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Wildebeest (Vimeo staff picked)

Fear of death does funny things to people. It can be channeled in good, bad, or completely unexpected ways. “Wildebeest,” is an absurdist tale of a woman’s grief manifesting as an obsession with elephants — a fixation that ultimately causes her dreams to manifest into reality. Directors Nicolas Keppens and Matthias Phlips’ ingeniously funny tale of misadventure during an African safari may be packed full of jokes, but it shows an equally inspired reverence for their carefully observed characters.

Following the death of her mother, elephant-obsessed Linda and her husband Troyer go on safari in Africa. In the vast and dangerous savanna, the pair trades their suburban odd couple schtick for the kind of tourists that get groaned about: clueless, constantly on devices, self-interested, ignorant, and inadvertently destructive.

Visually, “Wildebeest” employs a playful mixed-media approach that sees animated characters interact amongst live action footage. Taken mostly from a German documentary about wildebeest migration, the footage can be jarring or surreal when juxtaposed against 2D animated cartoon characters. These moments provide some of the film’s most inventive comedic gags. Whether it’s Linda filming a cheetah with her iPad or Troyer shooting a beloved impala with an arrow, the directors use every opportunity to subvert the original films intention of the footage to compliment their narrative. The only thing more surprising than the film’s inventive humor, running fun facts, and sight gags is the profound emotional transformation of its two protagonists. The ending is nothing short of pure unadulterated joy.