OIAF, fest report

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, Kevin Nikkel, an independent filmmaker living in Winnipeg, has submitted a festival report for OIAF and some of the best films he saw there. –Doug

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Dial ‘M’ for Monster

By Kevin Nikkel

Film festivals are strange things. I flew to Ottawa for the weekend to attend the now annual Ottawa International Animation Festival. Itís been a long time since I was in Canadaís capital. Itís always a treat wandering the streets of a city with a long history and lots of culture.

The festival took me by surprise in several ways. Far too many shorts, features, seminars and retrospectives to see. Miyazaki, Robert Breer, Co Hoedeman, and Popeye retrospectives to name a few. Animated Soviet propaganda and French animation from the last 40 years. Where do you start?

Another thing that took me by surprise was how easy it is to be overwhelmed amongst so many people. The first day of the festival was a very lonely experience; watching films for me is typically a social experience with people close to me and for various reasons I wasnít connecting with the many friendly regulars of the fest. This changed the following day when I met a friend and animator from Winnipeg who was out for the festival; this humanized the fest for me and I marveled at how conversations with people that I met during the remaining festival helped frame my experience in a different light.

My own animation Dial ëMí for Monster was playing the festival out of competition. I was rather underwhelmed by the screening of the film and I think I know why. The festival is an animation fest first with only a selection of animations for kids. The screening of my film was slotted with other kids films at a more remote venue which made it difficult to attend the screening. I’m looking forward to a different atmosphere next month when it plays the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.

Since Iím currently making short films I opted to see as many of the short films in competition as possible. I wasnít disappointed by my choices of screenings. Several short animations are worth noting:

The Grand Prix winner by Chris Landreth was groundbreaking for me. A CGI animated documentary that offers an interview with Chris and the washed-up legendary animator Ryan Larkin (worked in the 1960s, claim to fame is the Canadian National Film Board [NFB] short Walking which was nominated for an Academy award). The psychological motives and subtext of the interview are cleverly animated and it succeeds because both Chris and Ryan are under the psychological microscope. It is moving to watch the humanness on both sides and I was left thinking of my own life as an artist during the screenings. This is a must see.

Son of Satan
The winner of best student film by JJ Villard is provocative. Hard to believe this is a student film. It is an adaptation of a Charles Bukowski story that doesnít spare any of the brutal details. The rough style and technique of the film mimic the content of the story. Lots of notes made by the filmmaker in me.

La Piccola Russia
By Gianluigi Toccafondo of France. This is amazing. The story feels like an experimental Dostoyevsky novel sketched by Marcel Dzama then dipped in globs of paint.

By Chris Hinton. Chris tells the tale of a family fishing trip where everyone including the fish and bugs are hungry. The simplicity and roughness of the style appeals to me.

NFB masterclass sessions with Chris Landreth (maker of Ryan) and Chris Hinton (maker of Academy nominee Nibbles). These two filmmakers are making some of the best animations around at the moment and both had many practical things prepared for the packed sessions. These are the seminars that filmmakers dream of attending.

I also attended an interesting panel of critics titled ìYour Criticism Sucks!î Interesting to see the debate for true criticism in the face of the capitalistic studio system is happening in several genres. The claim that animation will always be live actionís forgotten step sibling was repeated during the discussion. Itís curious that there is such an insecurity in this genre. Heard from some good people and discovered some great web sites to track the animation world: www.cartoonbrew.com, www.animationblast.com, and www.fpsmagazine.com.

The festival helped me confirm my love for animated cinema. Seeing so many people so passionate about animation was fascinating. Seems that watching cartoons as an adult isnít as strange as its made out to be. Too bad more attention isnít given to the genre to allow it to grow.