over 300,000 lost. I just started doing a search for answers to find out the two mass casualty events compare: “opioid deaths 2019”, “opioid deaths 2018”, etc.

I went back as far as I could find numbers for individual years. Around 2010-2013, the numbers were kind of lumped together. While I don’t know what 2013 was, I know it was less than 2014. So, I took 2014 and lopped off the end for 28,000.

Here are the numbers I found:

YearDeaths
201950,042
201846,802
201747,600
201642,249
201533,091
201428,647
201328,000
2013-2019276,431
Opioid related overdose deaths from 2013 – 2019.
  • Total opioid deaths: 276,431.
  • Total COVID-19 deaths (Dec 30, 2020): 341,000+.

In one year, we’ve managed to surpass the total number of opioid-related deaths from the past 7 years, combined. In my first draft of this COVID deaths are well over 300,000. I considered not even writing a number because it gets surpassed every day.

I find this really depressing and sad. It seems almost inevitable that someone in your family will be a victim of this situation.

I really wonder if our politicians will hold accountable the people who helped the US get to where it is with COVID, in the same way the Sackler family is being held responsible for their roles in the opioid crisis. Of course, this would require that they litigate themselves, so they probably will not anytime soon.


Anyway, I sincerely hope those who made to the end of 2020 will make it to the end of 2021. It takes little thinking about those who we’ve lost to help focus on what really matters right now.

Good luck!!


Making Cozy Winter

A recent radio segment discussed how to follow the example of Scandinavians in winter.

The radio segment is called “Hunker Down Week: Hygge”. It was presented on “All of It” with Alison Stewart.

As winter approaches and we all start spending more time indoors, maybe we should adopt koselig, the Norwegian equivalent of the Danish hygge. Stanford University health psychologist Kari Leibowitz shares what she learned from Norwegians when she moved to the Arctic Circle to find out how they survive the very short days and extremely long nights, as part of our “Hunker Down Week.”

The Finnish word for cozy is kodikas, according to Google.

There’s also another word, kalsarikannit, which translates to something like relaxing at home and enjoying drinks in your underwear.

Photo by Olivier Darny from Pexels
Photo by Valeria Boltneva from Pexels

The segment got me thinking about the photos from a Finnish friend and the images she frequently shares of her walks in what seems like a fairy landscape. She also apparently spent some time away from electricity and other devices in a cabin in Lapland.

She started sharing photos of her home after decking it out in many, many tea candles. 

And, yes, her home does look cozy. 

I came back to the episode later because I was curious about the psychologist and I wanted to see if she had more tips. I found her website, which features the article “What Scandinavians Can Teach Us About Embracing Winter” from the New York Times.

In the pandemic, rather than feeling depressed that the arrival of cold weather will mean you’ll be isolated indoors, try adopting a positive winter mind-set.

You can also read her research paper about it, if that’s your thing. https://internationaljournalofwellbeing.org/index.php/ijow/article/view/935

She has 3 tips for embracing winter:
  1. Get outside. She talked about this in the interview. Basically, she was saying that Scandinavians view being outdoors very positively, even in bad weather. She mentioned that after spending time in Norway, she realized she’d been dressing incorrectly for winter her whole life — even though she group up in New Jersey! I’m inspired to start looking for warm snow pants and a better winter coat.
  2. Make winter special. This is where she mentions hygge, which is also discussed in the interview. But, she said it’s more than just candles and socks. It’s like a comfort and openness to feeling close to friends. Or creating an environment in which good conversations can be had. Next time I attend a hygge, koselig, or kodikas dinner party, I’m going to congratulate the host.
  3. Appreciate winter. I don’t know about this. Well…maybe I do enjoy all the cooking I get to do when it’s not too hot to use the stove and the oven.

My big takeaway from all of this is that I need to make sure I’m properly dressed when headed outside in inclement weather. I may invest in a new rain jacket and potentially another coat that’s more water repellant than what I have now.


Featured image credit: Heather on Flickr. https://flic.kr/p/NZYFWJ