The NFB Loves Genre Films

There are probably 1001 different ways to define “genre films”, but if we had to pick one, we’d say that a genre film is one that adheres to the conventions and aesthetics of a distinct category of cinematic storytelling, such as horror, science fiction, or black comedy.

For many film lovers—and I’ll admit it, I’m one of them—genre films are a whole culture unto themselves. In this post, I’d like to turn you on to some of my favourite genre films from the NFB’s collection of animated shorts.

(Psst! Don’t forget to turn off the lights!)

The Wanderer by George Ungar

Michel Tremblay’s fantasy collection Tales for Belated Drinkers is one of my favourite works in Quebec literature, and George Ungar’s animated short genre film The Wanderer is adapted from one of the stories in this collection, “The Devil and the Mushroom”. Set in a small village whose peace is disturbed by a dark stranger with mysterious powers, the film has a unique atmosphere—a folk tale with accents light and dark, but always magical, enhanced by a score by veteran composer Normand Roger.

The Wanderer, George Ungar, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Strange Invaders by Cordell Barker

Nearly 30 years after his directorial debut with the hilarious The Cat Came Back, the animated short films of Cordell Barker remain unforgettable and timeless. Released in 2001, Strange Invaders has the same crazy charm, but with an added nightmarish touch. It tells the story of Roger and Doris, a childless couple who wish for a baby of their own. But when a child literally falls out of the sky and into their living room, they soon realize that they have gotten more than they had bargained for.

Strange Invaders, Cordell Barker, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Madame Tutli-Putli by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski

Nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2008, this breathtakingly beautiful masterpiece by directors Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski serves up a kind of suspense that you don’t see too often in animated films. With just a few suitcases holding all her worldly possessions, Madame Tutli-Putli boards a night train with some curious fellow passengers. But where exactly is she headed? Somewhere between Alice in Wonderland and a good Hitchcock thriller, no doubt!

Madame Tutli-Putli , Chris Lavis & Maciek Szczerbowski, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

The Death of Kao-Kuk by Luc Chamberland

Did you know that Canada has its own interstellar space explorer, Inuit astronaut Kao-Kuk? Fans of Star Trek will love this animated short by Luc Chamberland, in which Kao-Kuk returns from a long, dangerous mission at the outer edges of space only to find that Earth no longer responds to his calls. What has happened? Is he doomed to wander the universe alone forever? Find out in The Death of Kao-Kuk!

The Death of Kao-Kuk, Luc Chamberland, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

How Wings Are Attached to the Backs of Angels by Craig Welch

My last but not least recommendation is by director Craig Welch and unlike anything else he has done. This sombre, surrealistic tale uses animated black-and-white images to illustrate exactly what its title suggests: How Wings Are Attached to the Backs of Angels. With distinct echoes of the phantasmagoric style of Tim Burton, this film seems set in the same universe as Frankenweenie and Edward Scissorhands.

How Wings Are Attached to the Backs of Angels, Craig Welch, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

And you? What’s your favourite film genre?