In Snack and Drink, a short in this year’s New York International Children’s Film Festival (Cantor Film Center, March 2 through 10; see www.gkids.com for complete schedule), autistic adolescent Ryan Power takes a walk to the convenience store, fixes a Big Gulp derived from every tap, and touts Matthew Broderick’s Inspector Gadget movie. Snack and Drink conversely transforms live action into furiously mutating illustration by Waking Life animator Bob Sabiston. In Edward O’Donnelly’s even shorter Magic Forest, disabled teens have manipulated scraps of nature with vigor and precision, and the metamorphoses—fish, deer, a rain of spears—are at once whimsical and primal; as in early Magritte, single leaves synechdochize entire trees.
Unfolding at a more leisurely pace, Mark Lewis’s hour-long The Natural History of the Chicken free-ranges from That’s Incredible! dramatization to terse naked-lunch exposé to spiritual testimonies of varying persuasiveness. A pastor’s tale of Liza, who fulfills her oft thwarted maternal desire only to encounter a hawk, suggests an ornitho-distaff variation on the Abraham story, as gripping as Chicken Run. Mental disequilibrium is never far: A Florida housewife’s pampering of her Japanese silkie bantam seems more neurosis than compassion, and extreme audio conveys how a farm of 100 fighting cocks drove nearby home-owners to gird themselves with The Art of War. The most quietly disturbing of the “back from the dead” accounts features Miracle Mike, a rooster who continued to live for over two years after his beheading. His minor sideshow career (his detached head is never far away, Reanimator-style) ended when he choked on his own mucus. The mysteries here are as much moral as biological, despite a punchline that keeps on giving: As one old-timer recalls, any normal man would have “cut his damn head off . . . again.”