The New Exhibition
Where most of Nkondo's previous shorts have played with the abstraction of 2D art's simplified perspectives, The New Exhibition opens up a new dimension—or at least half of one.
Jonathan Djob Nkondo's shorts are varied enough that you can't say there's one particular thing that sets him apart from the crowd. But one thing that pops up repeatedly in his work is a focus on two elements of filmmaking that are often overlooked: the frame and transitions.
Probably because animation is often understood as an extension of cinema, most animators stick to certain cinematic rules and conventions. Even when there isn't really any camera involved, narrative animation still uses a lot of the same movements as live-action film.
Nkondo doesn't seem to think that way. In films like his Exhibition trilogy (The First, The Last, and now The New) and in the Dark Day series, he pulls from one of the other main influences on animation: comics and sequential art. In that world, it's long been recognized that the frame around each panel is an artificial boundary, and that there's a lot of power in breaking it.
Where most of Nkondo's previous shorts have played with the abstraction of 2D art's simplified perspectives, The New Exhibition opens up a new dimension—or at least half of one. Most of the film takes place in an isometric view, mixing 2D and 3D elements in a way that feels like a comic panel being twisted, spun and folded into new angles and new perspectives. Instead of cutting from one shot to another, he lets the frame fold in on itself, or split into four intersecting panels. If most filmmaking is based on the cut—a technique that started with literally cutting the film and splicing it back together—The New Exhibition and its predecessors are more like origami, creating intricate structures with no need for scissors or tape.
That's a lot to put on a three-minute heist film, but I don't think it's an overstatement. Nkondo's films are fascinating not just because they're cleverly plotted and immaculately paced. It's because you're watching an animator develop a filmmaking language that is less rooted in film, but is still completely intuitive for its audience to see. It's an incredibly rare thing to see.