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#MAF2022 Favourites: Animated Commercial Curiosities!

It's been a very long time since I wrote a blog post, but I finally managed to attend most of Manchester Animation Festival this year (for the first time!) - I came away feeling really inspired and wanted to share the great things I'd seen and heard there...

I'm planning on making a few MAF themed posts, but I wanted to begin with my thoughts on my favourite showcase: Animated Commercial Curiosities. There were some lovely films in the Short and Student showcases too, but ACC spoke to me the most, probably because it's the industry I work in. So here are my favourite films, from my favourite showcase. Let's give this some build up and make it a top 3, starting with:

3. Syria Relief: Stone by Stone (Directed by Karl Doran, Winston Tsang and Guy McKinley, Produced by Flow Creative)

The first thing I noticed about this film was the beautiful poetry of the script - something which isn't often done, but creates a rhythm in the piece almost like a music video would have, that drives the pacing of the animation. It also makes the sensitive topic of war and displacement much more accessible and engaging. This is further emphasised by the lovely sound design, which adds to the emotion and builds upon the hope described later on in the poem.

I felt that the art direction, particularly in the way saturation is used, and how the background elements are simplified, works really well in keeping the eye focused on the central character and foreground movement while maintaining a vast and tangible world. I really love the textural style too, as this reflects the setting and allows for lovely transitions where buildings and people are drawn before your eyes.

2. Global Women - Career Limiting Move (Directed by Anna Mantzaris, Produced by Saatchi & Saatchi and Passion Animation Studios)

I really love this film because of the clever way the messaging is concealed in comedy until the end. Watching this as part of the showcase meant I went in blind, so I didn't even know the title of the film beforehand. I had no idea what the message was until that simple, matter of fact reveal.

The topic of sexism in the workplace, from gender pay gaps to microaggressions, is often difficult to engage people in at all, and that's before you've even had chance to explain or demonstrate the reality of the situation. But by first engaging the audience with a charming stop motion style followed by deadpan acting, the attention is there to strike with the true message of the film.

I particularly really love the way the extra text appears around 'career limiting' in the reveal as it was totally unexpected for me. Really simple but really effective!

1. The Boys from Summer (Directed by Julien Hazebroucq, Produced by Eddy)

I enjoyed the style of this film the most out of all that I watched - the fluid but calm pacing fit the music so well, and the design of the characters and world were just adorable. Each character had their own clear personality despite having bodies made out of 2 pill shapes - their emotions were were so tangible too, with faces so expressive despite their simplicity.

I thought that the emulation of stop motion was done brilliantly and the transitions between scenes were great, especially the seamless cut at 2:26; this accompanied the change in tone so well. One visual element that really inspired me personally was the way scale was played with. This is especially apparent in the final shot as we just keep zooming further and further out, revealing people double or triple the size of the ones at the beginning of the shot.

One thing that really stood out to me, though, was the very unapologetic way the film showed men in love: kissing, dancing and being intimate. This was incredibly refreshing, as gay romance is too often reduced to hugs or pecks on the cheek. All in all, a really lovely film that kept me captivated throughout.

There are of course plenty more films that were a part of this showcase that I really loved. I can't write down my thoughts for all of them, but I'll leave a few more of my favourites below for you to watch. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you thought of the films I've shared. Which is your favourite?

A Future Begins (Directed by Johnny Kelly, Produced by Nexus Studios):

Head & Shoulders - The Chase (Directed by CRCR, Produced by Pysop, Blacklist and WIZZ):

Veganuary - Cut Your Carbon BIG-footprint (Directed by Claire Grey, Produced by Kilogramme Animation Studio):

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