The Itching Animates Wolves, Anxiety, and Heart

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Short of the Day

A touching and profound film seven years in the making.

When we anthropomorphize wolves, typically we make them one of a handful of things: mean, sly, suave, noble, or some combination of these. The wolf is a symbol of both fierce independence and powerful alignment with others, it is simultaneously a rogue and social beast, cruel and intelligent, and above else powerful, to the point some Native American cultures have equated them with mystical, metaphysical, and almost god-like qualities.

It’s playing against this expectation of wolf characteristics that’s the first thing about writer-director Diane Bellino’s stop-motion animated short The Itching which makes it so charming: the lead character, an anthropomorphized she-wolf, is none of the above; instead she is shy, timid, socially anxious, introspective, and struggling for acceptance. A collaboration of seven years with animator Adam Davies,Bellino’s film is a complex and emotional narrative about our heroine trying to make friends with some hipster bunnies that’s less concerned with resolution as much as it is delivering its audience into a frame of mind, one in which the story can be read any number of ways. The animation itself has a very DIY feel to it – which you’d expect knowing it was made in Portland, OR and Brooklyn, NY – that supports the overall emotional rawness of the film’s story.

The Itching was a pick for last year’s Sundance Film Festival and AFI Fest (as well as a slew of others), and now it’s online thanks to Short of the Week. It is a mixture of heart and humor that will elicit as much empathy as it does chuckles and will ultimately leave you reflecting on your own place in the world.

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