MIAF 2015 DAY 1: Best of the Next – International; Best of the Next – Australian Student Showcase; Official Opening – Australian Showcase

23 Jun

Best of the Next – International

small people with hats

Admittedly I have a tendency to cringe whenever the “student film” thought bubble floats over my head. I fear the worst – the needless metaphors, the lack of editing for a more artistic feel, the use of actors who couldn’t act to save themselves but are used anyway because the director owes their day jobs’ boss a favour. Of course little of this is reality; they are only my fears and reservations on the topic. Call me quick to judge but my experiences have not been successful thus far. One of my main reservations is the artistic (or lack of) drive behind these films. Sometimes it is difficult to shake the fact that the main purpose of these films being created is for academic assessment. Compare this to the uninfluenced love and need for the art form from the filmmakers of the International Competition Programs and you might be able to understand why I haven’t dedicated my time to attending the festival-within-a-festival that is Best of the Next.

That is until I bit the bullet and attended this one. And I am glad I did. As an Australian it’s hard to believe that there are so many tertiary courses around the world that teach nothing but animation for 3-5 years. Not too surprisingly is that these courses are mostly in countries that understand the cultural relevance of the art form (Canada, France, Japan, etc). Maybe it’s the funding, maybe it’s the cultural understanding of animation’s relevance, maybe it’s the teaching, or a combination of all the above, but these colleges have to be doing something right to keep pumping out students who can make films like these.

Like all schooling there are clearly some students more gifted than others, however the overall standard was a lot higher than I was expecting. Best of the Next is split into three International showcases with one dedicated Australian student showcase. Of these four sessions it was clear that many of these were technique films that’s main purpose was to “wow” examiners with their technical abilities. Nonetheless there were some real standouts from these three international sessions and they were:

What’s Going on with Annie – Yin-Jia Hu, Meng-Xiong Cai. Playful film about why you need to keep your bedroom clean – you may just have to battle the mess monsters! This is typical Japanese-style anime. There is artistically nothing new about this film but it was a lot of fun to watch.

The Sand – Soohyeon Joo. The story of a failing relationship has never looked so beautiful. Although the story may bring a tear to the eye, it is impossible to look away from the use of paint and vibrant colours.

how to survive on an island that hates you

Small People With Hats – Sarina Nihe. I have mentioned before that in my opinion the UK is responsible for the most morbidly dark and disturbing films in the world. This student film is another example to prove my theory. This film appears to look metaphoric of exploiting teens and young adults in business, or how businesses exploit the lowest of the pecking order. I can’t say I’m fully aware of what is going on but I am not bothered by this. My favourite type of film is one where I thoroughly enjoy it, or am vastly intrigued by it, without having a clue as to why I feel this way. Not too many films induce these feelings, but this one does which is why it is my top pick for Best of the Next.

How to Survive on an Island that Hates You – Chris Frost. An extraordinarily average man wakes up on an island and finds himself wrestling an octopus, gambling with a sea star, sleeping in a hammock made from his own beard, all for survival.

Best of the Next – Australian

anima redux

The Australian session for Best of the Next, these were my top picks:

Anima Radix – Fernando Silva De La Cruz. Definitely the most unexpected film of the session in terms of both content and style, this delightfully sinister animation appears as if it was crafted from the sands of hell itself.

Watdat – Victoria Wu. Coloured chalk, an eraser, and a lot of time and patience are all you need to make something inspiring. A blob picks the wrong mystery box and is chased by a dragon. Not enough animation is done on a chalk board. This film is inspiring as it proves how uncomplicated animation can be.

the wolf within

Pond Scum – Catriona Drummond. All humans everywhere should watch this film. It is not socially acceptable to shout offensive or degrading comments to anyone minding their own business. There should be ramifications for these scabs on society, like maybe transporting them to another dimension and scaring them straight. This film illustrates how sweet that would be. Stand up for yourselves, people. No one deserves that treatment so don’t let it happen.

The Wolf Within – Jonathan Reyes. Everyone is a deer in art class except the wolf. He tries to fit in but his art isn’t up to the level of the deer. He even tries a vegetarian diet. Eventually his wolf instincts take over and he slaughters everyone. This is going to sound harsh but I enjoyed this film because it did not feel Australian at all. It felt like it had slipped out of the international program. The lack of dialogue, the use of minimal, ambient sound, the overall subtlety, it was my top pick for the session.

Official Opening – Australian Showcase


And it officially begins!

2015 saw MIAF fold their wings of the usual structure by making the Australian Showcase the official opener instead of a gala screening to give us a taste of what to expect throughout the whole festival. Did it work? Ohh you betcha. In fact it worked far too well. This screening in ACMI’s substantial 400-seater Cinema 2 was, to many people’s dismay, sold out several hours before the doors opened. And when I say “sold out” I mean SOLD OUT. Even festival director Malcolm Turner’s reserved tickets were exhausted on special guests who were minutes away from declaring war on the ticket booth. People were piled in like the world’s largest game of Twister where everyone’s left foot had to be stomped on that last available red dot.

Newcomers to MIAF, or any other film festival for that matter, would have been the most disappointed because of how it functions. Having a season pass does not guarantee you a seat in every screening – you must use that festival pass to collect a free ticket from the ticket booth to be allowed into the cinema. Those who did not think to do this early sadly missed out.

As for the films themselves… oh Australia. To put it straightforward: there were minimal “bad” films, a fair amount of “forgettable” films, quite a few “decent” films, and a couple of “very good” films. It’s sad that the third international Best of the Next showcase screened just prior to the Australian Showcase because I enjoyed that a lot more. Without this turning into a spiel about Australia’s film industry I have to mention that the clear lack of funding, support, and interest in Australian animation makes me shake my head. These Aussie animators must be some tough nuts to crack to be running on empty the way they do. Although it’s clear the standard of animation is not that of many other developed countries, these artists deserve some credit. My top picks from this session were:

The Story Of Percival Pilts – Janette Goodey, John Lewis. A narrated poem dramatised with claymation telling the story of a boy who spends his whole life on stilts. Definitely a crowd-friendly way to kick off the festival, Pilts is an overall delight. Though despite its 8-minute run time I felt something was missing as the film’s conclusion left me a tad unfulfilled. Maybe I’m just getting hard to please in my old age.

city symphony noise poem

City Symphony Noise Poem – Paul Fletcher. Close to 0% of viewers will agree with me but this was my favourite film of the session. It is abstract, industrial, very messy, full of bass, and overall did more for me than the other films.

The Meek – Joe Brumm. Germ minions trying to keep warm by the cosy cigarette flame, it is a narrated story from a female germ in love with a male germ who happens to be a complete tosser. Initially he cares about her but he gradually ignores her, then abuses her, then forgets her entirely while he forces the local population of germs to work for him to keep him warm. Eventually the flame burns out to which the female uses the cigarette butt to nit tiny, germ-sized sweaters to keep warm. Although it is a straightforward story of a female building the strength to leave her turd of a partner, animation allows the film to possess a type of visual appeal which adds humour that wouldn’t normally be present given the subject matter.

The Orchestra – Mikey Hill. This will win best Australian Film, and rightfully so. Every individual has their own mini orchestra, literally, following them through every aspect of their lives metaphorically representing their entire being. Our main character is an elderly man residing the Lovely Hearts Retirement Apartments when an elderly lady, who he clearly fancies, moves in close to his room. It is a simple story of building courage and pushing past nervousness and self-doubt, but his mini orchestra playing music to represent his mental and emotional state adds an element of light humour that only animation can achieve. It really is an adorable film made successful by its subtlety.


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