“Hair Love” (7 minutes)
The story: An African American child wants to style her hair, which is beyond her and her father’s skills.
In short: Originating as a Kickstarter project, this charming film is effervescent in its energy and bright colors. The story of Zuri and her hair is told almost entirely through body movements and facial expressions. No words are necessary to convey the characters’ feelings, and the already touching relationship between daughter and father becomes poignant when it’s revealed why styling her hair is so important to Zuri. It’s an experience we don’t often see in animation, which makes it feel refreshing. Grade: 4.5 stars
“Dcera (Daughter)” (15 minutes)
The story: A young girl realizes the fragility of life far earlier than any child should.
In short: From the Czech Republic, the rough appearance of the papier-mâché figures in this film might be initially off-putting for some viewers. Yet the movement of the characters and the scenery they occupy look incredibly lifelike for a stop-motion animation project. Especially vital to the story is the film’s audio design, which vividly establishes the setting of each scene despite the characters speaking no words. Writer and director Daria Kashcheeva makes everything on screen feel alive in her beautiful film — the best of this collection. Grade: 5 stars
“Memorable” (12 minutes)
The story: A painter slowly loses his memory and sense of surroundings as his Alzheimer’s disease worsens.
In short: Bruno Collet’s film often looks like a painting, a work by Monet or Van Gogh come to life. Perhaps it’s intended to resemble how the main character, Louis, sees the world. Collet’s portrayal of Louis’ mental state is heartbreaking, as solid objects lose their form and become liquid, or the real becomes abstract. Yet what Louis’ wife, Michelle, faces with her husband’s deterioration feels all too real. The combination of stop-motion and digital animation creatively and powerfully depicts a world that’s slowly becoming incoherent. Grade: 5 stars
“Sister” (8 minutes)
The story: A child adapts to sharing life with a newborn sister, fighting over toys, TV shows and attention.
In short: The shortest film of this collection packs an emotional punch with a sharp twist in its story. Siqi Song’s film is an intriguing companion to the 2019 documentary One Child Nation, portraying the impact of the one-child policy that China enforced from 1979 to 2015. Song’s use of felt puppets makes the story feel lighter than it is, yet also reinforces a child’s point of view. The movement of the felt’s wool fibers also adds an ethereal quality to the film’s haunting animation. Grade: 3.5 stars
“Kitbull” (9 minutes)
The story: A stray kitten and abused pit bull form a friendship, attempting to escape to better surroundings.
In short: Emerging from Pixar’s SparkShorts program, Rosana Sullivan’s film has the look of conventional animation, as if it were taken from a children’s storybook. What initially look like natural rivals becoming friends — reminiscent of Looney Tunes‘ Marc Antony and Pussyfoot in “Feed the Kitty” — carries darker undertones in how these animals are treated. This is the lightest of the five nominated animated shorts, but it acts as a much-needed palate cleanser amid its more serious, solemn peers. Grade: 3 stars