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

30 Jun

3 Days In Paris – Historical

clinic

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!

MarilynMyller

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?

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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

365-mcleod

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

LaBete

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__003

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.

barcode

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

naninunenono

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

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

passages

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.

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.

MIAF Day 3 – Supinfocom; Careers Forum; RCA 25th Anniversary

24 Jun

By Michael De Martino

Supinfocom: Le Lab d’Images Project

Supinfocom is a French 3D animation school. This was a special one-off opportunity for students to be teamed up with professional French graphic novel artists and designers. I’m not normally a big fan of 3D CGI animation; I much prefer the traditional styles, but I was not anticipating how much I would enjoy this session. Of the six sessions I have been to so far this could be the best one. All of these films are creative, imaginative, fun, and full of colour and expression. Most amazingly though is the fact that these films all took roughly 2-3 months to put together, which is an epic achievement considering how refined each film is.

Here are my top picks for this screening:

Cosmic Jungle (2010) Exaggerated colour fills this angular urban jungle where two dogs chase after a runaway fire hydrant.

Muzorama (2009) A head inside a mouth. Another head used as a soccer ball. A man whose eyes sit on top of his upside-down nose. A man riding a bicycle which has snails for wheels. If you can figure out what this film is about I would love to know…

Puppet Mansion (2010) The ghost train from hell featuring two cuddly critters and their battle with the ticket collector.

Rubika (2010) The world is a giant Rubik’s cube where gravity changes from vertical to horizontal for some unfortunate people.

Careers in Animation Forum

Fun and informative, this free forum gave the general public the chance to get an insight into the animation industry from four Australian professionals from different fields. Katrina Mathers, Jack Parry, Huni Bolliger, and Darren Bell spoke of how they entered the industry and how they have made a living through animation. The rest of the forum consisted of Q&A where anyone from the audience was given the chance to ask questions about the industry, how to make yourself known, and anything else they desired. The panel of animators stuck around afterwards to answer any further questions people wanted to ask. I spoke to Katrina Mathers who was extremely approachable and genuinely respects those who wish to seek her advice. A very valuable session for anyone with hopes of entering the animation industry.

RCA 25th Anniversary Retrospective

Just when I thought the Polish were dark… Wow! This collection of fourteen films, celebrating 25 years of the Royal College of the Arts, are among the creepiest I have ever seen. Who would have guessed the British had such an evil side to them?  A fascinating array of styles, this session featured multiple approaches to hand-made films. Pencil, ink, paint, models, stamps, and so on, were used to animate these painstakingly detailed films.

Here are my top picks for this screening:

Hello Dad (Christoph Simon, 1987) This film lead the session and boy did it go out with a bang. Some (including myself) bellowed in laughter, some stared in utter bemusement, and “WTF?” was echoed throughout the cinema. It must be seen to be believed.

Prophet And Lo$$ (Jonathan Bairstow, 1988) Creepy, energetic industrial workplace consisting of robots and clowns. Black and white, but full of excitement.

This Is Harrow (Monika Forsberg, 2001) A very simple looking animation of pencil on paper full of spirit and subtle comedy.

Toxic (Andrew McEwan, 1990) Haunting stop-motion film consisting of preserved dead animals. A platypus leads an army of animals to defeat an evil insect.

MIAF Day 2 – Focus on Poland 2, Abstract Showcase

23 Jun

By Michael De Martino

Focus on Poland 2

A continuation of Tuesday night’s session; this collection of nine films continued the morbid stories and dark aesthetics of the Polish. Even the comedic films had an undeniable layer of darkness to them. These films mainly consist of black and white with minimal use of colour. Even then, the colour mostly consisted of muted browns and greys. Darkness was also communicated through most of the films’ themes. Millhaven for example, one of the sessions top films, was inspired by a song from our home grown Nick Cave titled “The Curse of Millhaven”, which begins relatively normal but progressively gets more and more disturbing until we learn the young female singing the lyrics to the song is a psychotic killer who leaves us with the comforting words “All God’s children, they gotta die.” Regardless of the consistent eerie atmosphere presented by these films they all share a common attribute of being amazing.

