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Still from "J'aime les filles"

OIAF 2016: 40 years of images and imagination

By Yasmin Nissim on October 1, 2016

This year’s Ottawa International Animation Festival, which wrapped up last weekend, was a very special one, marking 40 years of this unique event.  The OIAF provides a celebrated platform to showcase and appreciate animated works from around the globe.

Still from "Fired on Mars"

Still from “Fired on Mars”

Truly an international experience, the festival treats attendees to beautiful creations not only from our own homegrown Canadian talent, but from Poland, the Netherlands, Russia, Japan, France, South Africa, Estonia – the list goes on. And while the animation styles may differ from country to country and artist to artist, the desire to share a story or an idea through distinctively crafted images is always at the core of every piece.

Still from "Blind Vaysha"

Still from “Blind Vaysha”

I had the wonderful opportunity to once again climb into the imaginations of dozens of animators over the festival’s five-day run. My usual favourite screenings to attend during the OIAF are the Short Film Competitions due to the sheer volume of content you get to consume over the course of the five, 75 minute screenings. This year, the Short Film Competition screenings contained 63 animated shorts from all over the world. There were six shorts that really stood out for me this year, two of which were Canadian; J’aime les filles by Diane Obomsawin, which won the Grand Prize for Independent Short Animation, and Blind Vaysha by Theodore Ushev, which won the Canadian Film Institute’s Award for Best Canadian Animation.

  • J’aime les filles is an 8-minute peek into the experiences of four young women who share their stories about the first time they fell in love and the discovery of their sexuality. The protagonists, who are all lesbians, show the trepidations and excitement of first love inherent in any new relationship, regardless of gender. The characters were rendered as anthropomorphic animals, lending a cute, endearing quality to the images.
  • Blind Vaysha is a captivating story of a young girl with a left eye that saw only the past and a right eye that saw only the future. This short delivered the simple, yet poignant message that we must never take for granted the day that we are given – to appreciate the now, rather than constantly measuring the past and worrying about the future.
Still from "Psiconautas, The Forgotten Children"

Still from “Psiconautas, The Forgotten Children”

The other four shorts I particularly enjoyed were from international animators:

  •  Otto, a submission from Dutch animators Marieke Blaauw, Job Roggeveen and Joris Oprins, spins an interesting tale of a young girl whose imaginary friend ends up having a very real impact on a young woman saddened by her inability to have a child of her own.
  • The Absence of Eddy Table by Norwegian animator Rune Spaans was a visually stunning piece that seemed to marry the aesthetic of claymation with the shiny hardness of plastic or glass. This short won the award for Best Design.
  • Foreign Body by Polish animator Marta Magnuska was a fantastical story of body acceptance told using an analogy with a very furry appendage. This short won the award for Best Undergraduate Animation.
  • Fired on Mars from American animators Nick Vokey and Nate Sherman is a hilarious story of a man who sadly gets fired from his job, but can’t simply leave and find something else since he’s stuck on Mars. Not surprisingly, this short won the award for Best Script.

I also had the opportunity to see the full feature-length film Psiconautus, the Forgotten Children from Spanish animators Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vázquez. This is, hands-down, one of my favourite films I’ve seen over the five years I’ve attended this festival. This is a tragically beautiful, dystopian tale with a gritty animation style and a story that touches on issues like drug addiction, police brutality and disaffected youth.

After 40 years, there is no sign that this festival will ever run out of mad geniuses to create landscapes made of colour, story, idea and dreams. If you’ve lived in Ottawa any longer than a year and haven’t caught at least one screening from the OIAF, I suggest you make it a priority for next fall.

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