The Itching Animates Wolves, Anxiety, and Heart


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.

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist