Animating a Manic Episode: The Bold, Beautiful Sundance Short 'Eli'

What we're watching: a true story that draws from the realms of high strangeness, magical thinking, and manic delusion.

Eli Short Film

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Animation has an uncanny ability to distill complex emotions into images, to visualize thoughts, feelings, and connections too specific or too nebulous to capture in live-action. Animation suspends our disbelief like no other medium, which means it can represent unbelievable things, strange things, more credibly than any other medium.

Nate Milton frames his eleven-minute short film Eli as a true story based on his own personal experiences within the realms of High Strangeness, Magical Thinking, and Manic Delusion. The film is a response to a manic episode Milton experienced that led to a bipolar diagnosis at the age of thirty.

In the film, when we meet fifteen-year-old Elijah, he’s been sanctioned in a mental health institution after breaking onto government property. An enormous alien raccoon has hidden a shard from a magnetic meteorite in his ear and its vibrations keep him up at night. He feels compelled to return to the crash site, convinced there’s something bigger—than him and than this planet—at work.

Milton has an uncanny talent for illustrating the intangible. Eli is no different. It’s poetic, empathetic, and absolutely worth your time.

You can watch Eli here:


Who made this?

Eli was written, produced, directed, edited, and animated by Nate Milton, an animation director and designer residing in Brooklyn. You can check out Milton’s portfolio on his website here. The film’s composer, Buck St. Thomas, also provided the voice talent and enjoys story and producing credits. Robert Bohn is also credited as a producer, and Kyle Sawaia designed the sound and mix. O.B. Howard‘s OST is available on Spotify. Eli was screened in competition as part of the Animation Spotlight at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

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