Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Sundance ’18: Hedgehog’s Home (short)

Branko Ćopić was one of the few Yugoslavian children’s book writers who could live entirely off his royalties, despite his often-pointed criticism of the Communist Party and its corruption. Of course, that willingness to speak truth to power only increased his popularity. Yet, his books were then and still remain popular in the former Yugoslav states and throughout Europe. For thematic reasons, this one in particular took on additional meaning for refugees during the Balkan War. Previously adapted for Croatian TV as an animated special, Ćopić’s ode to one’s abode gets a richly detailed stop-motion animation treatment in Eva Cvijanovic’s Canadian National Film Board-supported short film, Hedgehog’s Home (trailer here), which screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

It is a deceptively simple story. After enjoying a glutinous lunch with the Fox, the stuffed Hedgehog makes his way make to his tree stomp home. Not understanding his attachment to his nest, the not so stealthily Fox follows Hedgy, picking up several gawking predators (Wolf, Bear, Boar) along the way, who all expect to sneer at his titular home. However, old Hedge will give them a real dressing down before things really get ironic.

Stylistically, Hedgehog looks like a cousin of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. It has a very tactile vibe, with all kinds of hair and fiber plainly visible. Yet, it is also gently sly film that must have been an enjoyable added bonus for all the Sundance patrons who saw it playing before White Fang (a rather shrewdly programmed pairing).

Cvijanovic is an enormously talented animator, who deserved an Oscar nomination for Hedgehog. It is much better than many of the animated short contenders, especially Dear Basketball, Kobe Bryant’s problematic tribute to himself (so much for all those hashtags). Still, you can’t say Hedgehog has been ignored, considering it played at last year’s New York Film Festival, prior to this year’s Sundance. Highly recommended for animation fans and family audiences, Hedgehog’s Home should continue to rack up festival selections following its screenings at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.