Ottawa International Animation Festival 2014

I ‘ve returned from 4 days in Ottawa with a head full of films, and I have to thank the British Council for the Travel Grant.  In no particular order, I loved Peter Millard’s films, he really knows how to use sound, and silence too, and I love the merry way his paintbrush fills the frame, originally in A3, which accounts for the exhuberance of the image.  He was showing Fruit, Fruit, 2’12”, which went down really well.  He managed to have the audience in stitches during a long still frame of a lemon. No mean feat.  Will Anderson was there too with his film Monkey Love Experiments, which he made with Ainslie Henderson, it’s all about love, and hope, and the monkey’s expression tells it all.  They are a talented pair.  Frombald was shown in competition 1, in which Brent Sievers also showed his film The Divide, he had an eye poppingly fresh way of animating.  Insolation by Morganne Le Pechon brought a  properly eerie scenario to life in dreamy colours.  Einar Baldvin‘s film The Pride of Strathmoor explored the issue of racism, fear and madness, via an invented diary written by a pastor in 1920’s Georgia. His animation is really exceptional. I see from his biog that he undertook a Pepinieres residency in Holland in 2010, it was the same scheme which took me to Finland for 6 months in 1996.

I also spent a lot of time talking.  I found kindred spirits in Gina Kamentsky and Steven Woloshen, both of whom work on film, and had so much good advice relating to working on film stock and planning.  I was first drawn to Gina’s work through Secret Bee.  Do you like it as much as I do?  Steven won the Canadian Award for his 1000 plateaus, which was so well deserved.  I was so pleased to walk around a little bit with Mait Laas, from Nukufilm, who has made a feature film about refugees, with puppet lemons, and puppet oranges, singing rousing songs that might be pop, operatic or madrigals.  I don’t think there is another film like it and Mait had so many good an interesting things to say, about films, and life too.

I met beautiful Michèle Cournoyer, who was showing her new film Soif. Using black ink on paper, she uses her masterly line to advance her story using  the most unpredictable metamorphoses.  Janet Pearlman,and Judith Gruber-Stitzer had made a lively and catchy trailer for the festival, which created a buoyant atmosphere at the beginning of each screening.  Vladimir Leschiov was there with his new film Rainy Days, a film that is perhaps his 8th significant film. In all his films, he creates a certain feeling of having been somewhere and seen something unusual, and even now, I can summon the certain atmosphere of the film.  Martin Pickles was there from London too, showing his lovely film featuring the thoughts of Bob Godfrey, answering the question ‘What is Animation?’  Now I know.

One of the especially good parts of visiting Ottawa was that I could catch up with old NFB friends, it was 10 years since I had last been to Canada to make my film The True Story of Sawney Beane, with Michael Fukushima, so it was pretty nice to see him, and Helene Tanguay, Marcy Page, Norman Roger and Randall Finnerty and to meet the new producers Jelena and Maral.  The NFB’s Luc Chamberland was also there showing his masterpiece Seth’s Dominion, which was 7 years in the making. The screening of his film was greeted with such exhuberance, and rightly so, it is a very affectionate and careful portrait of an extraordinary man. The good news is that you can see it at Raindance. Luc also has one of the best laughs in history which maybe accounted for the good atmosphere in the Bytowne cinema.

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Thank you to Jelena Popovic for taking this snapshot

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The OIAF audience, comprised of animators, producers, student animators is extremely receptive, eager to laugh, but sympathetic to serious and experimental works too.  It made for  enjoyable screenings.  Each competition screening was followed by a fairly packed ‘Meet the Filmmakers’, led by Chris Robinson.  He’s very funny, and there’s a bit of heckling  that somehow doesn’t detract from some serious discussion. I enjoyed talking about my film there, and also on CBC radio for In Town and Out, a programme that plays live on Saturday morning.  I was featured as part of an international contingent which included Gerben Shermer from HAFF and Nobuaki Doi, who has many hats, including writing, curating and supporting animators in Japan. It was really fun chatting live with the two of them, and I think it is the first and last time that one of my films will be played on the radio.  .

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