Flow Over - Feature Documentary - China
For Baisheng Township, Napo County, on the Sino-Vietnamese border, the long border has become the political concept of the country between the two peoples, but for the border residents on both sides, the political demarcation extended by this geographical border lies in their emotions. It does not exist. The two sides of the boundary have the same ethnic origin and the same text. Politics is blurred, but life is clear.
Tell the story of Lu Tingmin's family from three aspects: "others", "self" and "everyone". Due to the control of the new crown epidemic, Vietnamese woman Lu Tingmin has not gone home to visit relatives for two years. Through the main line of "Chinese New Year", the embarrassment of the Chinese and Vietnamese border people is presented in a small way. It is not difficult to show the history of the great power and the relatives of the people. Micro facts.
In terms of "others", Lu Tingmin's husband helped others to kill pigs, Lu Tingmin helped the blind elderly to feed, others helped Lu Tingmin's family fight injustices, and Lu Tingmin's family's views on others, especially political workers... surrounded by others, the family Orderly, unmoved, this is strong and strong, which offsets the difficulties and weaknesses caused by others.
My name is Xiao Hu. I used to be a civil servant in Mainland China. I taught for three years in Xiahua Village, Baisheng Township, Napo County, Napo County, on the Sino-Vietnamese border. Now I am an independent documentary and documentary photographer. I have been following the changes and development of the Sino-Vietnamese border for a long time.
I hope that more forces will pay attention to the children on the border between China and Vietnam. They are marginalized and disadvantaged groups. To pay attention to them is to pay attention to the future.
This is Xiao Hu's second official selection to Animalis Fabula Film Festival.
AniFab judge's aggregate score for Flow Over is 7.1 with one note left in the judge's comment section stating, "important story. Animals are used in this film to show normal daily family lives in this region of the world. This is how people live. The main story is the most important, watch what happens to these families brought together at the boarder and then torn apart by political will. See how fragile individual lives and families are in comparison to a powerful Government. Yet so very universally human and not so fragile as we might think. Simply Powerful."
Grasshopper - Animation Short - Brazil
Director Statement - Grasshopper is my first experience with animation movie.
I was at that Paul McCartney concert in the Midwest of Brazil, where the stage was taken by thousands of grasshoppers. I really wanted to tell this story because it was directly related to the devastation of the Brazilian Cerrado biome and I also wanted to express my gratitude to Paul McCartney's extraordinary music which has been the soundtrack of my entire life
AniFab judge's aggregate score for Grasshopper is 7.2 out of 10 with one judge writing, "This is a fun, entertaining and informative film. When the grasshoppers arrived at the arena and we first heard the music it gave me a chill! The animation was colorful, fun and engaging and the timing was well done."
Aurora - Animation Short - USA
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who fell in love with a beautiful horse named Aurora...
Expressively animated in a naive drawing-style that evokes children’s drawings and the texture of storybook illustrations, Aurora is a bittersweet story about love, friendship, and growing up.
Jo is an award-winning Dutch/Canadian/Chinese/West Indian filmmaker from Canada. She holds an MFA in Film, Television, and Digital Media from University of California, Los Angeles, and a BFA in Animation from Concordia University. An animator by trade, her work can be seen in well over a dozen National Film Board of Canada productions, where she worked for fifteen years as an animator, supervising animator, and lead compositor, and where she also directed two films of her own.
Jo is currently living and working in Las Vegas, building the new animation program at Nevada State College, where she teaches animation, editing, and drawing.
AniFab judge's aggregate score for Aurora is 9.7 with one judge noting, "Thank you, we are so blessed to be able to share Aurora with our audience. I was captivated from the first note. I felt happy, then sad, then happy, then even more happy. In director Jo Meuris's case It is truly a gift for her to so effortlessly pull someone's emotions too and fro with a simple animated story about a girl and her horse friends. I was crying in joy in 4 minutes flat, We are looking forward to sharing Aurora, what a treat everyone is going to get!
