Animation Movies Shorts

The Passer-by
(De Passant)

Director – Pieter Coudyzer – 2020 – Belgium – 16m


From the Annecy 2020 Online Animation Festival

This is a film about our interconnectedness or lack of it. And impossible to review without spoilers – be warned before you read on. Thomas is a typical teenager studying for exams. He needs to be woken up in the morning by his mum or he’d lie in bed all day. Confronted with a textbook of maths equations, he’d rather keep drawing that portrait he’s been working on for his friend Karen. His mobile rings. It’s Karen. He agrees to take the drawing round and meet at the bus stop. He tries to sneak out, but mum spots him. He’s forced to admit it’s Karen. Don’t be long, his mum admonishes him.

And out he goes on his bicycle, stopping en route to chat to a neighbour working in his garden. A little further on an irritating, yappy little dog runs after him. Thomas moves across the road narrowly missing an oncoming fellow cyclist. He apologises. He keeps going. A car pulls out. He hits it, goes flying across the bonnet, lands on the pavement beyond. His drawing flies up into the air, carried on its currents. The camera keeps on moving as if he was still cycling. The drawing drops from view. Eventually we get to the bus stop.

A boy comes out of his house by the bus stop and starts cycling in the opposite direction. He passes the prone boy and the people round him. The neighbour to whom he talked. The boy’s house. An ambulance passes in the opposite direction. He goes on to a postbox on the outskirts of town where he meets a guy. The price has gone up from 80 to 100. So back he goes, passing the scene of the accident again, past Karen at the bus stop, finds a 20 note, cycles back to the post box, it starts to rain, tells the guy as he hands over the money, “I think the guy in the street is dead.” Goes back home. From his window he sees Karen phoning Thomas. “It’s nearly three”, she says, “where are you?”

Obviously one could make this as a live action film but in using a heavily stylised form of 2D animation director Coudyzer turns the whole thing into a highly effective little fable. One marvels as Thomas ponders equations or draws in big close ups with coloured pencils. Once he gets on his bike, one is watching him cycle, objects in the foreground, objects in the background, the pleasure of a cycle ride. The sudden interruption of a life by a road accident. The effect it will have on those who know him (the waiting Karen unaware of the accident, his mum who is later seen grief-stricken beside the ambulance).

And so to the lad buying his drugs. He’s gone out with the purpose of buying his drugs and nothing is going to get in the way of that, not some guy he knows who’s had an accident – even if it’s a fatal accident – and not having the wrong amount of money. Some of us are connected to each other, some of us have withdrawn and don’t know how to connect. Perhaps it’s always been that way, but this gem of a short animated film expresses it very powerfully.

The Passer-by plays in the Short Films In Competition 2 programme at the Annecy Animation Festival which is taking place in a special online edition this year right now. Here’s the trailer:



Annecy Animation Festival special online edition:

Monday, June 15th to Tuesday, June 30th.

Festival trailer:


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