Puleng (2004) dir. Ali Taylor
Unfortunately, I don’t have a whole lot of background on this very short animation – the filmmaker has only one other credit I can even tie to them: a music video for a Proclaimers song (not that one). And since Ali Taylor is a decidedly SEO-unfriendly name, and imdb is a somewhat spotty source of information, I can’t be sure that’s accurate. A festival blurb claims this is based on Taylor’s experience of Lesotho, the small country entirely landlocked within South Africa (recently the concern of the brilliant This is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection).
I first encountered this short packaged with the long-defunct RES Magazine which in later editions would contain a disc of music videos and short films, an overlap in concerns with the longer-lived but also departed Wholphin put out by McSweeney’s, another periodical that attempted wider distribution for shorts and video art that otherwise disappeared (and source of a recently-unearthed future Lunch Link). I try not to include things that appear to be uploaded against the wishes of a living creator (many eventually put their shorts online themselves once their festival run has finished). I can’t say for sure this is case here, but I’m taking the chance. Ali Taylor, if you somehow have a workable Google alert set up for yourself, let me know if this is cool in the comments.
After a few years of providing Lunch Links, I’m getting to be a little surprised (unless it’s recent and/or under the purview of an aggressive copyright holder) when I don’t come across a short I’m looking for readily available on either YouTube or Vimeo. “Puleng” was one I’ve sought without luck several times, and this time I mulled supplying it to the world from my own disc copy when I entered the right search engine incantation and found the film had been uploaded by YouTube user miszmasz76. This mensch also provides several other animated shorts, a couple Northern European live shows and a 1999 experimental science fiction short called “Zoetrope.”
The protagonist of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 discovers a network of people who have memorized entire books to preserve their contents in case all copies get incinerated. YouTube and other sites that allow for uploading any bit of video flotsam are both the keeper and the flame. They’ve eradicated the need for physical copies of these videos, and at the same time made more shorts, commercials, news broadcasts, and episodes of forgotten TV series available than any other time in history.
But, lest we get too sidetracked, this little short is great! In addition to being a unique blend of textures, it’s a perfect example of visual storytelling. I used it several times when teaching filmmaking to kids in community arts center classes. You don’t need background information – or text or dialog – to understand the situation faced by the characters, their relationship, or what happens to them. There’s a good mix of wide, medium and close-up shots that all convey information (mise-en-scène, kids). And I never got tired of presenting it, always catching a new detail here or there or trying to guess the techniques for the mix of photography, 2D and 3D animation. Thank you, miszmasz76, and to all the pseudonymous digital packrats out there.