Animation from the Independent Edge at the Byron Bay Film Festival

The selection of short animation films at the 2017 Byron Bay International Film Festival steps away from the big-league producers in the USA and Japan.It’s both a financial and a curatorial decision, and it works.

The program showcases a refreshing, dynamic and diverse collection from first-time and emerging directors from other parts of the world – Europe, Iran, Ireland, and India.

We could rightfully call this program ‘Animation from the Independent Edge’.

It constitutes a treasure chest of novelty, originality and innovation. Here is a taste of the future of independent animation. Enter the experimental world of independent short animations. Enter a world where art, design, digital wizardry and sound mix to serve character and story. All but two of the selections are family friendly so watch the program with your children and wonder at the multigenerational appeal of animation as a cinematic form.

While there are no entries from Japan, one film tips its hat to Japanese animation traditions. Keiro, from France, is directed by Tatiana Jusewycz, a film school student and first-time director. With a contemporary Japanese anime look about it, Keiro explores the passage from childhood to adulthood and the friends we carry along the way.

Two beautifully illustrated shorts from Russia showcase the close relationship between animation, graphic design and fine art. Boull is a stylish little number about two sea creatures who have a tussle: it’s a metaphor for territory-grabbing nation leaders wherever they are. In the tradition of silent movie slapstick comedy the sound design replaces dialogue. The colour palette and quirky graphics are gorgeous.

Two films in this program attempt to visually represent life, dying and death. The Lithuanian film Running Lights tells a story of innocence, two brothers and a dying hare. The director Ged Sia and his studio PetPunk have been described as exemplars of ‘New Eastern European Design’, and were awarded the ‘Young Guns’ prize by The Art Directors Club of New York.

Portrait of a Windup Maker from Spanish director Dario Perez is a beautifully rendered meditation on grief, displacement and creativity. Filmed as a ‘documentary’ and set in Amsterdam we meet the toymaker and his exquisite windup toys.

Then we have Ztripes, a conga dancing zebra who loses his stripes and in so doing discovers who he really is and where he belongs. With a funksville sound track and a cool dude narrator, Ztripes references America but is in fact made in Denmark.

Schirkoa looks like a cross between steam punk Victorian London and Bladerunner. With echoes of both Orwell’s 1984 and Donald Trump, this dark dystopian film explores a totalitarian state obsessed with closed borders and anti-intellectualism, and a Senator who may or may not be a beezlebub.

Directed by Ishan Shukla from India, the multi-award winning Schirkoa premiered at the LA Shorts Film Festival in 2016, won Best Animated Short and qualified for the 2017 Oscars.