This short normalizes Black hair and celebrates Black beauty. It shows a father tenderly helping his daughter style her hair and embracing her femininity. Director Matthew A. Cherry says, “We’re not used to seeing Black fathers depicted in this light. In the media, Black dads are often not present, or if they are, it’s some kind of negative connotation. This seemed like a good opportunity to tell a story about a Black family that has natural hair, and in the medium of animation.” The director has succeeded in showing a compassionate and affectionate father-daughter relationship, and the themes of self-acceptance, love, and beauty shine through.
Kitbull’s title is a portmanteau of Kitten and Pitbull, the two central figures in this short. These two figures, despite their differences, slowly develop trust and a friendship. Their friendship gives them the courage to get out of their situation (the pitbull has an owner who mistreats him and the other is a scared alley cat) and eventually and escape to a better life. It’s a sweet short with an enduring message of friendship and hope between species, showing that our differences aren’t as important as the way we treat each other.
Perhaps the most original of the bunch, this Czech student short also looks at father-daughter dynamics, but in a much different light from Hair Love. It tackles themes of loss and creatively explores grief and memory. The dynamic camera work gives the story momentum and the paper mache figures express so much without facial expression, a testament to this short’s artistry. The stop motion animation and the hand-drawn faces convey a humanity that allows for emotionally powerful sequences.
“Dedicated to the siblings we never had.” This sweet sibling love letter displays Siqi Song’s quirky and inventive style. She uses wool because, in her words, “the texture is really dreamy; that resonates with the themes about memory and about childhood.” This felted stop-motion animation delivers a sweet, honest, and intimate portrait of family life in China with the one-child policy. The message of potential loss of sibling-hood, and therefore childhood, is powerful and well-executed.
This irreverent short follows a painter and his wife coping with his advancing dementia. As he starts to lose his memory and sense of reality, the animation becomes more hallucinatory and abstract. This is probably the most visually striking and compelling of all the nominations, with a memorable end sequence and also equipped with humor and visual gags.