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MIAF 2015 DAY 3: Panorama – International #1; Tama University Showcase

25 Jun

Panorama – International #1


Here is a classic example of misconception. I have known about the Panoramas for 5 years and I have avoided them for 4 years. Why? Because these were international films that, for some reason, were not good enough to make it into the International Competition programs. Why would I want to spend my time watching inferior films? Well turns out I was too quick to judge (the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, I’m getting better I swear) and I will explain why.

Think about all of your favourite films. Can you honestly say that each one of them has the potential to open the Cannes Film Festival? Of course not, because some of your favourite films are great but are not exactly award-worthy. Think about the guilty pleasures you might have, or the films that hold a personal attachment, or the films you know to be stupid but make you soil yourself in laughter, or the films that did not work overall but brought light to some ideas and concepts that spoke to you in a way that other films couldn’t. These are the films that make up the Panoramas. Here are films that missed out on official competition selection but were, for some reason, worthy to be viewed on a large screen.

Can you say you have seen Iranian animation? How about Afghani animation? Well with the Panoramas this is a possibility. Sure these films may not win any awards, but the Panoramas give these little-known filmmakers from unlikely countries the chance to have their work on the big screen where it belongs. This session was made up of playful and thought-provoking films, and these were my top picks:

Crowded – Andrew Khosravani, Cristina Florit Gomila. Playful looking cut-out animation that has a very real point to it. Planet Earth has a finite amount of space, yet population is rising exponentially. How long will it take before space runs out?

Pidge – Renee Zhan. Dark satirical animation about a pigeon trying to commit suicide by jumping from a building. With a hilariously deep, monotonous voice the pigeon reflects on his life, decides he wants to live, but is swooped by an eagle. There is a lot of dry humour packed into this film; the type of humour that doesn’t necessarily make you laugh but is appreciated as if it was. The characters are animated brilliantly given the film’s barren tone.


Fantoons: Chasing Mr Big – David Calcano, Nacho Rodriguez. Why isn’t there more animation like this? I’m talking about the type of animation reminiscent of early Warner Bros. The animation with basic stories (in this case a fan boy wanting to see his favourite band, Mr Big, live in concert) but told in the playful, energetic, totally absurd manner that only animation can display. The animation where shoving a chilli pepper up a bulldog’s arse is the most logical mode of transportation.

Driving – Nate Theis. Another film taking a humorous look at a real issue – road rage. Seriously people, what is the point? There is something about being behind the wheel of a car that can turn innocent people into dicks, and for what? To get to your destination 7 seconds earlier? This film illustrates that not only do you look ridiculous but there is a likely chance you will hurt yourself and others.

Tama University Showcase

Tokyo Ondo

I’m just gonna put this straight – the Tama University Showcase may very well be the greatest single session I have ever witnessed in my six years of MIAF. That school has summoned all the power of Godzilla to stomp the shit out of any doubt you have that they are a force to be reckoned with.

Don’t you love having your high expectation not only matched but surpassed? Because I certainly do, and I have this ingenious college to thank for that. The high expectations were due to Tama University winning the student reel award at the Ottawa International Animation Festival on its first attempt. I tend to unfairly expect a lot when it comes to sessions dedicated to specific nations, as if every animator from that nation is on an identical diet of animation-genius supplements. Unfortunately these high expectation can fall very hard. Last year’s French showcases left a bitter taste in my mouth of blue cheese on a mouldy baguette. Japan’s showcase in 2013, however, left the delicious taste of warm sake with a side of takoyaki garnished with edible gold shavings. I am happy to announce that Japan has scored once again.

