Kids Program 3-8yrs
At the opening gala to thew festival, MIAF director Malcolm Turner did something he had never done before – play a film from the kids program. His main reason for the objection was the association that far too many people have with animation being something for children. He went on to say that this topic was the best way to piss him off following taking a drink out of his hand; and I wholeheartedly agree. Dismissing animation as “child’s entertainment” is downright idiotic, but this is a huge topic for another time. Malcolm then went on to say that of the 2700+ films that were submitted for competition only about 100 of them were specifically children’s films which really goes to show how little real animation is just for children. The point is that animation can be enjoyed by anyone. This session may as well be called “innocent, enjoyable animation for all ages that kids specifically will find appealing;” but for succinctness it has the title that it has. This year’s program was without question the best kids program I have ever witnessed. The creativity of these films is amazing, the innocence of them is sweet, the atmosphere of the cinema was comfortable; and yes, there were many adults without children who came along to enjoy these films, just like every other year. Very difficult to choose but these were my favourites:
Fresh Guacamole – PES. I have watched this film around 50 times since first seeing it. It only lasts 90 seconds but it is so captivating that I cannot get enough of it. To put it simply; this film involves an actual human making guacamole out of real household items. A baseball is sliced in half and then chopped up into dice. A green light bulb is sliced in half then chopped up into monopoly houses. It seems so simply yet it is animation mastery. There is only diegetic sound made by the man preparing the ‘food’. The most impressive aspect to this film is the editing; everything he prepares looks so convincing. This film is much deserving of its Academy Award nomination.
My Mom Is An Airplane – Yulia Aranova. Adorable Russian animation about a child’s mother who is, you guessed it, an airplane. Everything about this film works so well; the simple character designs, the sketchy backgrounds, the minimal dialogue, the playful music, the humour and imagination… It will no doubt wake your inner child.
Hidden Talent – Mirian Miosic. A whole lot of meowing from a cat whose meowing sucks pretty badly while surrounded by many talented cats that are able to meow tunefully. His meowing continues to suck yet he never gives up his passion for music. He is given a shot at conducting and whaddaya know; now he really is the talented one. The film sends a positive message of following your passion in your field of interest because there may just be something you excel at.
Shape – Przemyslaw Adamski, Katarzyna Kijek. This is absolutely mind blowing stuff. It is the music video from Shugo Tokumaru’s song “Katachi” (from the fantastic album ‘In Focus?’) which was animated in Poland. It is a scarily well detailed cut-out film similar to The Me Bird in terms of insane amounts of detail. There’s not necessarily a story here but then it is a music video; and in this case it is all about the synchronicity between sound and image, and wow did they nail it.
Twins In Bakery – Mari Miyazawa. Fantastic Japanese stop-motion about two sausage partners who turn a temporarily closed bakery into their own zoo. A bread roll becomes a monkey by slicing it up and adding some olives for the eyes. Adding a full slice of ham, some cut up ham and pieces of sausage to a bread roll makes an adorable hedgehog. My favourite part is watching the bread dolphins swimming in the rolling blue paper towel. Hopefully this will teach children that if done properly you absolutely can play with your food.
International Program #5
The fifth of the competition programs. Again there were no festival winners, but a few standouts. They were:
365 – The Brothers McLeod. Fantastic way to start the session, this film was a project set by The Brothers McLeod to make one second of animation every day for a whole year, which they did. Essentially you see 365 short films in one. You could see this film many, many times and spot something new each time. Funny, cartoony, random, crowd-pleasing; check.
Soup Of The Day – Lynn Smith. We all know fussy eaters, and now there is a film about how difficult they can be to deal with. This is essentially a music video to a comedic song, but then surely by now we all realise how much I appreciate music videos. What is so captivating about this film is that whether you love it or hate it, you’re going to remember it. Yes, the catchy song may get stuck in your head, but the vibrant and flowing pastel colours that don’t rest for a second throughout the film should leave an impression on anyone who watches this with their eyes open.
Freitag X – Mas Movies – Claudia Rothlin, Yves Gutjhar. Good advertising can really leave a lasting impression. This is a compilation of Freitag commercials and with stop-motion animation this good it won’t be a name soon forgotten.
Quickdraw Animation Society 30th Anniversary Retrospective,
Every year MIAF has some sort of studio/organisation focus. This year it was Canada’s Quickdraw Animation Society. Based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Quickdraw is a fantastic organisation that simply loves animation and wants to share it with the world. Their purpose is to teach the common man how to animate. They have courses, workshops, lectures, and a solid team of dedicated animation teachers and mentors (like special guests Kevin Kurytnik and Carol Beecher) all set out to make YOU an animator. If only Australia had something like this. Understandably the films produced by Quickdraw may not be of the highest quality as they are made by common people who are not professional animators (or at least didn’t start off as such during the making of these films) but they really stand for something special. The highlights of this session were:
Nude Defending A Staircase – Scott Higgs. It is exactly as it sounds; there is a staircase that is approached by a man, and a naked man spring from behind the staircase to deliver a fly-kick to he who was daring enough to approach the staircase. Sure this may be a novelty film to some, but to me is it the perfect simple technical exercise from an amateur animator that will leave a lasting impression on whoever views it.
