The 6th World Cinema Spotlight at the 2016 San Francisco International Film Festival will feature films under the theme Animating the Image, focusing on frame-by-frame animation.

Whether hand-drawn, stop-motion, CGI, motion capture or a combination thereof, animation recalls the illusory magic of the earliest days of cinema, a surprisingly simple “trick” that continues to enthrall and inspire—when presented in succession, a series of still images transform to appear in motion.

Adaptable to a variety of eclectic approaches—exemplified by this year’s Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award recipient Aardman Animations, the collage of Lewis Klahr’s Sixty Six and the variety of styles employed by multiple artists in Penny Lane’s surprising and singular documentary NUTS!—animation endures as one of the most satisfying and versatile techniques in cinema.


Granny’s Dancing on the Table (Sweden/Denmark 2015) – Taking place within the quiet serenity of the dense Swedish woods, isolated from civilization, Hanna Sköld’s intense drama delivers a harrowing tale of abuse, psychological imprisonment and the power of imagination to withstand painful circumstances. Enchanting stop-motion animation captures 13-year-old Eini’s worldview as she silently struggles against her father’s brutal control and envisions the dysfunctional family history that led to her grandmother’s rebellious travels and her own pale and powerless existence.

Life, Animated (USA 2016) – The power of cinema has rarely been revealed as strongly as in this documentary about an autistic man named Owen Suskind who, as a boy, discovers a way to communicate with his parents through Disney movies. Now a young man, Owen is getting ready to live on his own, and the film shows his successes and struggles as he embarks on this huge step.

NUTS! (USA 2015) – Penny Lane’s documentary—comprised of archival material, animated sequences and the occasional talking head—blooms into an incredible almanac of early 20th-century quackery and innovation as she focuses on JR Brinkley, an early broadcasting baron, direct-mail pioneer and an evangelical proponent of goat-testicle implants. An empire built on spurious claims and fear mongering seems unstoppable—until the American Medical Association dares to question its foundations.

Persistence of Vision Award: An Afternoon with Aardman Animations – Established in 1997, the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award honors the achievement of filmmakers whose main body of work falls outside the realm of narrative feature filmmaking. This year, we recognize the team behind beloved animation studio Aardman. Join co-founder Peter Lord for an in-depth conversation and a filmic celebration of the studio’s 40th anniversary.

Phantom Boy (France/Belgium 2015) – When a kingpin with a face only Picasso could love threatens to bring down New York City’s infrastructure, a seriously ill boy with a unique, ghostly superpower teams up with a bedridden crusading cop to stop him. The team behind A Cat in Paris (SFIFF 2011) delivers another dose of enchanting 2D animation along with a story that blends absurd humor with an emotionally potent tale of a child rising about troubling circumstances.

Shorts 3: Animation – A retirement home resident attempts to woo with music. A participant in a primal scream class gets more than he bargained for. And a child is made to drink blood from deer antlers. These imaginative, often hilarious story-based animations mingle with non-narrative works that ply their magic with light and sophisticated processing techniques in this wide-ranging program.

Shorts 5: Family Films – In this eclectic international collection of short films for young audiences, an array of colorful characters—of the human, animal and monster varieties—learn how to help one another and work together in fun and sometimes surprising ways. Works range from new student films to those by veteran artists such as Nick Park of Aardman Animations, Disney animator Glen Keane, YouTube favorite Simon Tofield (and his fussy fat cat), and Oscar-winning SFIFF alum Brandon Oldenburg.

Sixty Six
A scene from Lewis Klah’s SIXTY SIX

Sixty Six (USA 2015) – Sixties pop-art heroines and DC comic-strip heroes are suffused with the passions of Greco-Roman gods in Lewis Klahr’s short film compilation spanning 14 years of filmmaking, chosen by the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis as one of the best films of 2015. Lovers of melodrama, all your paper-doll superstars are here, but an individual heart beats beneath the vivid imagery.

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