November 17, 2021 Review filed by: Gabriel Ponniah, Austin Screen Scene
Everybody loves dogs. They’re a convenient group to advocate for in that way—they’re almost fundamentally endearing. So when A Stray Dog’s Ruff Life sets its sights on the mistreatment of man’s best friend, it does so at its own peril. From early on in the documentary, images of neglected, emaciated mamas tending to their still-blind pups in a cozy corner of refuse raise an alarm in the back of viewers’ heads—the same alarm that compels a change of the channel when Sarah McLachlan starts singing “Angel.” And so it’s to the filmmaker’s credit that they avoid becoming mired in misery without shying away from the serious death and disease endemic to the crisis. By focusing on human efforts to combat apathy and bureaucracy, Ruff Life balances its tone while making its most effective point: the stray dog crisis across the country is no mere fact of circumstance, but could be changed for the better with improvements in communication and public policy.
The filmmakers dive into the trenches with volunteer organizations, allowing for a ground-level view of the struggle to save these animals. Right off the bat, Detroit’s Pit Crew introduces the audience to their daily challenge,—in this case rescuing a mother and her puppies from abject homelessness within eyesight of the Michigan Humane Society, elegantly setting up the film’s main conflict between grassroots change and cumbersome bureaucracy. In Houston, too, the filmmakers follow local organizations like Houston Pets Alive and the city’s Best Friends Animal Society program as they combat Houston SPCA’s ineffectiveness along with other administrative shortcomings.
To achieve these ends, the filmmakers employ a visual language that works on two fronts. Boots-on-the-ground video of activism at work in the field provides an intimate understanding of the problem and its many facets. Meanwhile, drone coverage interspersed throughout lends the film an affirming sense of scope and scale, appropriate for a project which tackles such a wide-ranging issue from multiple vantage points. Moving imagery of animals at both ends of the experimental spectrum—suffering in the wild as well as enjoying a dip at Barton Springs—captivates, and lines are drawn with powerful looks into the cruelty of bureaucracy. The incinerator smokestack connotes concentration camps, and an unsightly comparison awaits those who operate it further down this line of thinking.
It’s important to remember, though, that there are humans who’ve chosen service as their vocation—on behalf of the public and/or their animal counterparts—on both sides of this issue. The filmmakers make clear the frame through which the audience is presented with this stray situation. Manipulative music and editing choices, as well as active efforts to catch subjects in awkward situations, are viable tools at the documentarian’s disposal, but ones which require scrutiny from viewers. Sure, former DACC Director Melissa Miller looks bad when accosted by the filmmakers’ investigation (one which apparently devolved from sit-down interview to guerrilla journalism at some point during production), but is she a harassing shill of an animal-hating administration or an under-equipped captain of an understaffed ship? The systemic flaws in animal control and public health deserve the ire of activists more than do employees caught in the system. Ask any Longhorn football fan if it’s possible to make meaningful change with three Directors in as many years, and they’ll lament the carousel of coaches who’ve so far failed to bring Texas back in each’s relatively brief tenure.
Environmental factors, too, stymie the efforts of those working on behalf of the dogs. The film makes substantial use of Hurricane Harvey’s impact on their struggle, as well as highlighting different regional challenges when it comes to breeding. Already-overwhelmed facilities were understandably pushed beyond their administrative breaking point with the flooding that devastated Houston in 2017, and with the recent failure of ERCOT to provide Texans with power during a historic freeze, these environmental factors show no sign of easing up on a hemorrhaging system. Furthermore, it’s not solely their endearing quality which makes dogs a convenient group to advocate for. Dogs, believe it or not, can’t speak or organize, and naturally can’t be held accountable for their evolutionary programming when it comes to overpopulation. And their panting faces read to humans as smiling whether they’re delighted or miserable (a challenge noted by Houston volunteers rescuing a poor pooch stricken with mites). Communities don’t want to kill dogs, as say Dr. Jefferson and Ms. Hammond, but they don’t necessarily deserve to be shamed into oblivion for navigating an often cruel world as best they can. Though the filmmakers do well to insist their fight is with policies and systemic issues and not individuals (save the absent SPCA bigwigs), it’s easy to see how well-intentioned people get caught in the crossfire. The representatives who returned Ms. Vasquez’s dog aren’t responsible for the structural failures of Houston SPCA, and Ms. Vasquez insists it has nothing to do with them. But when they’re the ones facing down the confrontation, it’s hard to tell the difference.
