Bearing our Trauma: Our Review of ‘Oscar Nominated Shorts 2024: Animation’

Posted in Theatrical by - February 27, 2024
Bearing our Trauma: Our Review of ‘Oscar Nominated Shorts 2024: Animation’

It doesn’t take long to tell a good story.

Animated shorts can often go unnoticed (unless they’re in front of a Pixar film, of course). But, around Oscar time, animated shorts finally get their due. As the Academy Awards approaches, we pause to take a look at this year’s nominees and the ways that they draw the viewer into their subject matter.

As always, this year’s nominees have their own unique voice.

Directed by Yegane Moghaddam, Our Uniform tells the story of an Iranian school girl who examines her life through the lens of her clothing. Although the world around her restricts their view of her to be female, she wishes not to be limited.

War is Over! Inspired by the Music of John and Yoko begins with a game of chess that crosses the field of battle. As a carrier pigeon brings the ‘next move’ across enemy lines, the game forces soldiers to rethink the complexities of wartime.

In Pachyderme, a young girl dreams of her childhood—and the nightmares that follow her. Remembering her summer at her grandparents’ home, she begins to recall the (very real) monsters that caused so much hurt within her.

Next, Letter to a Pig steps into a classroom that’s listening to a Holocaust survivor share their story. As they explain the horrors of hiding from the Nazis, a young girl begins to put herself within the story and feel the terror that lies in the shadows.

Finally, directed by Jerusha Hess and Jared Hess, Ninety-Five Senses leans into our mortality by exploring the way we understand the world around us. Time  is running out on an old man’s (Tim Blake Nelson) time on earth. Thus, he grapples with what it means to life (and die).

Although brief in their run time, every animated story feels immersive in their own way. Each one of these films uses its animation in ways that accentuate their storytelling. For instance, Our Uniform  doesn’t use the smooth lines of traditional CGI animation. This style, then, gives its story a tactile feel, inviting the viewer to feel the authenticity of her pleas for justice. However, Letter to a Pig uses its scratchy shadows and colour schemes to illustrate the horrors of memory. This accentuating the pain of recalling the memories that haunt us.

But, even though they’re wildly different in style and tone, this year’s crop of nominees seem to have one thing in common: trauma. Hold them up against one another. When you do this, many of these stories tap into the pain that can occur at the hands of others and the ways that it shapes us in the present. Letter to a Pig sits within the travesty of fleeing oppression. Meanwhile, Our Uniform looks at the damage left in the wake of oppressive ideologies. War is Over! challenges the assumptions we make about one another during wartime. On the other hand, Pachyderme speaks to echoes of childhood trauma. Despite their different settings and structure, this year’s group seems particularly interested in sitting in their suffering.

But that’s the beauty of this year’s group of nominees. Each of these films sits in the realm of horror, battling the darkness while looking for light. Even under the burden of hurt, they are stories about resiliency. They manage to show empathy for the broken but, at the same time, care about looking for a way forward. These are stories that matter, even if they don’t take long.

This post was written by
Born at a very early age, Steve is a Toronto-based writer and podcaster who loves to listen to what matters to our culture on screen. When he first saw Indiana Jones steal the cross of Coronado, he knew his world would never be the same and, since then, he’s found more and more excuses to digest what’s in front of him onscreen. Also, having worked as a youth and community minister for almost 20 years, he learned that stories help everyone engage the world around them. He’s a proud hubby, father (x2) and believes that Citizen Kane, Batman Forever (yes, the Kilmer one), and The Social Network belong in the same conversation. You can hear his ramblings on ScreenFish Radio wherever podcasts are gettable or at his website,
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