Review: Black Sheep Boy (2019)

PÖFF Shorts
Jury Mention, the Student Animation Competition

James Molle’s animated short Black Sheep Boy, with which he graduated from the prestigious Gobelins, L’École de l’Image, premiered last year in France, before finding itself on the list of Vimeo Staff Picks and competing at various festivals like Berlinale Generation, Philadelphia Film Festival and Uppsala International Short Film Festival. It won the New Talents – Jury Mention in the Student Animation Competition at PÖFF Shorts.

The film follows an unnamed boy on his quest for wisdom and knowledge presented in five chapters, and set in the world that looks like a retro video-game from the 80s, with pixel-y design, EGA colour scheme and the clearly artificial sounds significant for that part of the video-gaming history. The boy’s adventure is quite intellectual, with a number of references to the world of philosophy and literature. The Wizard of Oz is one of the clear inspirations for the film’s narrative, while the other, possibly even stronger, is Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. As our boy, the protagonists of both of the mentioned masterworks of literature are on an adventure, searching for wisdom, addressing the topics of goodness, friendship, love, loneliness and, corny as it might sound, the meaning of life.

The extremely simple style Molle opted for suits the film really well, so its elaborate, somewhat bizarre narrative and complex questions it poses could shine. Also, Black Sheep Boy channels the sprit of the “good old” computer games powered by the story rather than the graphics whose entertainment value was subordinated to the educational. It is a playful, intelligent, brilliantly envisioned and executed animated short of a future grandmaster.

Runtime: 14’ 55’’
Country: France
Language: No audible dialogue, subtitles in English
Directed by: James Molle
Written by: James Molle
Music by: Ryan Yoshikami
Sound by: Ryan Yoshikami, James Molle
Production companies: Gobelins, Cal Arts, RECA
Support by: Hiventy, TVPaint