Gabriel Ponniah, Editor In Chief
Austin Alternative Screen Scene
Animation offers the unique narrative flexibility to align audiences with inhuman, sometimes even inanimate objects.
By anthropomorphizing animals, animated films have endeared human viewers to their favorite animal counterparts for decades. What Ben Sinclair achieves on Between Hunters and Foxes is to mesh the above quality with direct and clear messaging, with the hopes of making real change on behalf of all wildlife.
Australia was colonized by the British some 300 years ago, and the imperial power brought all the nefarious comforts of home and wrought them upon the land. One such comfort was bloodsport. Englishmen trapped foxes from the UK countryside and, after a harrowing trip across seas upon seas, set them loose in the vastly different Australian ecosystem. As if that weren’t enough, their greatest threat accompanied them on the journey: brainwashed dogs hunted these foxes as part of an antiquated and cruel hunting tradition that persists to this day. While nowhere near as pervasive or accepted as in decades past, trophy hunting for the ultra-rich continues in historically exploited regions deemed exotic by elites: Africa and Australia.
Creator Ben Sinclair renders this tragic story in gorgeous painterly style, evoking the harshness of settings while cleverly applying restraint where necessary. He strongly characterizes the various sides of the conflict, and demonstrates superb control of physics while creating evocative images that stick with the viewer. It’s so much a visual piece, that one wonders if a narrative telling of the same basic concept could’ve made for an even more impressive final product, but what the short sacrifices in elegance it makes up for in clarity. And who among this short’s audience could reasonably call Between Hunters and Foxes inelegant? The symmetry between those canine footprint shots alone is just wonderful.
Rah-rah championing of the Melbourne Hunt Saboteurs aside, though the praise is well-warranted I’m sure, Between Hunters and Foxes is one of the more visually impressive, direct, and compelling animated shorts to screen at AniFab. While the animation batch of entries was crowded with quality films to be sure, Sinclair and company have a product of which they can be justly proud.