The students of Tama University spend the first three months of their animation course without drawing, sculpting, cutting, or digitally creating a single thing; instead they learn about music. They are taught that animation is all about rhythm and timing, and what better way to learn about these than having a thorough understanding of music. This principle plays a prominent role in every one of the films from this session. Watching this showcase is like consecutively watching every film from your favourite actor – although the films are slightly different they all share one vastly important element that pushes all the right buttons. In the case of the Tama films that element is the heavy reliance of music to provide the foundation for the animation. Every film in this showcase is fantastic in its own way, but these were my favourites:

Garden – Shungo Suzuki. Vibrant pastel colours of vegetation and animals on a black background with a cheerful score. Not a single frame skips on the detail. Suzuki has a masterful understanding of colours and knows when to mix and mould them together in a way that is challenging but never confusing. It’s one of those films that is so pleasant to watch that you can get lost in them.

Tokyo Ondo – Misaki Uwabo. Energetic and sporadic animation perfectly incorporating the crazy randomness that Japan is famous for to create a romanticisation of Tokyo. Can you see something 100 miles away that you want to get to? Then try riding a 10-billion yen coin as a unicycle on your stretched-out arm to get there.

airy me

Airy Me – Yoko Kuno. Music video to the song “Airy Me” by ambient pop artist Cuushe. A lesson that must have been taught extensively at Tama University is the importance of scale and space dimensions. Every student at some point demonstrates their understanding of space with fast-moving interior tracking shots; but no film does it better than Airy Me. Imagine seeing the point-of-view perspective of a fly as it is buzzing around hospital and you will have some idea of what this film looks like. It’s difficult to believe that the slightest angle or shift in a different perspective is an entirely new illustration. The fluidity is of such a high level that if it wasn’t for the yellow saturation or anime-looking characters you would forget that it was animated. Overall it is a sad tale of being drugged up in a hospital bed, but the animation and song connect perfectly on an emotional level and is my top pick for the session.

The Story That Might Be A Dream – Miryan Paku. Supposedly near-death experiences make your life flash before your eyes; but is your life really worth holding on to? In five minutes this animation teaches that life really is worth living, so you’re better off not arguing with your loved ones over petty issues like what channel the television is on.

Chu-Chu – Ryoko Tanaka. Continuing with the theme of vivacious colours with a dominant soundtrack, this film stood out for its heavy use of cut-out animation. I would say more about this film but I would just be repeating myself. These films had a lot of the same feel to them yet at the session’s conclusion I just wanted more.


MIAF 2014 DAY 10: 3 Days In Paris – Historical, Best Of The Fest

30 Jun

3 Days In Paris – Historical


As the last Paris experience didn’t go as well as expected, I thought I would give the French another chance. As I explained in my last Paris post, French animation is generally very well done. France is a nation that is not only passionate about the art form, but they have a widespread understanding of its purpose and relevance, which is why we are going to continue being blessed with its presence. So imagine my disappointment from once again being let down by sub-par French animation. I probably shouldn’t have got my hopes up about this session being “historic” seeing as the earliest film was from 1990, but in the past the historic session have been among my favourites and since this year’s festival didn’t have much in the way of history I was hoping that this session would fill the void. It did not. It’s bewildering, really. I don’t know whether it was a poor selection of films, or maybe the top studios in Paris were missed, or maybe Paris isn’t where France’s decent animation comes from (it is a very big country after all), but these films were soulless and lacked substance. The animation itself wasn’t bad, but it was pretty standard when compared to the rest of France and the rest of the festival. My biggest issue was that most of these films seemed utterly pointless. Too often when a film ended I asked the question “why would you bother going to all that effort for this?” I’m hoping there is something cultural that I am missing; that maybe you have to be from Paris to understand these films because right now I am lost. There were only two films from this session that even remotely tickled my fancy and they happened to be the two oldest films (now I really need my history fix). They were:

Le Balayeur

Clinic – Alexander Bubnov. Totally psychotic animation about medical fears. There’s the GP whose immunisation needle snaps off in the posterior of a patient, an optometrist who plucks eyes out patients and pins new ones in, and a whole lot of medical horror we can only wish will never happen to anyone. The animation is cartoony while being darkly humorous.

