– The third International Competition block at Animest dealt with numerous topics and included a variety of animation styles, but in this story we focus on three films that explore sexuality

GoCritic! Feature: Animest's International Competition 3

Ur Heinous Habit by Eugene Kolb

In its 18th edition, the Animest International Animation Film Festival in Bucharest continues to showcase diverse animation films from all corners of the world. In the third block of short films in the International Competition, among the wide range of topics, one of the key themes was sexuality, with three out of the eleven films presented tackling it.

Ur Heinous Habit (USA) by Eugene Kolb is a light-footed exploration of the shame that comes with masturbation. In this 13-minute 2D computer-animated documentary, it all starts with a sextortion email – a scammer claiming that they will publish videos of Kolb masturbating. After receiving it, the filmmaker proceeds to talk to his friends about their masturbating habits and their feelings about it. Through playfully drawn Skype conversations, we hear different perspectives on the topic: how they would deal with a case of sextortion, how and when they started masturbating and what role it plays in their lives. In addition to the playfulness, animation here works as a way to protect the participants’ identities, and these 2D collages are complemented with screenshots of emails.

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The film is an interesting overview of different feelings and reflections on the topic, even if it doesn’t go very deeply into them. Humour is certainly a good way to tackle an apparently light subject that in fact concerns almost everybody on the planet, and the short ends up highlighting hypocritical moral norms that we still live by.

Peeping Mom by Francis Canitrot

Also, with hints of humour but definitely less light-heartedly, Francis Canitrot’s Peeping Mom (France) blends stop-motion and 3D animation to explore a mother-son relationship: an omnipresent, lustful and intrusive mom and her middle-aged son who cannot escape her influence. Selected at Cannes, it is a Freudian, unsettling 15-minute story about complex, conflicting emotions.

Like in Your Heinous Habit, the protagonist of Peeping Mom has to deal with a desire-fuelled shame, but in this case it is his own mother who intrudes into his intimate moments and fantasies. With animation that is realistic enough to allow the viewer to directly connect with the characters, but at times nightmarish enough to completely immerse them in the fantasies, it presents the taboo idea of a ‘mom gaze’ as a version of the ‘male gaze’.

La Perra by Carla Melo Gampert

Continuing the throughline of complicated maternal relationships and dealing with one’s sexuality, Carla Melo Gampert’s La Perra (Colombia/France) is a definite stand-out. Another Cannes contender, it is a beautifully animated story of a girl (with the head of a bird, but a girl nevertheless) who leaves her home and her mother to explore the city.

In its dialogue-free 14 minutes, through hand-drawn ink and watercolour animation, we follow the protagonist as she grows up together with her dog, given to her to make up for her mother’s absence. Sexualized and harassed since (or even before she hits) puberty, life in the city is challenging and intimidating for the young girl.

The dog, which gives the film its name – la perra in Spanish, which like in English can be used both literally and derogatorily – is not only a companion but also could be a metaphor for home, for family and belonging, for having a place to return to; perhaps the only possible link between mother and daughter. It is an interesting exploration on this erratic mother-daughter relationship, but most of all, La perra is a beautiful and uncomfortable tale of womanhood and the complexities that come with it.

These three films are a confirmation that the complicated and uncomfortable matter of sexuality can be depicted, as well as experienced, in as many ways as there are people. Is there a better way than animation to creatively unleash and explore your deepest fears, traumas and/or desires?

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