Another year of the Ottawa International Animation Festival has come to a close and it feels almost like the day after Christmas; a little sad, a little tired, but still buzzing from all the excitement! As usual, the OIAF delivered a smashing five days of fantastical images and sounds that were at once captivating, entertaining, thoughtful and beautiful in so many different ways. Of the screenings I attended, the two that really stood out for me were Arjun: The Warrior Prince by Indian director Arnab Chaudhuri and It’s Such A Beautiful Day by Don Hertzfeldt.
Arjun told the tale of Arjuna, the hero of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. Despite being an animated feature produced by Disney, there were no cutesy moments or sing-alongs. This was a bold, colourful story, well-crafted by Chaudhuri. Subtitled in English, the feature was entirely in Hindi which I found helped to immerse the viewer further into the time and place of the story. As a regular consumer of Japanese anime, I’m personally not a fan of dubbing (aka English voiceovers). I find it diminishes the mood and setting of the feature, so I was quite happy to see subtitles in effect for this film. The music was also excellent, consistently matching the scene in terms of feeling and emotion…I’m a bit biased though, I don’t really think you can ever go wrong with tablas.
Where Chaudhuri’s film was colourful and epic, Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such A Beautiful Day was simplistic in imagery and straight-forward in dialogue, though no less captivating. A compilation of Hertzfeldt’s three Bill shorts, we follow the story of the hapless stick figure Bill as he moves through the ups and downs of life, reflecting on his past, the troubles of his present and the possibilities of his future. Though depicted using a limited colour palette and soundscape, this compilation was almost shocking at times given the detached way Bill would describe the sad, frightening and disturbing elements of his life. Despite the simplicity of Hertzfeldt’s approach to animation, the ideas he presents are complex and thought-provoking.
My date was most impressed by the Canadian Showcase, composed of some of the best entries from more than 1,900 entries, some of which went on to win recognition at Saturday’s award presentation. He was initially struck by the sheer amount of talent coming out of Quebec, as many of the features, including the slick-yet-trippy Les Horlogers to the psycho-erotic puppet work of Cochemare (scored by Patrick Watson) had roots in la belle province.
But Quebec wasn’t the only region showing off its talent as part of the showcase. If you’re new to the animation scene, you might be surprised to find out that Ottawa has produced its fair share of quality animators. Ottawa’s own Mike Geiger screened his short film Super Duper Super Hero, and it’s a blast from the past that brings back the feeling of watching Saturday morning cartoons. Why do adults feel the need to grow out of this stuff?
It was all brought together by the pan-Canadian Yellow Sticky Notes, a collaborative effort by 15 Canadian doodlers animating on nothing more than 4×6 inch yellow sticky notes as they reflect on one day of their lives. This whirlwind work blended the ordinary day-to-day lives of the animators with significant events like the Vancouver riots, the 2003 eastern seaboard power outage and the Arab Spring. It was a fascinating, out-of-the-ordinary piece of animation.
All in all, I had a wonderful time at this year’s OIAF. The festival consistently improves each year I go. This year was well organized with none of the technical issues I’ve noted in the past. In terms of the competition element, you can see a full list of the winners from this year’s festival here.
So now that all the films have been unveiled, the popcorn eaten, and the goodie bags opened there’s only one thing left to do… start the countdown for next year!