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DAYDREAMER’S NOTEBOOK – The Best of the Northwest Animation Festival 2015

DAYDREAMER’S NOTEBOOK – The Best of the Northwest Animation Festival 2015

Tatsuya Goto

September 18th, 2015


The Northwest Animation Festival showcases some of the best animated films from around the globe, and the Bijou Metro is hosting the best of the best (14 films in total) on September 19. These animated shorts show remarkable diversity both in style and narrative, and it would certainly be a shame to miss this opportunity to see them together in one day. In honor of this one-day celebration of some of the most interesting talents in animation films today, I’ve revisited three of my favorites from the full festival, which I reviewed in May.

beach flags

Beach Flags by Sarah Saidan (France)

Although this film was produced in France, it is about women in contemporary Iran, where qualifying for the international sport competition can mean so much more than personal achievement. It follows the story of two women who compete for the sole spot to represent their country in an international competition of Beach Flags. Profoundly insightful and moving at once, it encourages us to appreciate how cinematic art helps us to transcend conventions such as gender, nationality, and religion. The struggles of these characters may be unfamiliar to us at first, but we soon realize that their hopes and fears are as real as ours.


Tusk by Rory Waudby-Tolley (UK)

This poignant tale of a creature who is brought back to life in the modern world is disarmingly simple, yet also manages to deliver one of the most profound critiques of modern civilization I have yet come across. If this description raises a red flag, you should not be concerned. There is no political message that is both righteous and deafening. There are no brainy post-modern acrobatics either. Instead, the creature speaks ever so quietly. And it is this quietness of her voice that really delivers the message in the most moving way. Please listen to what this amicable soul can tell us. It is important.

the dam keeper 2

The Dam Keeper by Robert Kondo and Daisuke Tsutsumi (USA)

This film may last only 18 minutes, yet it has the depth and substance of a feature-length movie from Studio Ghibli. In fact, this short film expresses so much more than most features out there. I cannot recollect just how many times I have watched this film, and I cannot find any fault in it. This is literally my favourite 18 minutes on the screen.

This tells a story of a pig who maintains an important duty to protect his native city from being ravaged by deadly pollution, a duty he inherited from his late father, a thankless task to which nobody pays slightest attention. He is alienated from the very community he works diligently to protect, and he must endure the daily harassment of his schoolmates. Then, one day, an unexpected hope arrives in his life in a form of a new classmate. Yet, with every hope comes an angst: Can he secure her friendship?; Is she a genuine friend? Is he ‘good enough’ for her?

The visual art of this film represents the story and the journey of the protagonist perfectly. The light, the darkness, and the colour … each element tells so much about the inner state of this character with astounding richness and nuance that offer an incredible cinematic experience. This film also offers a moving sonic experience. The composition by Zach Johnson and Matteo Roberts is a perfect companion to the visuals, and the narration, by Lars Mikkelsen’s narration (who appears in Sherlock as Augustus Magnussen, the main antagonist of the third season) sets the tone of this film. The tone of his voice and his delivery creates the atmosphere which makes this film incredibly moving. One longs to hear his voice as much as the enchanting visuals of this masterpiece.

I am blown away by the fact that this is their debut film. I am definitely following whatever this team might come up in future. The fact that the Academy did not give them an Oscar completely diminished this institution in my eyes. While there are many more wonderful films to be screened, for this year, NW Animation festival should be remember as the year of The Dam Keeper. Good people of Eugene have given a nod to this masterpiece. You should come to see it yourself.

The Bijou Metro will host the Best of the Northwest Animation 2015 on Sept. 9. Click here for showtimes.

Tatsuya Goto is a critic with a wide range of interests: cinema, literature, philosophy, and critical theory. Goto has a degree in French literature from Sophia University and a master's degree in philosophy from San Francisco State University. He lives in Eugene. Daydreamer's Notebook is an irregular column in which he reviews films playing locally.

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