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The Wolf House/La casa lobo

After escaping from a commune of German religious fanatics, Maria has escaped into the Chilean countryside and stumbles upon a house where two pigs live. Maria moves in and imagines the pigs to be children,naming them Pedro and Ana. The house is an ever-changing structure and Maria, Pedro and Ana take on many forms and appearances. As Maria finds herself stuck in this evolving nightmarish reality, the wolf, who lives in the nearby forest, threatens to keep them all trapped inside. 

“The Wolf House is a feature film where beauty, fear, disorder and the narrative itself are born from the precarious and permanent states of change. It is the story of a beautiful young woman who is held captive, but it is also the story of a physical and mental world that falls apart, destroys itself and renews itself time and again.”

Director’s statement – Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña

Cristóbal León and Joaquín Cociña’s The Wolf House/La casa lobo features mesmerizing stop animation and constantly shifting imagery to illustrate the pain of extreme isolation. The story is based on the sordid history of Colonia Dignidad, a secretive sect of German emigres in Chile who became particularly notorious for child molestation and the torture and murder of prisoners during Augusto Pinochet’s military regime. The main character Maria has escaped from the sect and the house symbolizes a sort of in-between space where she sheds her old life and prepares to re-enter society. The wolf is that society, which is perceived as a threat but in reality is not. Much like the actual wolf which has been hurt over the centuries by unshakable falsehoods. The film is narrated by a male voice from the sect that haunts Maria’s existence. The story also draws from the classic children’s fable The Three Little Pigs. 

Chilean filmmakers León and Cociña’s feature film debut is an impressive feat. Produced over several years, it incorporates stop animation with papier mâché puppets made of cardboard, tape and other materials, and paint on the house’s walls and floors. The characters inhabit the house both in three dimensional form and within the walls themselves. It’s quite a marvel to behold. Viewers who enjoy innovative stop animation films and unique storytelling will want to seek out The Wolf House/La casa lobo.

The Wolf House/La casa lobo releases in virtual theaters today. Visit the official website for more information.

SXSW: Blackheads

“Don’t you ever want to do anything destructive?”

Sophia just broke up with her boyfriend. When she calls up her therapist, Dr. Blady, to discuss the matter, Sophia is hit with some outdated advice about gender roles and romantic relationships. It doesn’t help that she can’t get her mind off of her ex or the huge blackhead on her nose. Sometimes you just need to clear your life of toxic people… and clogged pores.

Watching Blackheads is as satisfying as squeezing a clogged pore and watching all the pus come out. I couldn’t help but connect with the story of a woman struggling with anxiety, a bad therapist and self-destructive tendencies. And for those of you who love to pop a zit, the climax of the film features a glorious stop motion extraction. Blackheads clocks in at 7 minutes and 46 seconds and features stop animation with 2D animation. It’s directed by Emily Ann Hoffman, a fine artist and animator who, according to her website, explores “female sexuality, body and vulnerability through a comedic lens.” I’m definitely impressed with Blackheads and eager to see more work from Hoffman.

Blackheads was set to premiere at this year’s SXSW film festival. Filmmaker Emily Ann Hoffman is making Blackheads available to the public on Vimeo from 3/15 to 3/16. You can watch it here. For more information about Hoffman’s work, visit her online portfolio.

Albatross Soup

Can you solve this riddle?

‘A man walks off a boat. He walks into a restaurant and orders the albatross soup. He takes one bite, pulls out a gun and kills himself. Why did he kill himself?’

This is not your average riddle. It’s a thought experiment that encourages participants to develop their own tale, build on the riddle’s bare bones, fill in the gaps, create a backstory for its main character and to use their creativity solve the mystery in their own way.

Director Winnie Cheung’s Albatross Soup is an animated short film that visualizes the process of solving the riddle. An omniscient voice, who holds all the answers, is grilled by participants with a variety of questions and gives yes or no answers. Their voices narrate the film and the animated scenes play out the different possible scenarios until they come to the final conclusion.

Albatross Soup is a documentary layered on top of a surreal animated fantasy. It’s filled with bright, bold colors and shape-shifting scenes. It doesn’t ask the viewer to participate. Instead we’re just along for the ride. If you’re burning to solve the riddle yourself, do so beforehand then enjoy the psychedelic journey.

Over 50 participants were recorded for the short film and the audio was edited by New York Times audio producer Alexandra Young. The visual elements consist of hand drawn illustrations by Fiona Smyth and animation by Masayoshi Nakamura. Albatross Soup was screened at various festivals including Sundance, Fantastic Fest and the Fantasia International Film Festival. 

Albatross Soup recently premiered on Vimeo as a Staff Pick. You can watch the film in its entirety here.

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