Day four of the Manipulate Festival saw a collection of short animated films presented by Edinburgh Short Film Festival; and all curated around the themes of isolation and connection. While they do not address the COVID-19 pandemic directly, they nonetheless emerge as a varied reminder of what we have and what we have lost. The films vary dramatically in length, tone and style. All however prove sensationally distinctive, and stitched together paint an abstract and moving portrait of the turmoil that we can experience inside our own selves.

Some of the films are dazzling, sometimes disorientating examples of hand drawn animation, while others lean more heavily towards CGI and stop motion. Some of these styles fare better than others, with one or two coming across as too uncanny to appreciate in full. But all have a quiet beauty that either streaks its way across the screen, or dwells in the most minute of details. As a showcase of what animation can achieve, it is a remarkable display of talent.

Death, loneliness and family are just some of the things addressed by the films. More generally, some simply place great value on company, an especially moving sentiment now of all times. While some of the films such as ‘De Passant’ and ‘Trap’ lean more heavily towards a more resonant, poignant feel, others are a potent mixture of bleakness and absurdity – ‘Nigel’ is the standout example of this. 

Stylistically the collection never really manages to outdo the opening film ‘The Flood is Coming.’ This ten-minute adventure feels like a Picasso painting injected with life and being stripped back layer by layer, characters unravelling in all senses as the short progresses. Make no mistake however, this collection is no one-trick pony. All the entries are testimonies to the most moving, puzzling and amusing products that imagination can conjure. These highlights are as disorientating as they are fascinating, capable of finding solace in the smallest of things while somehow reaching out to as vast an audience as possible.  


MANIPULATE runs from the 27 Jan – 7 Feb 2021