PORTLAND FESTIVAL OF CINEMA, ANIMATION & TECHNOLOGY 2023 REVIEW! One of the joys of watching the animated short anthology, Belonging: Season 1, is seeing the art of indie filmmaking progress using free off-the-shelf software and hardware.
Belonging is a series of ten animated shorts exploring the theme of human interaction. Episode one, entitled “Night,” opens with a poetic excerpt from Eugene O’Neil’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night.” A sailor is challenged to feel a sense of belonging among his friends. While finding solitude on his ship, he laments, “It was a great mistake, my being born a man, I would have been much more successful as a seagull or a fish.”
In “Water,” a couple struggles to stay together when they discover they have differing views on their relationship, specifically children. Other episodes look at parent/child relationships as a father “walks in” on his son and realizes he’s gay or in another when a son discovers the harsh truth about his father’s business with an ex-business partner. Two episodes find inspiration from William Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost and King Richard II.
Actor/writer/producer Eric Bear wrote all of the episodes. Every scene, directed by different directors, features a monologue (with a few exceptions) performed primarily by Bear and accompanied by Janna Bear, Carly Christopher, and Solomon Jagwe. Each ponders themes of belonging that we feel at work, at home, and in our hearts. Each episode is directed by ten different directors.
“…ten scripts, ten directors, twenty-five meta-humans, three performance and voice actors, and an unreal engine.”
As mentioned earlier, while watching Belonging, I can’t help but think of the possibilities for indie filmmakers to tell stories that take place anywhere imaginable while shot on a single stage. Bear and his co-stars don motion-capture suits and wear headgear to capture each facial movement and expression. The animation is then run through the infamous Unreal Engine, taking Bear’s stories out on the open road in “Here,” in the middle of a lake in “Duck,” or out in space with “Rosalind.” The pièce de résistance comes in the series finale with King Richard II returning to his burning castle in the middle of an English forest surrounded by his knights and death.
Belonging boasts ten scripts, ten directors, twenty-five meta-humans, three performance and voice actors, and an unreal engine. The possibilities are endless. As the Unreal Engine is most commonly associated with video games, seeing the meta-“human” in action will feel very much like a video game cut scene. Yes, the CG puppets move like humans, and the facial expressions and mouth movements are detailed in execution, but you still have that soulless look in the eyes that technology has yet to be solved.
If you’re an indie filmmaker, watching Belonging: Season 1 will get those wheels spinning at the possibilities now at your disposal. For fans of short films, creator Eric Bear gives not only wonderful and dramatic performances (sometimes against himself), but his writing is thoughtful about our basic need to belong.
Belonging: Season 1 will screen at the 2023 Portland Festival of Cinema, Animation & Technology. For more information about Belonging: Season 1, visit the HyperWatt Productions website.
"…seeing the art of indie filmmaking progress using free off-the-shelf software and hardware."