If there is any justice in this world, this animated story by Canadian illustrator Robert Valley will get the Animated Short Film Oscar this month. Watching this film at the end of the compilation of nominated shorts is like finally diving into a meaty main course after a series of fanciful amuses bouche.
The gravelly voiced Valley narrates an autobiographical tale of his relationship with his childhood friend Techno Stypes. Animated in a highly stylized film noir aesthetic that is captivating, the story begins with Valley being charged by Techno’s father to go to China to get his son back, preferably with a new liver. We are told through flashback of Techno’s charismatic bad boy appeal to Valley in their youth and their eventually diverging lives. Techno survives after a couple of serious accidents on insurance settlements, and seems to spend most of that on booze, and that combined with contracting Hepititis C has left him jaundiced and wasted in body if not yet in spirit. Nowhere near qualifying for a liver in Canada, he heads to China to wait for a transplant in a dingy hospital of dubious repute. Valley arrives to keep his spirits up, and spirits of the alcoholic kind away from him.
At 35 minutes it is long for a short film, but does not drag a bit, and the other films are mostly fluffy, with the exception of the other Canadian entry, Blind Vanya. I’m rooting for this one though, which was apparently years in the making, animated by Valley alone using Photoshop, and crowdfunded. You can root for the cutesy Sandpiper from Disney/Pixar if you like, but my money’s on this one winning the race.