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The Independent Critic

Helena Bonham Carter, Joseph May
Paloma Baeza

 "BAFTA Winning "Poles Apart" a Finalist at Inaugural Indy Shorts" 
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Paloma Baeza's BAFTA Award-winning animated short film Poles Apart is a sublime viewing experience, an extraordinarily rendered work of animated magic about a polar bear (Nanuk, voiced to menacing perfection by Helena Bonham Carter) whose starvation is nearly assured unless food can soon be found. She's on the trail of a desperately needed kill when her path crosses that of Aklak, a brown grizzly bear (voiced with excited energy by Thomas the Tank Engine's Joseph May) who seems to be more than a little bit out of his element. 

Aklak embraces the discovery of a fellow bear, a semi-familiar face in a not so familiar place. 

Nanuk? Not so much.

Written and directed by Paloma Baeza, Poles Apart has already picked up the BAFTA Award for Best Short Animation and an Annie Award for Best Student Film. It arrives at the inaugural Indy Shorts as a finalist for the festival's $5,000 top prize and has to be considered one of the festival's top contenders. 

Poles Apart immerses itself deep within a world obviously impacted by global warming, though it avoids anything even remotely preachy and instead chooses to simply illustrate the impact of climate change by this unexpected encounter with one very feral bear and a decidedly more friendly counterpart. In the end, Poles Apart is less about climate change and more about how we deal with it. Will we choose to tear each other apart or will we find a way to work together in hopes of a better resolution for everyone?

The vocal work in Poles Apart is strong, certainly to be expected from the likes of Helena Bonham Carter and Joseph May, yet the film's true mastery lies in its stunning, vivid stop-motion animation. Mackinnon and Saunders (Corpse Bride, Fantastic Mr. Fox) created the film's puppets and they are stunning to behold. It's always a good sign when you reflect upon an animated film and find yourself remembering the breezy bristling of a creature's magnificently realized fur. 

Truly quite beautiful.

There's a modest edginess to Poles Apart, the bears in question created realistically enough that they do create a bit of suspense once conflict arises yet never so frightening that children will have a hard time watching the film. Both adults and children should absolutely adore Poles Apart, though children may not fully understand its deeper messages. 

Poles Apart is screening at Indy Shorts as part of the Finalist Shorts 1 Collection and will screen twice during the festival:

  • Friday, July 27th at 7pm inside DeBoest Lecture Hall
  • Saturday, July 28th at 12:45pm inside The Toby

Needless to say, both screenings are held at Indy's Newfields. For more information on Indy Shorts and to get your tickets, visit the Indy Shorts website. 

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic