Conner Griffith Animates the World of Objects Through Historical Engravings in ‘Still Life’
“Still Life,” a short animation by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Conner Griffith, opens with a classic game of “guess which hand.” As the illustrated hands open and close, a tiny ball morphs into a series of tools and other household objects, and we are whisked off on a journey through more than 1,000 historic engravings. Collecting images from sources like the Iconographic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature, and Art and Gray’s Anatomy—both published in the 1850s and now in the public domain—Griffith examines how items and materials help to define lifestyles, attitudes, and consciousness of the world around us. “The film explores the idea that we live in a world of objects and a world of objects lives within us,” he says.
Find more of Griffith’s work on his website and on Vimeo.
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Ruslan Khasanov Brings Cosmic Phenomena Down to Earth in His Mesmerizing Short Film ‘Space Iris’
For more than ten years, Ruslan Khasanov (previously) has been enthralled by the ecstatic effects of light, color, and movement, which he expresses in an ongoing series of photographs and videos. Composed of a mixture of liquids like water, oil, and paint, he captures hundreds of high-resolution images that are then edited into a short film titled “Space Iris,” which is accompanied by an original composition by Fabio Fonda. “The iris, with its intricate patterns and colors, shares a striking resemblance to the vibrant and colorful cosmic nebula,” Khasanov says. “Just as the eye is a window to the soul, the nebula serves as a window to the vast universe beyond.”
You might also enjoy his earlier projects “Eye” and “heterochromia iridum,” which you can find among many other pieces, on Behance and Vimeo.
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A Reel-to-Reel Recorder Animates Wildlife Automata Using Carl Sagan’s Warning of Climate Disasters
A new advertisement for the United Nations Global Compact, the largest corporate sustainability program in the world, recalls the nearly 40-year-old speeches of the prescient American scientist and cosmologist Carl Sagan. Famously testifying to Congress in 1985 to alert of the dangers of a warming environment, Sagan was an unflinching advocate for transitioning the world away from fossil fuels and protecting the planet for generations to come.
In “Carl Sagan’s Message,” the Brazilian production company Boiler Filmes and ad agency AlmapBBDO bring the scientist’s words back to life alongside a menagerie of wildlife automata. As a reel-to-reel audio recorder plays his speeches, a kangaroo, elephant, moose, and more—all of which were created by artist Pablo Lavezzari—begin to wiggle. Each is part of a larger installation, a fitting metaphor for the connection of all living beings.
Throughout the nearly two-minute ad, Sagan warns, “We’re doing something immensely stupid…The abundance of greenhouse gases is increasing. One degree of temperature change is enough to produce widespread suffering and famine worldwide.” Unfortunately in 2023, the planet has already surpassed one degree, and we now face the immense task of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius. “40 years ago it was urgent,” the ad reads. “Now it’s an emergency.”
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‘Then Comes The Body’ Follows the Nigerian Ballet Academy That Stepped into the Global Spotlight
In June 2020, a clip of the then-11-year-old Anthony Mmesoma Madu dancing in a rain-soaked courtyard made the internet rounds. The video shows the young student gracefully performing on wet concrete, presumably demonstrating what he’s learned from Leap of Dance Academy. Located in Ajangbadi, Ojo, a suburb of Lagos, Nigeria, the ballet school garnered global attention after that viral moment, including from prestigious organizations like the American Ballet Theater and New York City Ballet, celebrities like Viola Davis, and the broader public.
A new documentary titled “Then Comes The Body,” directed by Jacob Krupnick of Wild Combination, pulls back the curtains on the genesis of the academy and follows its students, sharing their stories as individual artists and what it means to be part of a community with grand ambitions.
Established in 2017, Leap of Dance is the creation of Daniel Ajala, who began running the school out of his home as a way to offer free instruction to those who might want to pursue ballet as a profession. “I wanted, more than anything, to give that opportunity to those younger than myself so they wouldn’t miss their chance like I did,” Ajala said in an interview, noting that, since ballet isn’t widely practiced in Nigeria, he learned from YouTube. “It was too bad that I was as old as I was when I realized I wanted to dance.”
Krupnick first found out about the school and Ajala when much of the world did: with that first video of Madu. “Dance and movement are central to a lot of my films, and I always have an eye out for stories and collaborators that make me curious,” Krupnick says. “I’m a White filmmaker, and a theme that I’ve explored in my work is how it feels for non-White people to enter spaces where they haven’t historically felt welcome.”
After getting in touch with Ajala and learning more about his story, Krupnick traveled to Ajangbadi, where he spent time with the students in their neighborhood and learned more about their practices and dreams. This became the origin of the short film, which was created in partnership with Lagos-based producer Damilola Aleje. Showing the dancers atop yellow vans, moving in the streets, and teaching each other, the documentary offers insight into the immense impact of a single school. Leap of Dance, as the trailer shares, has already helped secure scholarships and performance opportunities for many involved, including Precious Duru and Olamide Olawale who, along with Ajala, narrate the film.
Premiering this June at Tribeca Film Festival, “Then Comes The Body” is an encouraging look at the power of expression and community and asserts that, as Ajala says, “ballet is here to stay.” (via Kottke)
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In Killian Lassablière’s Short Film ‘Kukeri,’ a Centuries-Old Bulgarian Tradition Wards Off Evil Spirits
“Evil is when we don’t want to be together… This is what we do: we banish it so that we can all be together, all equal,” says one of the subjects of Killian Lassablière’s short documentary “Kukeri,” a movingly atmospheric portrait of a centuries-old Bulgarian ritual. Part of The New Yorker Documentary series, the film highlights the cultural practice from the perspective of its participants, known as Kukers, who describe the roots of faith, community, and family that draw them together each spring to ward off evil spirits.
During the annual event, dancers don elaborate animal skin garments, intimidating masks, and huge bells around their waists to appear spectral and huge. For those who participate, it is a calling with mysterious, spiritual ties. “It was innate for me, and it kept growing over the years,” one narrator says. “No one can say why they dressed up as a Kuker for the first time. It has been passed down from generation to generation.” Lassablière focuses on the custom’s ancestral and future appeal, as children dance with their parents and look forward to being able to dance with the big bells.
See the entire film on The New Yorker’s YouTube channel, and find more work by Lassablière on his website. You might also enjoy photographer Charles Freger’s portraits of Kukers and practitioners of similar Eastern European traditions.
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An Animated Swimmer Dives into the Exhausting Experience of Working Under Pressure
A relatable animated short from the Ukrainian artist and director Iulia Voitova captures the total collapse and immobility of burnout and exhaustion. “La Plongeuese,” or “The Diver,” follows a professional swimmer so affected by a rigorous training schedule and the incessant noise of her coach’s whistle that she decides to give up her career entirely. When she visits a talented masseuse, though, she finds that her nerves and anxiety, which Voitova brilliantly depicts with tightly crimped paper, finally get some reprieve.
“La Plongeusese” was the director’s graduation project for La Poudrière, an animation film school in Valence, France, and you can find more of her works on Vimeo and Instagram.
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Editor's Picks: Animation
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