Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ottawa Animation Festival Part 1

So this week is the Ottawa Animation Festival, and it's a pretty big deal in the animation world as one of the big festivals of it's kind. And as an animation student, I'm tremendously lucky to have this literally on my doorstep. So I've been volunteering like crazy (I've done 14 hours already, and another three tomorrow) in return for a coveted volunteer pass, which gets me into most screenings and workshops. Well worth the effort, although I'm doing twice what's actually required. Next year, I plan to concentrate mostly on the Television Animation Conference, which runs parallel to the festival, and make contacts there.

So over the next few days, instead of presenting art, I'll be giving my impressions of the showings I've seen that day. I'll provide links to as much as I can along the way.

So here's what I went to see today:

The Stereolab at the NFB: Exploring Three Dimensions This was an interesting collection of independent films done using current 3-d processes, funded by the NFB (save for one). As you'd expect, a lot of it was pretty artsy and experimental, although a surprising amount of it was just plain gimmicky, so instead of well crafted visuals, you just got a lot of poorly drawn crap getting thrown at your face. So for at least a third of the program I wasn't impressed. However, there was a 3-d treatment of Bashnie Tatlina Tower Bawher, which was pretty stirring, and the real star of the show was Facing Champlain, which is a wonderful animation/live action hybrid that uses the 3-d format in service of the plot, rather than just a gee-whiz gimmick. Strangely, the other good moment was a non-NFB film out of Winnipeg that went whole-hog with the gimmick, but with such quirky humour that it worked. Goes to show you can salvage just about anything if you got heart.

In the evening, I had the good luck to get a spot in Stevie Vallance's voice acting for animation workshop, and let me tell you that was a serious stroke of good luck. I met Stevie the day before during a shift at the TAC conference, and I was impressed with her then, and I am certainly no less impressed now. She's a brilliant performer, and a great teacher for aspiring voice actors. It's a shame I can't manage to make her all-day workshop on Sunday, but she's been talking about coming back to town to do more in a few months, so there's hope.

Lastly, I managed to catch Québec My Love: Contemporary Indies from Québec. I was initially hesitant, since I don't really speak the language, but it turns out I didn't need to worry. What wasn't subtitled was generally either wordless or non-narrative anyhow, so no big deal. Unlike the largely gimmicky Stereolab presentation, this showing veered sharply into the pure art and experiment realm, with films that in some cases even defied the concept of animation itself. Very edgy, sometimes as far as inaccessable, it was still a fascinating program. Although there were a couple of more orthodox animations, like Pierre M. Trudeau's professional-looking CG short Garbage Angels, the surreal and ligne claire-esque Astronomer's Dream, and the very personal but told with simple linework The Occupant, the one that really made me sit up was a seriously surreal take on relationships, Chromosome X-Y-Z. Compelling and disturbing, full of dark and surreal but sometimes hopeful and beautiful imagery, and owing more than just a little debt to the Brothers Quay with their almost-mechanical, insectlike vibrating elements that never fail to unnerve me, this is the short that really grabbed me. I don't pretend to understand it all, but I doubt that matters.

It's late and time for bed. More tomorrow!

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