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I'm Short, Not Stupid Presents: 'Xemoland'

Animator Daniel Katz turned his older-brother problems into a beautifully rendered autobiographical tale of trauma for his 2011 short, Xemoland. Daniel paints a portrait of a young boy who just wants to be as cool as his older brother, but whose...
March 17, 2014, 12:00pm

When I was a kid growing up in the 90s, I used to visit my grandparents in Florida for the holidays. Florida is a specific type of nothing that can make a person go mad. There’s just the beach and eternal heat.

Most people don’t even get to live near a beach, which probably causes all of the crazy shit to happen in the state, like eating human faces, butthole tattoos, and biting your daughter when she tries to turn off your Rihanna CD. My twin brother and I were the only kids around that retirement neighborhood, and so we were forced to make up our own adventures, which inevitably ended in punched stomachs and bruised arms. I would set up traps for him to fall into, and he would see how fast he could throw things at me. We weren’t usually that imaginative, but we were pretty evenly matched. That's why I always appreciate the particular torment an older brother can bring on a sibling.
 
Animator Daniel Katz turned his older-brother prank problems into a beautifully rendered autobiographical tale of trauma for his 2011 short, Xemoland. Daniel paints a portrait of a young boy who just wants to be as cool as his older brother, but whose older brother’s sole goal is to not give a shit about him.

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The older bro and his best friend spin tales to the seven-year-old Corey about Xemoland, a magical place where parties can be “cut short by an angry mob of gaylord Einsteins chasing David Hasselhoff on a hoverboard.” As much as the young boy tries to fit in, his brother’s desire to torture rather than nurture him keeps getting the better of him.

Katz’s cartoon-style animation is simple but expressive. The characters live in a nostalgic paradise filled with real-life posters and scenes from Terminator 2, the Doors, Sonic Youth, and Back to the Future.

This movie, if anything, proves that the main thing about being a younger brother is that you’re never going to be the older one. You’ve got to realize that he treats you like his little brother because you are, and will always be, behind him. He’s going to try drugs, see R-rated movies, and watch porn before you, and that’s cool. But you still really need to pretend there are places like Xemoland out there, where every wish you have can come true. That’s what being seven is all about, and being seven is kind of badass.

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Jeffrey Bowers is a tall, mustached guy from Ohio who's seen too many weird movies. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working as an art and film curator. He is a programmer at the Hamptons International Film Festival and screens for the Tribeca Film Festival. He also self-publishes a super fancy mixed-media art serial called PRISM index.