C’est La Vie The Chris J. Melnychuk Story – QAS Collective. A collaborative film by some of the Quickdraw crew about one super unlucky person. Chris J. Melnychuk was an animator who came down with mouth cancer and then experienced the awful ordeal of an “assectomy” (he basically had a chunk of his posterior amputated). The entire film is narrated by Melnychuk who has a strong, positive, and inspirational attitude to everything that has happened to him. The different filmmakers give this film an evolving array of styles, and Melnychuk himself gives this film enough humour for anyone to enjoy.
Raw – Don Best. Beautifully minimalist abstract animation involving black and green colours with spots of yellow and white. With the smooth ambient soundtrack accompanying the direct-to-film streams and spots of colours makes this an immersive film. Direct-to-film films are normally erratic but the minimalism of this film made it quite peaceful.
Linear Dreams – Richard Reeves. OK, yes, I’m a sucker for abstract animation. This film was quite similar to Raw though it has more colour. Again the minimal sound does the film justice.
International Program #6
The sixth of the competition programs, only this was especially rated 18+ because there were some animated tits and dicks, and some pretty dark themes. Some of these went right over my head, others were intriguing and I will need to re-watch, the rest were awesome, and they were:
OA – Reno Armanet. Extremely in-your-face film complete with hectic amounts of constantly flashing colours and a metal soundtrack with French narration. This narration is an ominous godlike being sent to preach to those wasting their lives. The whole film is negative to humanity in general looking down on war, conflict, and pretty much anything that can be considered pointless. As a result of this film some may get fired up and motivated to do something with their lives, though the film may be a bit too much for others as it doesn’t tread lightly on how pathetic some of us can be.
Marilyn Myller – Mikey Please. Here is a standout film. It is made entirely out of foam and is lit in a way that I have never seen before. Marilyn Myller is a sculptor who kinda snaps when things don’t work out perfectly for her. Oddly enough the destruction of her work leads to popularity. It is a humorous story that has several laughs through it, but I can’t get over how different it looks to anything I have ever seen before.
Raw Data – Jake Fried. Just wow. This is possibly the most detailed single minute of animation I have ever seen. It needs no explanation, just watch it.
Late Night Macabre
Knowing that Late Night Bizarre has its own strong cult following for its crazy weird films, I had high hopes for this session as it promised an evil, morbid, gothic theme that no doubt many would find appealing. Sadly I was disappointed with this session overall. One aspect of this session that I didn’t realise right away is that all of the newly released films that aren’t part of the competition showcases didn’t make it because they weren’t good enough to be in the running for Best of the Festival. With this in mind this session can be best described as films with consistent dark themes and atmospheres that lacked something to be included with the competition films. A lot of these films felt like they were missing something important or trying too hard to achieve something they just couldn’t reach; though like all disappointing sessions there were the odd standouts, and they were:
Placement Of The Grain – Mitchel A. Kraft. The first film of the session showed a promising start, unfortunately it was short lived. This creepy Canadian film showed little story, but focussed more on creating a morbid insane asylum atmosphere. It achieved this with its dark ambient soundtrack, different shades of grey in front of black or white backgrounds, and horrifying images of tortured faces silently screaming.
La Bête – Vladimir Mavounia-Kouka. Here is one horrifyingly sexy film. The whole film is in black and white, and I don’t mean shades of grey here, I mean there are only the two colours black and white. It begins with a woman inspecting the scratch wounds on her shoulder while a beautiful piano score can be heard. She drifts off and wakes in a forest where she is chased by a hell hound accompanied by an industrial soundtrack. Haunting silence follows as she lay on the ground until the beast emerges from under her and violently fornicates with her with the industrial soundtrack again accompanying the scene. Maybe it is a metaphor for rape, or bestiality, or sadomasochism in general, but however it is interpreted the fact stands that this is one fantastically memorable film, and by far the best of the session.
The Maggot Feeder / Ussinuumaja – Priit Tender. I did enjoy this film though not for the reasons the film probably wanted me to. Technically the film was well done; the animation was interesting, and the use of real human faces on the animated characters’ bodies was quite different; though the standout aspect of this film was the story itself. It’s amazing the kind of stories than can be found if you dig deep enough. Based on an ancient Chukchi fairytale, Ussinuumaja tells a story that is so utterly random and seemingly pointless that I can picture Tender reading it and thinking “what the fudge? I must turn this into a film!” It begins with a woman and man, who has metal hooks for arms, living isolated in the middle of the snow. The woman is unable to have children so the man decides to kill her by feeding her to a pack of killer maggots he feeds seals to, that he keeps hidden in a stone building he made right near the house for this purpose only, without the woman knowing. Then a magic spider tells the woman this plan and explains the strategy to help her overcome it: go out hunting with the man, place a special slipper on the ground than will inevitably fascinate him and make him search for the other, throw the other to him, then run to the top of the stone building so he will come over and fall in getting eaten by the maggots; a plan that she executes perfectly. So then the spider’s house magically appears next to hers and he introduces her to his son, a reindeer herder, who says she can touch anything in the house except a special pouch hanging from the wall. Naturally, she touches the pouch where spiritual animal hides come out of. The spider’s son comes back, puts the hides in the pouch (with absolutely no repercussions for doing what she wasn’t supposed to do) and the two of them have many babies and live happily ever after. No doubt this will be a story to tell the grandkids.