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The 2021 OIAF poster, by Amanda Bonaiuto and Angela Stempel.

Apt613 picks from the Ottawa International Animation Festival

By Barbara Popel on September 27, 2021

The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) is in full swing, and so far I have seen 85 of the more than 150 films presented at this year’s festival. Here are my favourites to date. The fest ends with a “see (almost) everything” weekend on October 2 and 3, but don’t wait until then!

Animation for Preschool Audiences

Let’s start with the two short film competitions that contained the largest number of films that impressed and delighted me: Animation for Preschool Audiences and Animation for Young Audiences: ages six to 12.

Are you surprised? I wasn’t. Particularly in the last few years, these two competitions have been treasure troves of first-rate animation. As artistic director Chris Robinson says, “Don’t write them off as ‘just for kids.’ This program is full of colourful characters, unique animation styles, and wondrous stories that anyone can enjoy.” Better yet, the festival has a free ticket code for the Young Audience screenings: “YA2021.”

It was difficult to choose my very favourite film in Animation for Preschool Audiences, but I finally decided on “Dans la Nature (In Nature)” by Marcel Barelli. This Swiss short film is about the varieties of amorous pairings (and threesomes! and foursomes!) in the animal kingdom.

I laughed out loud at “Under the Clouds,” which is about a sheep who wants to be a cloud, “Inkt (Ink)” about a neat-freak octopus, and “Mishou” about a lost chihuahua who is adopted by a covey of Arctic hares.

I adored the sophisticated “Francois Couperin – The Alarm Clock.” This short reminded me of a Norman McLaren experimental film set to classical music… so beautiful!

All in all, I liked nine of the 12 films in this competition. It probably had the largest number of animation techniques, too.

Animation for Young Audiences: Ages 6-12

My favourite film in Animation for Young Audiences: Ages 6-12 was “Only a Child.” The script is from a speech given by a 12-year old Canadian at the 1992 UN Rio de Janeiro Summit. I found it very effective!

On a much lighter note, “Orchestra Rehearsal” delivered Marx Brothers-quality silliness when a French horn player realizes he’s late for a rehearsal. I enjoyed six of the eight films in this competition.

Canadian Panorama

The Canadian Panorama collection has two films I highly recommend, and they are real gems. I can’t wait to see them again. There’s a ticket code “CanPan2021” that will grant you free access to view the shorts in this category!

The short “Mauvaises herbes (Bad Seeds)” was one of the funniest films I’ve seen this year, while “Affairs of the Art” was a hilarious send-up of artistic pretensions.

Short Film Competitions

I really liked three shorts I encountered in Short Film Competition 2. Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis’s “Maalbeek” recounts the struggles of an amnesiac survivor of the terrorist attack at Brussels’ Maalbeek metro station. The short uses animation to great effect in visualizing her partial memories.

Another short, “The Clearing,” makes good use of stop-motion modelling, lashings of dry British humour, and an increasing sense of foreboding, as an ill-matched couple try to salvage their marriage with a camping trip in the woods.

“Partially Sighted – ‘Help! We have a blind patient’” also uses stop-motion, and doubles as a dandy PSA.

Short Film Competition 3 offered three films which charmed me. The Belgian short “Papa Zaza” is about a father’s death from the perspective of his young daughter.

Vladimir Leschiov’s “Comeback” is about an inter-generational passion for hockey, while Canadian short “electric +” is a gorgeous delight of abstract patterns.

Short Film Competition 4 yielded only one of my favourites, but so far it’s the best animated film I’ve seen at OIAF: Zacharias Kunuk’s “Angakuksajaujuq (The Shaman’s Apprentice).” With exquisite puppet and stop-motion animation, a great storyline and a mesmerizing soundtrack, this short is magical and extraordinarily beautiful.

In Short Film Competition 5, one short also dealt with a young child’s perception of a father’s death in “Honekami (A Bite of Bone).”

Taiwanese short “Night Bus” was full of film noir twists and gruesome vengeance.

Feature Film

Last but certainly not least, I was pleased I chose Archipelago as the first feature film in competition I saw. It’s an imaginary trip on the St.Lawrence River through history and politics. What exists? What is dreamt?

You can see many of these films this week, and see all of them in the final weekend. Want more? There is a Canadian student short film competition, an animated series competition, two more panoramas, seven feature films in competition, and 10 retrospectives!

Want to see some of this in a real cinema with a bunch of your friends? The OIAF and the ByTowne Cinema are hosting two showings of Archipelago and a selection of Canadian short films on October 3, and all are free!

See the full festival schedule, purchase tickets or passes, and learn more about the Ottawa International Festival at