International Animated Shorts

Redraw your world, one frame at a time

Stabat Mater (images courtesy of Enzian / Florida Film Festival)

Exclusive to MeierMovies, April 12, 2024

When most of you ponder animated shorts – cartoons, for you commoners – you likely think of whimsy, fantasy and childlike joy. You’ve got another think coming. Bring on the International Animated Shorts, arguably the most mind-bending, surreal, dark and consequential program at this year’s festival.

The block is headlined by the extraordinary Stabat Mater (5 stars), digitally brought to life (with a stop-motion vibe) by a team of French animators. Echoing the clay creation myth (Enki, Khnum, Prometheus, etc.), with shades of the original Frankenstein short film from 1910, by J. Searle Dawley and Thomas Edison, Stabat Mater (“sorrowful mother,” referring to Mary mourning Jesus) is part Dali, part horror, part experimental and entirely haunting.

A Kind of Testament

Nearly as memorable is Stephen Vuillemin’s A Kind of Testament (4 stars, flirting with 5), an unsettling, metatheatrical, metaversy, hand-drawn-style portrait of a woman whose social-media photos have been inexplicably stolen and endowed with an alternate, wildly imaginative existence by a trolling stranger.

On the 8th Day (4 stars), which opens the program, is so tactile that one can almost feel the fabric used to create this stop-motion gem. Like Stabat Mater, it’s helmed by a talented crew of French animators and offers a creation theme or, more specifically, a de-creation theme, as its apocalyptic, environmental message is palpable but never overbearing.

The Smallest Power (4 stars), by Andy Sarjahani, is a welcome addition to the program, as it’s the lone documentary, featuring a real-life voiceover recorded secretly during an Iranian uprising. The female narrator recounts the tense moments when the life of a fellow doctor was threatened by governmental goons, and it shows yet again how animation can conceal a subject’s identity while still allowing her to share her powerful voice.

Bye Bear

The German Bye Bear (4 stars), which almost defies explanation, should be appreciated for its technological, otherworldly aesthetic instead of overanalyzed. (That’s code for “this critic didn’t quite understand it.”) With creation, or re-creation, themes similar to Stabat Mater, Jan Blitzer’s film blurs the distinction between robot and animal.

Though somewhat crude – in both style and subject – when compared with the aforementioned films, Matta and Matto (3 stars) has a charm all its own: the kind of charm you experience in your deepest nightmares. In a world that forbids touch, the characters in this Swiss film by Bianca Caderas and Kerstin Zemp resort to David Cronenberg-like methods to satisfy their cravings for flesh. It might sound repulsive but is driven by big ideas.

While the abstract & More, the existential Minus Plus Multiply and grossly comedic Drijf (all 2 stars) don’t stand on their own as successfully as the movies mentioned above, they serve somewhat well as palate cleansers – all except the final film, Drijf, which is downright unpleasant and should have been considered for Midnight Shorts. Still, it sticks with you, unlike an amputated appendage. (You’ll see what I mean.) Strangely (because this is an international program), Drijf, by Levi Stoops, is the only one of the 10 films with a non-English voiceover (Dutch.) It’s also the most adult-themed, containing graphic violence and nudity. Perhaps that’s why the programmers put it last, allowing children a chance to leave. But, frankly, no child should see any of this program. Indeed, that would be my one jab: There’s not enough light amid the darkness of this block.

Lastly, let me commend My Name Is Edgar and I Have a Cow (3 stars), from Filip Diviak, for its animal-rights message. Though it doesn’t have the dramatic, comedic or aesthetic heft of several other films in this block, it fits in with the program’s theme: alternate realities. Edgar – like the creator in Stabat Mater, or Matta and Matto, or the robots in Bye Bear, or the anonymous subject in The Smallest Power – imagines a different world: a world where cows are friends, not food. Think of this film when ordering your burger at Eden Bar.

© 2024 MeierMovies, LLC

This article is part of my coverage of the 2024 Florida Film Festival. To find out when this program is playing and buy tickets, go to For more information about the event and an index of reviews of other festival films, go here