“Small People With Hats,” A Bizarre Animated Short That Satirizes Everything And Nothing

If you follow the animation world you’ve probably already heard of Sarina Nihei’s short Small People With Hats, a 2014 graduation film that won the top prize at this year’s Ottawa International Animation Festival — a huge honor for a student film. Nihei’s strange short will most likely baffle most, and I understand that not everyone will like it, but her world of shocking weirdness speaks so deeply to me even though it’s both a truth and a lie. And if you’re wondering what that means, that’s the weird allure of Small People With Hats. It’s contradictory in its oddness.

But let me attempt to explain it anyway. Nihei illustrates a world where there are only two types of people: giant “normal” sized people and small people with large hats. The giants constantly mistreat the small people, but the small people have their own mission that delves into sporadic devilishness. “The story is based on ideas of despair and absurdity in a society,” Nihei tells Vice. “People are killed for irrational reasons, which always makes me feel despair. But when it comes to filmmaking, I make much of it entertaining and don’t want to make it too serious. That’s how the story ended up.”

I watched the short about three times and still came away feeling slightly different each time. However, my favorite thing about it is that it doesn’t preach. You know it’s saying something, but at the same time it’s saying nothing at all — that weird juxtaposition of meaning and absurdity is something you don’t see every day. If you have seven minutes to kill today, I highly recommend having your brain punched and stretched to this delightfully weird short film.

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