Here are my top picks for this screening:

Exit (Grzegorz Koncewicz, 2006) This black and white film follows a man’s fantasy to win the girl from the apartment building across the street.

The Ritual (Zbigniew Czapla, 2010) Similar aesthetic to Exit, this beautiful stylised film consists entirely of black paint on white paper.

The Razor (Grzegorz Koncewicz, 2009) Arguably the best film of the session. It involves numerous animation techniques to communicate a man’s fear of the razor used to shave his facial hair. Surreal, fantastical, macabre, but most importantly: effective.

 

Abstract Showcase

Presenter and festival director, Malcolm Turner, opened this session by expressing his thoughts on abstract animation, “Trying to define what abstract animation is is about as much fun as being sodomised with your pants on.” This may well be due to the fact that pretty much all animation is abstract in its own way. This collection of films however delivered films even more abstract than regular abstract animation. These films can be described as experiments with colour, shapes, and film stock, accompanied but avant-garde auditory compositions. The seventeen films making up this session are experimental yet strangely beautiful head trips. They are too extreme to be indifferent about, but love or hate them, they will leave and impression on you.

Here are my top picks for this screening:

An Abstract Day (Oerd van Cuijlenborg, 2010) Arguably the top film of the session. A day-in-the-life story of a couple told through regular sound with abstract visuals to represent the sound.

Fiesta Brava (Steven Woloshen, 2011) The effort put into this film is mind boggling. A 3 minute, 26 second film consisting of scratching and painting the actual film stock to create the finished result. The erratic use of colour intertwined with the upbeat samba music complete the experience.

Metropolis (Mirai Mizue, 2009) Geometric assortment of buildings and lines accompanied by an industrial soundtrack.

MIAF Day 1 – Focus on Poland 1, SIGGRAPH Highlights

22 Jun

By Michael De Martino

Last night I attended two equally amazing sessions, one focusing on a national cinema (Poland), and one focusing of a particular animation technique (CGI).

Session 1 – Focus on Poland 1

Ten films made up the first of three sessions of the Polish showcase. I was unfamiliar with polish animation before this session, but now I can happily call myself a fan. These films share a dark aesthetic quality though still managed to illustrate a variety of styles ranging from ink, to pencil, to paint, to CGI, to scratch, to stop-motion animation. Only two films contained dialogue (which is most common in animated short films) forcing us to focus on the visuals. These films defy genre; they are simply meant to be enjoyed as the animated national cinema of Poland.

There were several standout films:

Robert Proch’s Galeria (2010) wowed audiences with its calligraphic movement of ink and paint.

Danny Boy (Marek Skrobecki, 2010) is a darkly humorous stop-motion film about a city of headless citizens which made audiences laugh and cringe simultaneously while adding genuine dramatic emotion. A varied mesh of moods executed perfectly.

The session concluded with the astounding CGI film, Paths of Hate (2010), about two pilots set to destroy each other.

My top pick of this session is another film by Proch titled Wirus [Virus] (2009) which can fortunately be seen here.

The next two Polish sessions are tonight at 6:15pm and Saturday night at 9pm.

Session 2 – SIGGRAPH Highlights

Fourteen films made up this collection of CGI wonders. These films illustrate just how far computer graphics have come. Some of these films are indescribably amazing to watch. Perhaps this best describes the feeling:

Here are my top picks from this screening:

Animation History of Poland (Tomasz Baginski, 2009) is exactly what the title suggests, the history of Poland communicated through CGI animation. This was the highlight of the session.

Loom (Ilja Brunck, Jan Bitzer, Csaba Letay, 2010) is an utterly amazing film about a moth being trapped and venomed by a spider. Simple premise, incredible execution.

Mobile (Verena Fels, 2010) was definitely the film the audience had the most fun with. It consists of cute farmyard animals hanging from a mobile. All the lonely cow wants is a friend and damn she’s gonna get one, even if it means throwing the mobile out of control.

White Drawing (2009) by Kurt Adams is an atmospheric post-apocalyptic head trip. You get sucked into the film and cannot get out. Even if it doesn’t make sense it is visually appealing to say the least.

Some of the films from this session will be screened at other sessions, so keep an eye out for them.