Ruff Life also falls short in another way. The filmmakers may well demonstrate their, ahem, dogged pursuit of the truth and root causes behind the crisis, but the documentary seems incurious as to the underlying culture which has produced such. The film sets up a case study between stray dog populations in Detroit and Houston. It promises a shocking discovery about the relationship between dogs on the street and those being killed in shelters. The filmmakers explore the process by which the former becomes the latter, as well as volunteer efforts to interrupt said process. Taking this direction achieves their intent—and it is a commendable one—but steers away from a more in-depth investigation. With Texas Governor Greg Abbott signing into law an effective criminalization of homelessness as of September 1st, it stands to wonder whether a State government which treats humans living unhoused in this way could muster any greater sympathy for its canine predicament. The same citizens who, say, don’t ‘believe’ in spaying or neutering an animal have recently been deputized by the Abbott administration to collect bounties on their fellow citizens for seeking abortions. Certainly, the comparison is unsightly, and perhaps the leap is too great to land gracefully, but interrogating these factors—especially with a regionally distinct point of comparison in Detroit—could’ve provided precious connective tissue while making more comprehensive their argument.
On the whole, A Stray Dog’s Ruff Life makes a powerful statement and, complete with action steps peppered throughout its ending, has a chance at contributing to political change on behalf of dogs and their advocates everywhere. It’s appropriately brimming with frustration and celebration, as it takes a wide-reaching, if perhaps not deeply sociological, look into the stray crisis across America. If lack of communication is a pervasive systemic flaw in the care of stray animals, as the documentary suggests, then the film is a big step towards solving said flaw. If we’re to believe “the only way to make [people] care enough is to go into their homes,” then Ruff Life’s recent distribution deal with streaming-oriented 1091 Pictures has the chance to make people care indeed.
In October, 2009 I began building the foundation of the World Animal Awareness Society & WA2S Films to become the award-winning, animal-centric, media non-profit it is today. I had captured the devastation to New Orleans and the gulf following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with my documentary, An American Opera The Greatest Pet Rescue Ever! and had wrapped a national screening tour in 45 cities supporting local animal rescues in 2010.
In early 2011, after much fanfare and launch of the World Animal Awareness Society, our then Michigan based non-profit was challenged by the Detroit dog rescue community to take notice of the homeless dog issues they were dealing with. I did. The World Animal Awareness Society developed the American Strays 2030 Project, an initiative to quantify the stray and homeless population of dogs and the associated community issues in the United States.
For the past 9 years I have been trying to get my head around telling a story with too many mostly opaque layers; the story of abandoned, stray, homeless dogs on American streets and in shelters, and the very rough existence they endure before a million are killed wantonly every year. I have hundreds of hours of the most compelling dog rescue footage and interviews with stakeholders all across the globe.
The American Strays Canine Survey was created, enabling volunteers to understand where the focal points of the problems are. Volunteer surveys have been deployed in many cities in Michigan, Texas, and the gulf region of the south. The canine survey allowed our teams to have purpose at the front lines of the independent dog rescue community, and to capture the raw elements that go into whether a city will be successful handling their community’s domestic animal issues.
The idea that a million dogs are killed specifically due to space issues in American shelters, for being homeless temporarily, was so very striking to me. It was right under my nose, and I truly had no idea until I saw it all first hand.
As our film team captured the action on the streets while the surveys occurred, I began to see the greater powers at work, keeping cities like Houston and Detroit from providing a higher quality of service to the animals and people in their communities.
For 2 weeks prior to Hurricane Harvey, I was in Houston surveying for homeless dogs and filming rescues working in the city, oblivious to any possible inclement weather, let alone a powerful hurricane like Harvey. After leaving Houston one day before Harvey struck, I felt compelled to come back and spent 3 additional weeks filming the aftermath.
As in New Orleans in 2005, Hurricane Harvey in 2017 tore the facade of everything away, including many of the layers that camouflage some animal shelter's activities. Hurricane Harvey opened a window into a dark secret of a multi-million dollar shelter that formerly was the focus of an Animal Planet series. Once Houston had been more thoroughly ripped open, the actual cause of the city's dog population problems became clear.
I believe the work I have put in on the American Strays 2030 Project with hundreds of people over the past 9 years will in fact cause a shift change in how American communities manage their domestic animals. RUFF LIFE is a call to action; The American Strays 2030 Project is the vehicle.
