“Comfortable Position” is an Experimental Delight

Made by students aged 8 to 12 years old from the Tashkent International School in Uzbekistan, Comfortable Position builds on a long history of experimental animation in cinema. The weird, unsettling, and beautiful results could easily be shown right alongside work from influential Czech animator Jan Svankmajer.

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Hypnotized! from Comfortable Position

It’s refreshing to see kids willing to utilize an abstract, non-linear framework to tell a story. The film’s theme concerns sleep and dreams, and its young filmmakers smartly embraced the illogic of human imagination under the spell of the dozing brain. A variety of animation styles converge to weave a phantasmic landscape of dark images, narrated by a young boy whose voice takes on the persona of a hypnotist lulling us into slumber.

Most Western animation often tends to be very plotty or funny, most often created as entertainment, while the history of animation from areas like Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is packed with wildly experimental films. The difference in styles, in part, is because of commercial versus artistic aims. Cross-pollination and tension between these two styles of filmmaking has only resulted in better films, as we’ve gotten commercial animated features that embrace experimental styles (Disney’s Fantasia, 1940), and experimental films that embrace the framework of narrative (Jan Svankmajer’s Alice, 1989).

It’s safe to say that Comfortable Position mostly ignores this highfalutin debate, and simply demonstrates the joy of young filmmakers who have unleashed their wild creativity.

Be sure to see it as part of our program Shorts By Kids: 7+.

“Creepy” Cartoon Confronts Conflict

BAICFF 2020 features quite a few films about the pain and consequences of bullying. These stories are often told from the perspective of a person being bullied, and Creepy follows this path. Its main character looks, to us, like a monster, and is certainly treated that way by other kids at its school (we never know Creepy’s gender).

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The rejected protagonist of Creepy

But as in many films before it, monstrousness is a metaphor, and has more to do with how a group perceives an individual than with how an individual perceives itself. (A perfect example of this kind of tale is found in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, in which one of the only people not a monster is the disfigured Quasimodo.)

Creepy, made by a group of children from Düsseldorf, Germany, features meticulously-constructed animation created with paper cutouts. It’s a wordless, timeless tale about the agonies of being an outsider, and how one kind gesture can change people’s minds and hearts and lead them toward acceptance. The filmmaking group calls themselves “Kids ‘N Tricks,” as the term for an animated film in German is “Zeichentrickfilm,” for which a loose, literal translation would be “drawing-gimmick film.”

It’s a heartfelt story, and you can see it as part of our Short By Kids: All Ages program, showing Sunday. In addition, we also feature a specific program about bullying, The Power of Friendship, showing both days of the festival. Be sure to browse our program to discover many more such gems!

History Rains Cats and Dogs in “The Dog’s Story Part II”

Some of the most exciting works in our festival are those made by kids. Their inventiveness and passion demonstrates that they aren’t waiting until they’re older to be called “filmmakers.”

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Khan Catirius, feline villain of The Dog’s Story Part II, caught in a sandstorm.

The quality of these works is epitomized by Arkhip Varfolomeev, a young animator whose work has been featured in our festival before, as his short film The Dog’s Story was part of our 2019 program. This year’s entry, The Dog’s Story Part II,  is a direct sequel to the latter, but don’t worry if you missed the previous chapter, as Varfolomeev starts this film off with a handy summary of the last one.

Arkhip Varfolomeev
Director Arkhip Varfolomeev

The tale, told with humor and energy, concerns an ongoing battle between dogs and cats, and is clearly inspired by the real historical conquests of past warlords. Varfolomeev has clearly researched his character’s costumes, as he references elements like Renaissance clothing and samurai armor.

Varfolomeev is a gifted animator and illustrator, and he has both unique vision and style.  His character designs are creative, engaging, and funny, and his black-and-white line drawings evoke the work of independent comic book artists. He also provides many of the character voices and foley, which gives the work a fresh, idiosyncratic flavor.

Varfolomeev is a truly talent to watch, and we have no doubt he’ll continue to evolve to become a major force in international animation.

Don’t miss this film in BAICFF 2020, as part of our program Shorts By Kids: All Ages!