NFB in for Three
by Staff Editors
(December 22, 2021 – Toronto, ON) The National Film Board (NFB) has won more awards for its productions than any other organization in Canada. And this year they have three chances at an Oscar® for three co-productions in the Short Animation category. Those short films are Affairs of the Art by Joanna Quinn and Les Mills (Beryl Productions International Ltd./NFB), Mauvaises herbes (Bad Seeds) by Claude Cloutier (L’Unité centrale/NFB) and pictured above, Comme un fleuve (Flowing Home) by Sandra Desmazières (Les Films de l’Arlequin/NFB). They are up against 12 other short animation productions shortlisted by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
With Affairs of the Art, director Joanna Quinn and producer/screenwriter Les Mills continue the series of beloved, hilarious and award-winning animated UK films starring Beryl, a 59-year-old factory worker who’s obsessed with drawing and determined to become a hyper-futurist artiste. We also meet her grown son, Colin, a techno geek, her husband, Ifor, now Beryl’s model and muse, and her sister, Beverly, a fanatical narcissist living in LA. Affairs of the Art provides glimpses into Beryl’s, Beverly’s and Colin’s peculiar childhoods, and we see that obsession is in this family’s DNA. This 16-minute animation has already won more than 20 awards and is the first co-production between Beryl Productions International and the National Film Board of Canada. It features Quinn’s signature hand-drawn animation with attitude and Mills’ raucously humorous scenarios, in an endearing romp through one family’s eccentric addictions.
In Bad Seeds, Claude Cloutier takes us to a bizarre world populated by carnivorous plants that can change shapes the way a chameleon changes colours. The veteran director of Carface deftly connects growth with rivalry, evolution with competition, crafting an increasingly shocking duel that’s peppered with allusions to the western, the Cold War, board games, and much more. The result is a modern-day fable, an animated short that could well have been directed by the mischievous artistic heir to Jean de La Fontaine. Putting his trademark penchant for surreal humour to good use, Cloutier concocts a sardonic allegory in which an obsession with progress becomes a race to the abyss. Bad Seeds, which runs 6 minutes and 22 seconds, reminds us, with a sly grin, that we are all part of an interconnected whole—and that we all rely on each other for our survival.
Flowing Home, which was made by Sandra Desmazieres in the traditional animation on paper method, is a 15-minute film about two sisters who grow up in Vietnam and are separated by the war between North and South. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Thao, in her teens, must leave the country with her uncle. Her sister Saoi Maï, only a little older, remains with their parents, hoping they will soon be reunited. But their separation will last nearly 20 years, and the letters they exchange are their only way to connect and relieve their loneliness. Thao and Sao Maï write about their everyday lives, their memories, the war, and its ghosts. The characters and scenery were animated and shaded with grease pencils. The paper grain, pencil lines, and pencil shading give all the images a slightly different rendering, which produces a vibration effect. Some of the film was animated using the TVPaint application, with brushes that recreate pencil lines and the texture of pencil shading to produce a sensation of motion. “I had wanted to tell a story about Vietnam for quite a while,” said Desmazieres “My mother is Vietnamese and my father is French. They met in Vietnam, during the war, in the early 1970s. For a long time I set that heritage aside, not really taking any interest in it. Over time, I felt a growing desire to learn more about Vietnam. And then many stories from people close to me gave me the urge to make a film about those stories, about families that were separated because of the Vietnam War.”
The National Film Board has won 12 Oscars® over the years for animated and live action productions. The first, Churchill’s Island by Stuart Legg came in 1941. It was part of the NFB’s Canada Carries On series and was the first documentary to win an Oscar®.
The final list of 2022 nominations will be announced on February 8, 2022. The 94th Oscars are set to be held on March 27, 2022.