Shorts That Are Not Pants 2020: Our Review of ‘Block 4: Vocations’

Posted in Festival Coverage, What's Streaming? by - November 14, 2020
Shorts That Are Not Pants 2020: Our Review of ‘Block 4: Vocations’

Shorts Not Pants’ fourth block is Vocations, the shorts being about what people do. All of these shorts are uniformly good, as each following short increases the stakes from the one that just came before it.

Circus Movements is first, a short that Lukas Berger and Mario Gajo de Carvalho directed. Black circus performers exhibit stunts in front of landscapes and cityscapes. The directors only drop hints as to where they are, but the Orthodox Church can clue people in that this is Ethiopia. They also don’t saturate the colors here, making the landscapes look more natural. Black excellence at its finest, as the performers break stereotypes with every move.

We move on to the living rooms of Brampton Fire Captain Glenn Berwick and his wife in Kyle Kullia’s Fully Involved. Both subjects discuss the PTSD in the former’s job. As a content warning, both mention suicide. Either way, sit down short docs always work with me because of the close-ups and the intimacy they bring.

Homes are a strange location to shoot or animate for shorts about jobs. Frederic Schuld’s The Chimney Swift doubles down on that weirdness. He animates chimneys like birth canals, accompanying that visual with that of a panting child. The voice acting evinces the fear of a child who shares that space with dark figures. Another sound we hear here is the narration of someone who ended up being a retired chimney sweep. Schuld cast someone youngish for that narration, which adds to the cruelty of a job that enslaved children.

A person reads a book while drinking a coffee from a mason jar in Samantha Henry’s 705. At first that seems mundane, with the diegetic smooth jazz and everything. But the sight of the hazmat suit alone shows how the short can convey how the mundane survives through the apocalypse. Relate-able.

A piano player tries to teach music to a child in Xi Chengzhuo’s Ballad of Music Notes. The light animation depicts then fox as the teacher and a panda as the student. And there are enough people who learned piano as children to make this universal.

The block moves from China to Poland in Zuzana Grajcewicz’s Dog Days. It imagines a post-apocalyptic world where all animals died, which is impossible because our cats will outlive us. But if we suspend disbelief, the animal-less world leaves for some humans to work as animals. These animal substitutes (Sonia Roszczuk and Maciej Pesta) seem to have their share of good days. Anyone would, I imagine, would take a hundred dollars so that some rich person will pet them like a cat. Grajcewicz also smartly decides to dress these ‘animals’ in blue jumpsuits instead of dressing them up in furry costumes or CGI-ing them. Which means, and this is a low bar, but this is miles better than Cats.

Soetkin Verstegen’s Freeze Frame is a bit of a puzzler with its impressionistic approach. It shows animals bones that it looks like he animated it with ice, and the people harvesting ice to preserve those animals. That or that the ice blocks already have those animals there. Cool animation nonetheless.

The last short is Prey from the third year students at Sheridan College’s Animation program. There’s a deliberate approach here in depicting a hunter during the prehistoric era meeting his match in the form of a magical white moose. The stop motion animation adds a tactile quality to the storytelling, making this a good way to end the block.

Stop whatever you’re doing and go to for passes and tickets.

  • Release Date: 11/13/2020
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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