3 Sept 2021
Michelle Hao, Fawn Chan
As its world-building signature, Fuelled opts for anthropomorphic animals that resemble the cutesy creatures populating Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, as opposed to rendering boring old humans. After all, when in (animated) Rome. Next, imagine a revenge thriller has been transplanted into that video game’s wholesome world, and you get a sense what this near-silent short is about.
The plot requires some going over. An unnamed widow’s husband has been murdered in a violent robbery, and she wants revenge—an establishing schema signalled cleverly with visual exposition. However, as events develop it becomes less clear why what happens happens. She tries stealing gasoline at an isolated petrol station, presumably because she has no money, but the attendant spots her before she’s able to get away with the canister of stolen petrol. What her intended destination had been before getting caught—presumably the home of the killer—is never explicitly disclosed. That’s two presumablies for different plot points, two too many.
But as in the intro, it continues to display intelligence in other instances. The apprehending attendant is smoking a cigarette, in a petrol station, with spilt fuel everywhere. A no-smoking sign is included in shot in case anyone misses the obvious. Everything has been set up with one outcome in mind. Our jaded protagonist fights back, knocking the cigarette into the fuel spill and igniting a huge explosion. Thus you have the title, a reference to its incendiary finale, and to the rage-driven mental state of its protagonist.
Flashbacks to bittersweet memories of her deceased husband are interspersed into the rest of the run-time; the last word though has to go to the cinematography. Fuelled’s use of shadow and colour, contrasting its winter blues on burning reds, confirmed to me very early on that I was going to want more than the 9-minutes I knew I was getting. OK, its violent grimness-meets-furry fandom is overly aggressive and revealingly callow. Little says student-work more. But in its story-telling cinematic visuals, there’s much to like and much to build-on for the lengthy list of Sheridan College Ontario pupils* (I did my digging) who put it all together.
*Twelve in all, named in the link to "Animex Award Winners 2021". In the interests of presentation I’ve attributed directorship here to the two names given top billing in the film's credits.