Ottawa International Animation Festival mounts a program that does some serious exploring of the global state of the art. By Tom McLean
This fall, the capital of Canada will once again transform for four days into the capital of the animation world with the running of the 2014 Ottawa International Animation Festival.
Set for September 17-21 in the bustling city center area next to the Canadian Parliament, this year’s festival delves into — appropriately — political territory with a selection of films that runs the entire gamut of animation potential.
Artistic director Chris Robinson says the political themes were not intentional, though in retrospect it is a topic that is definitely present in many of the chosen films. “They all seem to have political issues and are technically ambitious but also technically lo-fi,” he says.
The glamour showcase of the event is for feature films, a category that this year includes:
* Estonian director Mait Lass’s 3D stop-motion take on Romeo and Juliet with fruit in Lisa Limone & Maroc Orange: A Rapid Love Story. It is, of course, a musical.
* Proving unexpectedly timely in its topic is Sheila M. Sofian’s Truth Has Fallen, which indicts the failings of the United States’ criminal-justice system by telling the stories of people wrongly convicted and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. Told with thick brush strokes of acrylic paint, the film is stunning and impossible to forget, says Robinson.
* A more traditional movie, Aunt Hilda is a 2D animated feature from acclaimed animators Jacques-Remy Girerd and Benoît Chieux. Girerd has said this will be his final film, certainly unhappy news for fans of his features, which include A Cat in Paris and Mia and the Migoo.
* Brazil once again shows its growing stature in the animation world by landing a spot for Until Sbornia Do Us Part, a sarcastic send-up of politics, business and culture clashes from directors Otto Guerra and Ennio Torreson Jr.
* Lastly, there is the homegrown Seth’s Dominion, a documentary produced by the National Film Board of Canada and directed by Luc Chamberlain about comics artist and cartoonist Seth. The film features extensive sequences animating Seth’s art and comics stories.
The shorts competition is enjoyably expansive, with five programs screening the 110 films chosen from 2,033 entries received from 24 countries.
Among this year’s competitors are four previous Ottawa grand prize winners: Priit Pärn ( The Night of the Carrots), Andreas Hykade ( Ring of Fire),
This year’s competition is bound to generate some controversy. Piotr Dumala’s Hipopotamy –a horror story/meditation on human violence – has sent shockwaves through animation festivals while Priit and Olga Pärn’s Pilots on the Way Home is a graphic, sexually charged satire on male fantasy.
There are also films dealing with other charged themes such as addiction ( Soif by Michele Cournoyer, Nuggets by Andreas Hykade), mental illness ( Through the Hawthorn, Anna Brenner) and gun violence ( Monster in the Closet, Yves Geleyn).
An additional 71 films were selected for the out-of-competition showcase screenings, 37 of which will be shown in the Student Showcase. The showcases break down into an “out-of-competition” competition for Canadian student films; a school competition featuring the best student films from Italy’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Geidai Animation in Japan, France’s Ecole des Metiers du Cinema d’Animation and Rhode Island School of Design; a short films for kids competi-