Le Balayeur – Serge Elissalde. Well drawn pencil animation about one freaky ape-looking street sweeper who attacks everything that comes near his sweeping area. He smashes things with his broom then shoves them down the drain. A young girl’s ball goes down the drain and the freaky man tries to fish it out, taking out everything he had shoved down there in the first place. He then goes to jail. The morel of the story is: assault and vandalism with a broom is not the best way to avoid prison.


Best Of The Fest

elephnats garden

All good things must come to an end. Best of the Fest is a joyous time where the greatest films of the festival are honoured. It is also a sad time because as the final credits of the final film reach the bottom, the festival disappears like a mirage. Attempts to organise an official after party ceased years ago, presumably because it took energy away from the more important event – the festival. Anyway, the festival is what we came for and the festival is what we get. This year’s MIAF brought some intense mixed feelings. Where there is normally a lot of variety within the session creating an overall feeling of “very good” or “not so good,” this year’s festival had more of an extreme feel to it where some sessions were “amazing” while others “sucked.” Those Paris showcases were nowhere near as good as anticipated and were the major disappointments of the festival. Late Night Macabre and Quickdraw’s 30th Anniversary (even with its positive back story and purpose) suffered from too many sub-par films. But on the other hand, the quality of the South American showcases was a very pleasant surprise. This year also had the best Australian Showcase, Kids Program, and Late Night Bizarre that I have witnessed in my 5 years of attending the festival. And let’s not forget the International Competition Programs that were packed with fantastic films, and International Program #2 being arguably the best single session of anything I have seen during my time at MIAF.

I am very proud (and a little bit smug) to announce that this year the judges got nearly everything right, many of the honoured films being those that I either predicted or mentioned as standout films. I don’t mean to toot my own horn or anything, but come on; you got to admit it’s a whole lotta fun predicting the winners at award ceremonies. Pity no one was taking bets here.

The Best of the Fest session begins with festival director, Malcolm Turner, announcing the best films and honourable mentions of each competition category, and then an assortment of the films are screened. After we view a handful of the top films there is a break where the judges announce the best Australian student film, the best Australian film, the best international student film, and then the grand prize of “Best of the Festival.” As I mentioned above, every film that won I have already written on, so feel free to Ctrl+F the film’s title to see my earlier review of them. The list of the festival winners can be found at the MIAF website.

It made me exceptionally happy to see the films To This Day, Land, and Ex Animo win their international programs as they truly were in the top tier of films for the whole festival. I was incredibly excited about The Elephant’s Garden being hailed as the best Australian film as part of me didn’t think it would win. That film winning best Australian film is like a David Lynch film winning the Academy Award for best feature – it’s that strange and different film that has a strong cult following, but deep down you know the award is going to go to the obvious biopic or drama that wins every year. Well done The Elephant’s Garden!


Marilyn Myller winning the Best of the Festival gave me some initial mixed thoughts. “Best of the Festival” means that this one film was of a higher quality than any other competition film. I have a history of allowing the Best of the Festival to go straight over my head; as in, I remember being in the session while the film played but the film did not leave an instant impression on me. This does not mean that I feel the top pick was inferior, just that many of these animated films don’t instantly slap you in the face with their awesomeness; they take a bit more understanding.

Thankfully MIAF does something that every award ceremony should do – explain why the winning film deserved to win. The judging for MIAF comprises of real industry professionals who are not part of a secret organisation and who are not afraid to reveal their identity. These are people are animators themselves who live animation. They travel around the world visiting many animation festivals and hence are given the opportunity to witness a lot of the competition films on multiple occasions. It also gives them the chance to dig deeper with certain standout films. To simply sum up the case of Marilyn Myller, the film was basically technical mastery on a level that is difficult to comprehend. Firstly, director Mikey Please used a type of foam as his animation medium; something that is insanely complex as it involves carving new sculptures for pretty much every movement. But the interesting lighting that I mentioned in my review of the film is ever more complex. Please’s lightning setup to create his amazing shadows and scattered patterns over a completely white landscape was so advanced that pretty much every frame has its own unique setup.