CATSTREAM - Documentary Short - Croatia
Cat rescue volunteer Mirna Kirin goes to the island of Mljet in an effort to trap as many of the local cats to castrate them in only few days. Her Don Quixotesque struggle intensifies, both with the cats and the islanders, as they often refuse to collaborate causing her to break.
AniFab judge's aggregate score for Catstream is 7.7 out of 10 with one judges writing, "At first I wasn't sure what I was seeing with the animal carrier in the river following the opening cat fornication scene. It really caught my attention and made me want to know what was going on. So many scenes we are familiar with as we've followed many rescuers and animal welfare advocates into the field. We are always so interested in seeing what is happening in all regions around the world. It is impossible not to become too frustrated right along with our protagonist."
MUSTANG.S - Narrative Short - France
Deeply affected by an accident that took her parents' lives, 16-year-old Manon has a grudge against the whole world, but an unexpected encounter is going to change her life
Interested in all forms of arts, Alexandre Mexis is a French-Greek author of poems, plays, short-stories and short-films, a visual artist and a literature teacher. He is also a member of the PEN Club International, fighting for freedom of speech.
MUSTANG.S was born, in the summer of 2019, of my desire to write a short-story that gradually changed into images as the words went along. A story that mixes two worlds that are part of mine and sometimes meet, that of horses that have always fascinated me and that of teenagers to whom I like to pass on.
At the beginning of the adventure, it was even the world of disabled children that interested me but for reasons of feasibility first, then because I wanted everyone to be able to identify more easily with my story, I chose a more common character, someone who could look like all of us and who is going through an ordeal that we could all, unfortunately, live one day.
This short-film was also born from the desire or the need to film myself one of my stories after having written scripts for others: Partir (Leaving) for Tony Mastropietro, Un été en provence (A Summer in Provence) for Lionel Kabac, and after having watched many short-films as one of the organizers of the festivals of Fréjus (France) and Elounda (Greece).
I thought that the time had come to cross this solid imaginary line that separates not only the viewer but also the critic, the programmer and even the judge, from the one who creates and takes all the risks. What’s more, once the decision was made to take this step, this desire then blended with the feeling of freedom that inspires the title MUSTANG.S and what these horses represent in our imagination.
It should be noted that filming, initially planned in April several days in a row as is usually done, had to be delayed because of the Covid 19 pandemic. Indeed, it was necessary to start again the technical preparation of the horse because it was not possible to take care of him for a full month, which is a long time when we work with horses, the specific learnings of the film having to be started again almost from zero.
Fortunately, as soon as the lockdown was over, the shooting could be launched but this time over separate days. It was necessary to take into account the sanitary measures to be followed and not to exceed the number of authorized persons at the filming. This is especially the case of the scene shot in high school where we had to give the impression that we had a normal class with fewer students in fact.
Finally, if the period of lockdown allowed me to think more about the organization of the shooting and allowed the actors to prepare better, it was also a moment of waiting, of impatience because we all wanted to meet again to truly enter the story and make it live at last!
AniFab judges aggregate score for Mustang.S is 9.8 out of 10 with one judge sobbing while writing, "I must be careful when I watch certain films to make sure my emotional state is clear and pure. I don't know if I watched Mustang.S with that clarity as I am still weeping. With yet another wave of quiet sobbing. Isn't this what we want films to do, to make us feel? Mustang.S needs to be part of the AniFab annual live festival and benefit screenings for 2021. Wonderful movie, I am still very touched that we get to share it with people who will appreciate it."
Chocolate - Narrative Short - Mexico
AniFab judge's aggregate score for Chocolate is 5.9 out of 10 with one judge commenting, "Chocolate is a perfect metaphor for the transient nature of life some times. I wanted to really like Chocolate, but found myself a little confused with the end shot. However, I think it is so important to create works of fiction - blunt force instrument-equivalent of a cinematic punch in the face with animals. Not using animals - and it is clear these filmmakers are animal lovers, but with animals. Dog is the perfect MacGuffin for this clever action short. I rate Chocolate a POW - right in the kisser!" One last note - Chocolate is for older kids. You wouldn't want your younger kids to get, "POW - right in the kisser" would you?
2021 Official #AniFab Monthly Selections
Animalis Fabula Film Festival official monthly selections have the opportunity to compete for monthly attention as well as inclusion in the annual live / virtual film festival in Austin, Texas and the end of year fundraising benefit for animal welfare.