Sunday, October 09, 2005

Our weekend in Ottawa was cool, man...

The weekend of September 23 we went to the Ottawa Animation Festival, where we saw a remarkable number of fine animated films, and gave our new point-and-shoot digital camera a workout. Check out our little photo essay on the trip here.

What follows are some of the highlights of the weekend screenings. Yes, we were, as Artistic Director Chris Robinson joked with a air of mock disdain in his voice, 'weekend pass holders'. Maybe next year we'll go earlier and actually get to the animators' picnic for the first time!

First of all: Gotta give a nod to the guys who did the SIGNAL FILM that opened every screening. Nine separate animated storylines all played at once. At the start of each screening you could pick a new character to watch as he or she traveled by horse, car, bus, parachute etc... to the Animation festival where they all ended up in the theatre together! The SFX played all at once too; a cacophony of crashes, brake squeals, and animal noises that rose to a crescendo. Great fun.

Since our film, COOLMAN!: HOOTCHY KOOTCHY HAIKU was part of short competition # 4, on Saturday festival organizers asked us to sit in the 'Queen's Box' along with the other filmmakers during that screening. After our film, they announced our names and we waved beatifically to the audience below. Nice tip of the hat to the creators who were there. HOOTCHY KOOTCHY looked good and sounded great and got some laughs from the audience. We liked hearing the dignified announcer say 'Hootchy Kootchy Haiku' in both French and English. And as an added bonus, almost every film in short competition #4 was excellent. Favourites included:

The deliciously slow moving, sly story about a crocodile who eats his octopus girlfriend bit by bit: The Old Crocodile [2005] Koji Yamamura, Yamamura Animation, Inc. / Japan

Mesmerizing: grau [2004] Robert Seidel, 2minds / Germany

Organic and graphic animation: Dew Line [2005] Joanna Priestley

Shows you just what a guy can do on his home computer: Xploding Plastix ‘Joy Comes in the Morning’ [2005] Scott Friedman & Joe Ledbetter

A moody tale well told and beautifully designed: The Corridor (Le couloir) [2005] Alain Gagnol & Jean-Loup Felicioli

An ironic story about a pair of caged parrots who know too much: Dying of Love (Morir de amor) [2004] Gil Alkabetz

Some favourites from other screenings:

Pee-wee Herman's Playhouse Animation Fresh, funny and groundbreaking, it looks like it was made yesterday.

The very odd and wonderful: Piper the Goat and the Peace Pipe [2005] Lev Polyakov (Lev gave the best acceptance speech/happening on closing night)

From Sheridan College, a little creature is looking for a missing piece: An Eye for Annai [2005] Jon Klassen & Daniel Rodrigues

Al Purdy's reading of his poem by the same name drives this artful film: At the Quinte Hotel [2005] Bruce Alcock. CANADIAN FILM INSTITUTE AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN ANIMATION

Extremely dark look at the madness of military heroism. So beautiful. Arna's personal favourite of the festival: Fallen Art [2004] Tomek Baginski

Dreamlike, great use of moody black and white; a lovely hommage to Jim Henson and his creations: Overtime [2004] Oury Atlan, Thibault Berland & Damien Ferrié. BEST GRADUATE FILM Arna's second favourite. Is Sheridan College doing stuff like this??

Great adventure story and strong visuals: The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello[2004] Anthony Lucas (we think this one should have won an award!)

A wry delight: The Back Brace [2004] Andy London & Carolyn London

Mixed media music video makes you want to get up and dance: Rheostatics ‘The Tarleks’ [2004] Justin Stephenson, Trace Pictures, OZ Media Group

GRAND PRIZE FOR STUDENT ANIMATION: Chestnuts Icelolly [2004] JJ Villard

Morose and funny at the same time: DogWorries [2005] Chris Armstrong

Hilarious television series that won in our competition category TV SERIES FOR ADULTS (deservedly so): Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law ‘Birdgirl of Guantanamole’ [2005]

Hypnotic: even odd even [2004] Barbara Doser

Cars doing silliness: Phoenix Foundation ‘Hitchcock’ [2005] Reuben Sutherland. Best Music Video

Best Promotional Work, and our choice for best use of props: Coinstar ‘Shoe’ [2004] PES

Funky, funny stop-motion: Bob Log III’s Electric Fence Story [2004] Stock’n’Wolf aka Tinka Stock & Sébastien Wolf

Witty visual tricks with perspective (another of our absolute favourites): Bow-tie Duty for Square Heads (Fliegenpflicht für Quadratköpfe) [2004] Stephan-Flint Müller

We missed Mole in the City [2005] Roque Ballesteros, which won an award for Best Animation Made for the Internet, but, we'll check it out soon on...the internet, of course.

The Moon and the Son [2004] by John Canemaker; a compelling personal story but seemed a bit long.

We tried very hard to like The District! (Nyócker!) [2004] Áron Gauder. But uh uh. Interesting photocollage technique could have worked if it had a great story, but this film was an orgy of mysogeny and came off disjointed while trying too hard to be hip. Even the striking backgrounds in the wide shots could not redeem this one. MERCURY FILMWORKS GRAND PRIZE FOR ANIMATED FEATURE

Missing from the festival this year: A solid feature film premiere. Where were CORPSE BRIDE and WALLACE AND GROMMIT?

Sunday morning's highlight was definately a masterclass by the elegant, articulate Michael Dudok de Wit, moderated by the NFB's Michael Fukushima. More about his talk soon!

Sunday afternoon, saturated from so many screenings, we visited Ottawa's National Gallery where we took in the Forty-Part Motet, Janet Cardiff's sound sculpture (playing until January 2006). If you are planning to be in Ottawa do not miss this! Inside the gallery you wander past a skylit indoor garden and enter the reconstructed 19th-century interior of Rideau Chapel. There are 40 speakers facing the centre of the space and two benches in the middle of the otherwise bare room. Polished hardwood floors, delicate fluted columns and arches create an atmosphere of spiritual calm. Then the voices start. At first you hear coughing and a bit of chatter as each participant of the choir warms up. They begin to sing. Each voice was recorded separately but they blend as though all forty of them are standing in a wide circle around you. Gorgeous and moving!

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