This explanation would divide the audience right down the middle for two reasons. Reason 1) The bonus knowledge of this film may give it an unfair advantage and for a film to be truly deserving of winning then it should have widespread appeal and not need to rely on all the behind-the-scenes extras that only then make you understand its worthiness. Reason 2) Here is an animation festival created by and attended by true animation enthusiasts and therefore the most unique and complex animation (with the explanation to help those less familiar to understand) should be more than deserving of the top prize. Admittedly I was initially in the first category. I felt that it was an interesting film but not my favourite of the festival. I have since come to change my mind on the matter; not that I now believe it is the best film of the festival (I still stand by my To This Day pick) but I respect the decision to name Marilyn Myller the best of the festival because if festivals like MIAF don’t publicly honour the tireless efforts and technical genius that some true artists of capable of, then who will?

MIAF 2014 DAY 9: Kids Program 3-8yrs, International Program #5, Quickdraw Animation Society 30th Anniversary Retrospective, International Program #6, Late Night Macabre

29 Jun

Kids Program 3-8yrs

my mum is an airplane

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.

twins in bakery

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.

soup of the day

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,

nude defending

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.

linear dreams

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

marilyn myller

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.

raw data

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.

MIAF 2014 DAY 7: International Program #7 – Abstract Showcase

27 Jun

snail trail

This is animation in its rawest form that doesn’t rely on characters or story to be engaging. A huge pat on the back to MIAF for being one of the few animation festivals in the world with a dedicated screening for abstract animation. Festivals may show some abstract films, but to have a whole program dedicated to them is something that makes MIAF quite unique. This session is always a must for me, and these films are examples of why:

Snail Trail – Philipp Artus. We follow a vector-filled snail-like shape on a journey around a large rounded minimalist landscape. The film has an evolutionary feel to it as the future path of the snail is mapped out while the path it has already taken still remains after it has moved on.

Koukou – Takashi Ohashi. I first saw this film last year at Estonia’s Animated Dreams festival which it received an honourable mention as a standout abstract film. I loved it then and I still love it now. In simple terms it is strange animation accompanying even stranger music; though there is nothing simple about this film. The synchronicity of everything going on here is well deserving of an honourable mention.

Barcode III – Adriaan Lokman. Picture a sizeable black & white digital landscape made entirely of poles and light either illuminating the poles or being bent by the poles and you will have an idea what this film looks like. It has a ‘journey to the centre of the modem’ feel to it where the flashes of light is all the information being carried. The entire 8½ minutes of this film (which is quite long for an abstract film) had me totally immersed. I was hypnotised by the landscape accompanied by ambient or upbeat techno music that always synchronised with the speed of the camera. The experience is made perfect by getting to watch it on the big screen.


Virtuos Virtuell – Thomas Stellmach, Maja Oschmann. What initially looks like a simple work of black ink splotches expanding to the music “Ouverture: The Alchemist” by Louis Spohr becomes quite a complex work of art. As the film progresses it becomes obvious that it has been animated over several layers; and then the layers cross over creating a three-dimensional space in what began as two-dimensional.

1000 Plateaus – Steven Woloshen. Woloshen is a Canadian experimental animator who is known for his cameraless films. He puts his artwork directly onto film stock and plays them like that. His films are energetic colour explosions that always have the perfect soundtrack to them. This particular film took 10 years to make. Woloshen started in 2004 and made this film entirely in his car waiting for actors or film crew members.

MIAF 2014 DAY 4: International Program #2, South American Showcase #1: Style Guide

24 Jun

International Program #2


The second of the competition programs. In the 5 years I have attended MIAF this would have to be one of the best single sessions of anything I have ever seen. Normally about half the films I tend to forget shortly after seeing them as they leave little to no impression on me, but all 12 films from this program genuinely had something going for it whether it told an interesting story, was visually stunning, had its own unique style, or was out-of-this-world crazy. It was tough, but these are my top picks:

Na Ni Nu Ne No No – Manabu Himeda. Here is your typical Japanese craziness which I adore; however, this film was for some reason edited for MIAF. Na Ni… is normally split into three parts though MIAF only showed the first which involves human bodies with the Japanese characters as heads who dance around until Nu dies, but then comes back to life and dances some more. The crowd still loved it though I wish they could have seen the other two parts as well as the delightful intro to the film.

Resistant Soul – Simone Mass. Beautifully illustrated Italian pencil animation highly affected by war. Mostly black and white with a tiny bit of colour, but full of power.

Big Hands Oh Big Hands, Let It Be Bigger And Bigger – Lei Lei. I love watching Lei Lei’s films. Any artist who has a distinct style to them is commendable in my books, but Lei Lei’s films are so full of colour, humour and flow with a lot of excitement. They almost have this conveyor belt feel to them, and Big Hands… is no exception. Complete with a chorus by Chinese primary school students, these workers at a confectionary factory increase their productivity by having enormous hands.


Land – Masanobu Hiraoka. The best film of the session; this colourful and full of life computer animation is breath takingly beautiful. Not much can be said in terms of story as there isn’t really one there, but it’s so damn beautiful to watch that I will let the film speak for itself.

Wee Willie Winkie – Yusuke Sakamoto. There were a few films in this session that left the audience with a “WTF?” kind of feeling, but nothing more than this film. This beautifully illustrated Japanese film involves a man beating a giant crawfish on the head in the middle of a city street while protesters look on, a man having breakfast with a sexually desirable life-sized fried egg with women’s legs wearing high heels who ultimately turns him into a bird, and a recurring street mime-type person who gazes into the city until he takes a huge bite out of it. Yeah.


South American Showcase #1: Style Guide


Going into this session I was quite sure I had never seen any South American animation before (not including Disney’s The Three Caballeros. Which I don’t even know the amount of South American contribution); a problem easily solved by this festival. By the end I just wanted more. This wasn’t only because I love the Spanish and Portuguese languages, nor did these films have a definite defined style they could call their own, but because they were all interesting. I know that seems like a very general term to use, but it’s the most suitable one – all these films were interesting in their own way that made me want more. Luckily there are two more chances in this festival to get more. Happy days. My top picks were:

Carne – Carlos Alberto Gomez Salamanca. Morbid black & white film combining paint and scratch techniques to produce all-round creepy vibes. The ambient soundtrack and sound effects add to the slaughterhouse feel. And now I am hungry.

At The Opera – Juan Pablo Zaramella. Another film made so perfect by its simplicity. At only one minute in length we see an assortment of audience members in an auditorium crying while beautiful operatic vocals can be heard. More people cry until we see the stage where there is a choir of singing onions.

the me bird

Passages – Luis Paris. Beautiful black & white animation watching a cyclist ride through his neighbourhood. Accordion music accompanies this beautifully serene film.

The Me Bird – Gabriel Kempers, Maria Ilka Azedo. I loved this film from the first nanosecond that my eyes were physically able to comprehend light and images. This is cut-out animation on steroids. Made of up over 3,500 cut-out images, every image we see shrinks into the background and is replaces by a new one giving the illusion of movement. The movements are of a ballerina dancing, and dance has never impressed me this much before. If this film does not impress you then animation is absolutely not your thing, simple as that.

Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF) 2014

20 Jun

Ahoy film fans! It’s that time of year again to celebrate the eclectic art form of animation. For the next 10 days animation will be filling ACMI cinemas in Melbourne’s Federation Square; and I’m talking REAL animation. The kind of animation you have not seen but absolutely should. This is a unique film festival in the way that the screening session are made up of a compilation of around 10-18 short films with a particular topic or theme. These topics can range from the competition films (which are in the running for the best of the festival), to national focuses (this year being France and South America), to studio focuses (this year being Canada’s Quickdraw Animation Society and France’s Sacrebleu Productions), to technique focuses, to a special screening for children (which I made an effort to see every year, being the big kid that I am).

Last night I attended the Opening Night gala screening, with complimentary sparkling wine. I felt so fancy. The purpose of the Opening Night is to get a taste of what the festival will be serving. The opening film was the incredibly beautiful Sonata directed by one of the festival’s special guests, Nadia Micault from France. Her film is a modern spin of the rotoscoping technique of animating popularised by Disney’s feature films. We then saw a couple of Australian films from the competition programme which are always so special to watch because contrary to what many may think, Australian animation is quite impressive and well worth a watch. Following these were some more foreign films, a film from the kid’s programme, the token abstract film, and some humorous CGI.

MIAF really is something special. It is supposedly the third largest animation festival in the world. Why not help it reach that number 1 spot? If it’s not as great as I’m making it sound, feel free to hurl abuse at me.

Check out the website for more info.

Melbourne Cinematheque- Selected Works by Claire Denis

3 Jul

For July Melbourne Cinematheque has a three-week retrospective of Claire Denis films. A French-filmmaker who spent much of her childhood travelling throughout France and Africa, Denis’ films are noted for their long-takes, photography, the locations in which they are shot and their entwining of philosophical ideals and literary ideas.
Through her repetitive images, natural settings, and the way she captures the human body, Claire Denis will seduce you. She is able to engage the viewer through all their senses, slowly drawing them deeper into her films and closer to the characters and situations playing out within the often isolated worlds she has created.
Also, the jewellery company Philos-o-Face has a Claire Denis brooch. It’s awesome.

L’Intrus (2004) is such a film that draws strongly from philosophy. Taken from French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy’s autobiographic essay, Denis films the life, dreams, hopes, fears, and nightmares of Louis Trebor (Michel Subor). Trebor lives in an isolated cabin and, after a heart transplant, decides to find the son he sired in Tahiti many years ago. The intruder here is everybody and everything. Trebor for suddenly turning up on the island and wishing to have a relationship with his son, Trebor’s new heart for infiltrating his body and attempting to adapt to him, and the viewer for being present to Trebor’s public and private thoughts. With sparse and disconnected dialogue, coupled with disjointed and disorientated images, Denis creates an elliptical journey for both Trebor and the viewer.

Beau Travail (1999) is perhaps my favourite of Denis’ films. It is also her most well known. Told non-chronologically by Galoup, a Foreign Legion officer played by (the amazingly committed) Denis Lavant, and set in the Gulf of Djibouti in Africa and Galoup’s apartment in France, the film presents Galoup’s fall from grace. A loyal soldier who is in control of his platoon, Galoup’s personal demons rise to challenge his leadership when new cadet Sentain joins the group. Determined to prove that Sentain is only out to cause trouble, Galoup goes out of his way to humiliate and debase him.
Military life is the perfect forum for Denis to show her love of repetition and disorientating images of human bodies. The sequences of the soldiers’ physical activities appear to be choreographed like a dance, contrasted highly with Galoup’s own dancing, representative of his final actions. Shot on the open desert planes and salt fields of West Africa, these men have nothing to do but practice for an undecided and undeclared war, unaware that it has already started within their own ranks.

Melbourne Cinematheque- The Youth of the Beast: One Hundred Years of Nikkatsu, week III

25 Jun

Having made over forty films for Nikkatsu studios, Melbourne Cinematheque is closing their retrospective with two films by Seijun Suzuki. Making many Yakuza/mafia B-genre films, Suzuki became more and more interested in the surreal and created an extremely distinct visual style, drawing the ire of the studio which eventually got him fired and black listed for ten years.

Kanto Wanderer (1963) portrays two relationships in one man’s life; his romantic interest in an unattainable woman from his past, and his devotion and contempt to the all-male Yakuza groups of Japan. In a world where honour is everything, Katsuta is thrust into situations where tensions escalate throughout the film, finally coming to a head over a rigged card game.

Made directly after Kanto Wanderer, The Flowers and the Angry Waves (1964) looks at the corruption of honour and tradition in the face of commercialism and modernity throughout early twentieth-century Japanese society. There is a forbidden love story too, adding to the frantic and frenzied plot of one of Suzuki’s least known films.

MIAF Day 2 – International Program #1; Focus on Belgium #1

22 Jun

REMINDER: The Australian Showcase is Saturday the 23rd at 4.00pm. Tickets will most likely sell out so make sure you get your ticket secured.

International Program #1

The first twelve assorted films in the running for Best of the Festival. Mostly consisting of European and Asian films, the first international program gave us viewers a good taste of what is to be expected from the films up for the grand prize. What is that expectation? Complete and utter randomness. CGI, scratch, cel, cut-out, stop-motion; it was all there!

Here are my top picks for this screening:

About Killing the Pig/ Dell’ammazare Il Maiale (Simone Massi, 2011) – Very dark charcoal-looking animation with little colour but plenty of style.

My… My (Lei Lei, 2011) Heavily inspired by video games, a man chases a moose-man through a glitch-ridden world.

Auntie Nettle (Svetlana Zueva, 2011) Russian cut-out animation with almost an expressionist look about it. A haunting little film; like the nightmare of The Secret Garden, complete with piercing string music and grotesque visuals. Arguably the best film of the session.

How to Eat Your Apple (Erick Oh, 2011) – Exactly as it sounds, but with a bizarre, humorous twist.

Focus on Belgium #1

Before this session I didn’t even know Belgian animation existed. I’m sure glad I gave it a go. The session consisted of a fine mixture of historic and contemporary Belgian animation. From this collection of films there seems to be a pattern or theme with Belgian animation – as cheerful as a film may seem, it will inevitably have a negative conclusion.

Un Voyage Imprevu (Albert Fromenteau, 1944) – Proof that Disney set the blueprints of animation to the entire world, this film from the 40s resembles the forest setting and singing animals of the American animation powerhouse. The key difference is this film is a little crazier than Disney and didn’t have much of a story to go with it.

Goldframe (Raoul Servais, 1969) – Hilarious tongue-in-cheek film about a filmmaker, Mr. Golframe, who must be the first to produce a film in 270mm. He attempts this by dancing off against his silhouette.

To Speak Or Not To Speak  (Raoul Servais, 1970) – What begins as a humorous piece of social commentary mohps into a straight-faced and blatantly political piece of propaganda.

Compartments Or “I Am Not A Monster” (Hannah Letaif, 2011) – Totally insane animation that grotesquely exaggerates everyday tasks. Will be repeated at the Late Night Bizarre session.

Melbourne Cinematheque- The Youth of the Beast: One Hundred Years of Nikkatsu, week II

18 Jun

Nippon Katsud Shashin (‘Nikkatsu’ for those in the know) was founded in 1912, making it Japan’s oldest major film studio. With over 3,300 productions to its name Nikkatsu studios has been pivotal in the development of sound within cinema in Japan, helped the emergence of numerous directors, screenwriters, producers, and actors, and worked hard to survive the fallout of World War II. Becoming known for its youth film of the 1950s and crime films of the ‘60s, the studio eventually fell prey to the invasion of home video in the late ‘70s, forcing the company to focus on ‘Roman Porno’- soft-core erotica- before eventually declaring bankruptcy in 1993.
But never fear- Nikkatsu is back! In 2010 a new-look studio was opened and production began on a film series, ‘Sushi Typhoon’.

Home Village (1980) follows the rise of Yoshio Fujimura, a talented young singer noticed by a “society lady” who helps him achieve his dream, and the fall of his maid Ayako who is in love with him. Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, the film showcases his love for long takes and the perfect mise-en-scene whilst also incorporating an uncharacteristic (for Mizoguchi) amount of close-ups and montage sequences. Home Village also marks the first use of sound in a Nikkatsu film.

Profound Desires of the Gods (1968) is a culmination of Shohei Imamura’s pre-occupation with the lower strata’s of Japanese society, dominant throughout his work in the 1960s. Set on a seemingly lost and incredibly small island, the film follows the Futori family who are greatly inbred, believe in the Old Laws, and are ridiculed by the other few families on the island. With the arrival of an engineer to build a well, the barely-there truce shatters, sending the island into disaster.