Film shorts at the Fringe

Philly Fringe 2021: The Women’s Film Festival presents Animation Nation

2 minute read
A colorful computer-animated still of a Black girl with large yellow glasses, smiling and holding a pink watering can.
Don’t take time with loved ones for granted: a scene from ‘Luz.’ (Image courtesy of the Women’s Film Festival.)

When processing thoughts, feelings, and memories, sometimes it helps to create something. At the September 26, 2021 Animation Nation screening, part of the Sixth annual Women’s Film Festival and presented in conjunction with the Philly Fringe, many of the nine animated shorts on view tackled emotional topics.

Academy Award-winning director Torill Kove's Threads explores a mother-daughter relationship and its evolution over time. With its illustrated style, the film reveals a parent living through hesitant but necessary space-giving to a growing child. In Sheri (directed by Rebecca Stern), which also centers family, words take priority over minimal animation. Its sadness is overwhelming, as in a letter from a teen child to a mother taken much too soon by cancer. A little more in line with contemporary animation, John Banana’s Disneyesque Luz continues the thread of mother-daughter bonds, this time making the point to avoid taking quality time with loved ones for granted.

Some of the shorts take a more abstract approach in their wordlessness. Michelle Brand's Synchronicity is composed of beautiful stop-motion drawings that move at a blistering pace, showing the hum of urban crowds as their forms shift to show the universal lines of the living world. The video-gamelike CGI of Robin Lochmann’s Them explores themes of industrialization and the violence of societal othering. Despite being scripted in a made-up language, this one felt a little on the nose with its critique of power dynamics.

Incidents - Way Home, directed by Jessica Laurén, is a trilogy of scenes at different stages of the narrator's life. The short focuses its punky anger at street-harassing perverts that stalk the speaker in a never-ending cycle of misogyny. This film places viewers inside anxieties familiar to women everywhere with dark, gloomy aesthetics and a societal indictment similar to Them.

Sarah Van Den Boom’s Raymonde or The Vertical Escape explores a different type of anxiety. Using earthy, handcrafted animals anthropomorphized in stop motion, a lonely old owl in a cottage plots the loss of her virginity. She seeks guidance through religious devotions. While the outcome of her hopes and efforts are unexpected, we're left hopeful and wondering.

Animation Nation offered a whirlwind of concepts. The wide variety of content had definite overlaps, with some shorts that worked their themes better than others. Production levels were a little uneven: some shorts stood out as extremely professional and well made, while a few of the films felt like the type of clips you'd find on educational websites. Regardless, all of the work held some type of impact, with interesting windows on the thoughts, feelings, and memories of their creators and characters.

What, When, Where

What, When, Where

Animation Nation. A Fringe Festival screening of Women’s Film Festival shorts ($10), September 26, 2021. At the Christ Church Neighborhood House, 40 North American Street, Philadelphia.

Proof of Covid vaccination was required for entry, and the attendees wore masks inside the building.


Christ Church Neighborhood House is a wheelchair-accessible venue, but the cobbles on the surrounding streets can be difficult to navigate for those with limited mobility.

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