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The Independent Critic

After All

Michael Cusack, Rachel Verdonk, Henry Wishart
Written and Directed by
Michael Cusack
Running Time
13 Mins.


And the Moon Stands Still
Directed by
Yulia Ruditskaya
Written by
Yulia Ruditskaya, David Lindner Leporda, Helen Simon, Katharine Koster
Running Time
11 Mins.


The Full Story
Ben Aldridge, Paterson Joseph, Scott Handy, Christine Kavanagh, Emrhys Cooper
Directed by
Daisy Jacobs, Christopher Wilder
Written by
Daisy Jacobs
Running Time
8 Mins.


In a Heartbeat
Nick Ainsworth, Kelly Donohue
Directed by
Beth David, Esteban Bravo
Running Time
4 Mins.


The Wishing Jar
Olivia Martin, Tyna Kottova
Written and Directed by
Denver Jackson
Running Time
14 Mins.

 Animated Shorts Vie for Heartland Top Prize 
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The following five films are finalists for the animated short top prize of a $5,000 total award with each finalist receiving $500. They are also eligible for the Audience Choice Awards, one of which will be awarded in each shorts category. The finalists are:

Written and directed by Michael Cusack, After all is a touching story of a middle-aged man struggling to come to terms with the passing of his mother. The film follows the man as he cleans out his childhood home, simultaneously remembering past conversations both pleasant and, at times, contentious. 

This 13-minute Australian short picked up The Event Cinemas Australian Short Screenplay Award, a $5,000 prize for the best short screenwriting, at the Sydney Film Festival and is guaranteed to take home at least a finalist check at the 2017 Heartland Film Festival with another prize entirely possible within this new category at Heartland. With Cusack's own animation and top notch visual effects by Marty Pepper, After All is an involving and quietly meaningful film that should be popular with the Heartland crowd that tends to skewe older and will likely identify with its familiar, life-changing themes. 

And the Moon Stands Still is a magnificently atmospheric film co-written and directed by Yulia Ruditskaya, a film that explores the lunar cycle and the energies involked by its radiance. Almost meditative in presentation, And the Moon Stands Still is perhaps the most unique of the animated shorts to make it into this year's finals and it speaks volumes about the jury that the film's message stood out as consistent with Heartland Film Festival's mission (as it should have). Mesmerizing to behold with music by Izzy Gliksberg that nicely wraps itself around the film, And the Moon Stands Still is a transcendent short that continues to linger in my mind long after I've seen it. 

Perhaps the most thought provoking of the animated short finalists, this 8-minute short film asks big questions in a short amount of time - Why do close ties break and loved ones leave? What do you do when your family's gone? 

These aren't easy questions and The Full Story doesn't so much provide easy answers as it provides the space for life to be examined in the persona of Toby, whom we meet as he shows an estate agent around his childhood home. There's much said, but Daisy Jacobs' patient script draws us in and keeps us waiting until it's time for the bits and pieces to be revealed. 

The Full Story was nominated for the grand prize in animation at the Vila do Conde International Short Film Festival and is one of those shorts that will likely be hit-and-miss with Heartland audiences. With an intriguing animation style, co-directors Jacobs and Christopher Wilder use a rather chaotic presentation to give living breath to a rather chaotic story. It's a unique approach, perhaps even a bit jarring, but for those who prefer their animation a little less safe this is the animated short to watch at the 2017 Heartland Film Festival. 

A Ringling College of Art & Design produciton, In a Heartbeat is a 4-minute masterpiece of emotion and animation with its inspired, energizing story of a closeted boy who runs the risk of being outed by his own heart after it pops out of his chest to chase down the boy of his dreams. 

Told with a vibrance and complete and utter sweetness that swept me away and left me smiling from ear-to-ear throughout the film's running time and as its simple yet clever story wound down, In a Heartbeat tells an important story in an accessible way and does so in a way that will make your own heart dance. Co-directed by Beth David and Esteban Bravo, In a Heartbeat features stellar vocal work by Nick Ainsworth and Kelly Donohue and a warm, winning score by Arturo Cardelus. While Heartland jurors may opt for the safer The Wishing Jar, my heart and my mind is with this absolute gem of a film. 

While my heart gives the slight edge to In a Heartbeat for Heartland's top prize in animation this year, there's no denying that The Wishing Jar would be a popular and worthy winner with writer/director Denver Jackson's delightful story of a young girl and her walking teddy bear as they journey through a mysterious world to reach a fallen star. 

The Wishing Jar, at times, reminded me of the animation style of Grave of the Fireflies, no small compliment given that Grave of the Fireflies is my favorite animated feature of all time. At 14 minutes, The Wishing Jar proves that you can create a high quality, meaningful animated short on a modest budget with excellent vocal work by Olivia Martin and Tyna Kottova practically dancing across the screen alongside Jackson's immersive animated effort. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic