Animators exist and work in a pocket of time quite different from that of other filmmakers – a dimension where time wheezes and slows down to miniscule second by second, frame by frame. Take the words of award-winning animator and director Dan Ojari, who graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2011:
“What a second is… Brief? Insignificant? Short? Most people don’t really pay too much attention to one.”
Blink, and another second has past that you will likely never miss. It may be argued in reality that sequential time is fabricated, but that’s exactly what an animation is: a sequence of events flickering by, capturing moments in time.
Perhaps Ojari’s keen insight as cinematic keeper of time is why his RCA graduate short film Slow Derek was a tale about the quintessential everyman: an office worker going through the gestures of every banal second of the day even as he begins to suspect that Earth is, slowly, leaving him behind. Slow Derek has garnered numerous awards and critical acclaim, from the Visual Science Award at the UCD Imagine Science Film Satellite Festival to the Grand Prix of Animayo and Animated Encounters.
As Derek rides his scheduled train or sits at his desk, we feel a sense of complacency that is suddenly interjected with uncanny visions of a spinning void. Ojari comments that the film is “very much about relativity and the contrast between the mundane and the colossal. The starting point was after I became particularly fascinated with how fast the earth is travelling, especially because we don’t feel this speed. We are literally hurtling through space at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour and yet don’t feel a thing. I felt this was, aside from being an amazing actual fact, also was an interesting metaphor for modern day life.”
We feel aligned with the protagonist specifically because he is a vessel for our contemporary fears and suspicions that the world is somehow not what it seems. As we lead what philosopher Henry David Thoreau might call “lives of quiet desperation”, we believe there is a “true” reality slinking amongst us, just out of our grasp. Ojari’s character takes his destiny into his own hands by climbing out of the literal and metaphorical train window and plunging fearlessly into the void.
Red pill or blue pill? In a short eight-minute film, Ojari bundles all of these philosophical questions into a cinematic feast of modeling-clay beauty that mirrors our world and our contemporary neuroses.