Can You Do It?

When producer Ron Diamond launched his touring “Animation Show of Shows” in 1998, it was often confused with the cheaper, edgier “Spike & Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation.” But the Spike & Mike series soon petered out, whereas Diamond’s annual international program of fine animation still maintains high standards of technique and originality. The 16 shorts collected here are so fully conceived that they expose the derivative quality of most commercial animation. Take Quentin Baillieux’s French short Can You Do It?, whose precise digital imagery mimics the posterlike 2-D of traditional cutout animation. Set to a jubilant, hypnotic soul tune by Los Angeles artist Charles X, the film opens in the musician’s gritty Pacoima neighborhood, where folks stroll around in the dusk, a kid weaves around on a bike, and, improbably, five black jockeys step out of an auto garage with their racehorses, mount up, and take off through the city streets. They gallop down the freeway, threading through stalled traffic, and arrive in downtown LA after nightfall, bringing images of their neighbors that play across the steel-and-glass buildings like movie projections. Graceful in its simplicity, the film is a novel statement of black pride and aspiration, typical of the program’s idiosyncrasy.