By Barbara Popel & Brian Carroll
Jealous of those folks who are at TIFF this month? Well, they can be jealous of us in Ottawa, because we’ve got the fabulous Ottawa International Animation Festival here! For the fortieth year. Yup, OIAF is the same age as TIFF.
OIAF offers a curated cornucopia of animated shorts and feature films from around the world. Since this is the festival’s fortieth anniversary, there’s also a wealth of screenings of previous Grand Prize winners. Almost all of the screenings are open to the general public, and at much more affordable prices than, say, TIFF.
To whet your appetite, we’ve put together four of the many films in competition that we’re eager to see, as well as a couple of the many former Grand Prize winners
But wait! If you think animated films are just for kids, think again. Many of the films at OIAF are rated 14+.
A case in point: Cafard is a sombre commentary from Belgium on the horrors of war. It’s based on the true story of Jean Mordant. He is ecstatic to win the 1914 world wrestling championship. Meanwhile, his young daughter in Belgium is raped by German soldiers. Wanting revenge, he joins the Belgian army to fight the Germans. The war takes him all over the globe. The film was made using innovative motion capture technology, which adds to its sense of realism. The trailer at above will give you some idea of Cafard’s breadth and depth.
On a much lighter note, all ages are sure to enjoy Snowtime!/La Guerre des Tuques. It’s based on Roch Demers’s beloved tale, The Dog Who Stopped the War.
Snowtime! is a 3D animated feature film about a bunch of kids who escalate a snowball fight into an all-out “war”, complete with an elaborate fort, Rube Goldberg war machines, rules of engagement, you name it. But war isn’t all fun and games… Check out the trailer above.
For sheer poetic beauty, Louise en Hiver (Louise by the Shore) promises to be enchanting. It exemplifies the quiet magic that only animation can accomplish. It tells the story of Louise, an elderly woman, who has missed the last train out of a French seaside resort. She realizes she must survive the winter alone. See for yourself if you are not charmed by this trailer.
Another beauty is Window Horses, which contrasts a young woman’s naiveté with her discovery of a world unknown to her. This is a film that uses the power of animation to provide contrasts not possible in live action film and video. The principle character, Rosie Ming, and her Canadian environs are drawn in simple line and colour-fill animation. Ming’s first book of poetry gets published and a poetry festival in Iran invites her to attend. The exquisite beauty of the Persian-inspired animation contrasts with Ming’s sterile adopted home. Check out the subtle but enticing trailer to see why this is on our personal must-see list.
Bonus Picks: Grand Prize Winners Showcases
- Back in 1976, one of us (Brian) was writing graphics software on a minicomputer, at a time when Burtnyk and Wein at the National Research Council were allowing the National Film Board to experiment with computer animation on a $2 million mainframe. My boss sent me to the first OIAF to learn that there was more to animation than computers. Caroline Leaf’s paint and glycerine animated The Street was one of many films that opened my eyes to a world of animated stories that touched the heart while using artistic techniques way beyond the cel and wash staples of Saturday morning cartoons. The Street is one of a collection of past OIAF Grand Prize winners that span a huge variety of stories and styles. See it as part of the Grand Prize Winners Showcase #1.
- By 2004, we had become jaded viewers of animation. Feature animations like the fabulous Japanese Spirited Away (2001) required an army of animators. How could individual animators with small teams compete? Then we saw Chris Landreth’s Ryan and discovered that imagination and a riveting story can still rule over massive resources. Ryan is part of the Grand Prize Winners Showcase #4.
These suggestions should get you started. We encourage you to dive in!
The 40th Ottawa International Animation Festival runs from Wednesday September 21 to Sunday September 25 at multiple downtown locations, including the ByTowne Cinema, Arts Court Theatre and the National Gallery. Tickets are available at animationfestival.ca along with the full schedule of screenings.