Tag Archives: animation

Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF) 2015

20 Jun

miaf 2015

So this may be the coldest couple of weeks of the year for us Melbournians, but one place you are guaranteed to be kept warm is within the weather-proof walls of the cosy ACMI cinemas. While you snuggle up in these seats I recommend keeping yours eyes open because then you will be blessed with this year’s MIAF which runs from June 21-28.

And it is a rather special one this year because I was lucky enough to join the big leagues with an early-bird trial screening of some sample films of the festival before the actual festival begins. Turns out being an obsessive volunteer has its perks. I can personally confirm, before the festival even starts, that it is going to be a memorable occasion for any one who listens to that playful voice in their head that says “go along, what have you got to lose?”

There are a couple of aspects separating this festival from the last few festivals. This year MIAF is screening quite a few sessions in ACMI’s Studio 1 which is a gorgeously informal yet intimate 70-seater space for some of the less popular, less majority-friendly showcases. More importantly this year commemorates the centenary of Australian animation. For those who love animation, for those who love film, and for those who love this amazing country should get along and support this momentous occasion with 6 dedicated sessions highlighting Australia’s history with the art form.

MIAF has reverted back to the 8-day-long festival but has not skipped on the content. Like all years there are the new films making up the competition sessions and all the festival favourites like Late Night Bizarre and the Kids Program; and the curated sessions with special focuses on a country, an animation technique, an animation college, or a particular filmmaker/production company.

This year’s new films submissions came to around the 3500 mark from every corner of the globe. With an International Competition session playing every day (except Monday 22) be sure to catch up with the most recent additions to this ever-changing world of artistic, auteurist animation. The curated sessions this year are intriguing to say the least. The main nation focus is on Slovakia. Personally I have never seen any Slovakian films, and I’m sure many of us in Melbourne can say the same, but after these two sessions; one on historic films and one on new films; we will instantly become more cultured and having something unique to talk about while hosting our next dinner party. My most anticipated curated session is on Japan’s Tama University. 2013 blew my mind with just how amazing auteurist animation in Japan really is with their session on Tokyo University of Arts. That’s right, Japan is not simply a hub for anime, they have a hell of a lot more to offer. Tama University specifically has already made its stamp on the world animation circuit by taking out the Ottawa International Animation Festival’s prize for the best student showcase on its first attempt. Furthermore there is a showcase on Ireland’s Brown Bag Films (responsible for recent Academy Award nominee The Secret of Kells), as well as several animation documentaries and Latvian-American, Signe Baumane’s independent hand-made feature film Rocks In My Pockets. Of course there is much more MIAF has to offer, the best way to see what’s on is to check the website here.


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 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.

MIFF 2013: O Apostolo – The Apostle

14 Aug


By Gabby Easter

A gothic tale of the living dead, lost souls and redemption, The Apostle is a spooky stop-animation with a hint of a twisted Grimm’s fairy tale.

Ramon, voiced by Galician Carlos Blanco, is a second generation thief who escapes from prison, driven by an insatiable thirst for hidden treasure that he hopes will be his way out of his old life. Posing as a pilgrim on the path to Santiago de Compostela, a strange old man leads Ramon awry, promising a good nights feed and a decent rest. Don Cesareo (Xose Manuel Olveira), the creepy village priest, complete with a larger-than-head nose and a Vampiric feel, screams evil and untrustworthy, but Ramon is unaware of the threat until it’s too late. The quiet little town turns out to harbour secrets more sinister than just stolen jewels.

Meanwhile, and yes, it’s a typical ‘meanwhile’ scenario, the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela is on the hunt for some high profile pilgrims who have mysteriously gone missing. Paul Naschy voices the impudent, corrupt archpriest, intent on working his way up to papacy in style and comfort, with a penchant for fine wine and good food.

The characters are caricatures in a somewhat predictable plot, but the suspense, humour and craftily made sets are the redeeming features in the first stop-animation to come out of Spain. The not-so-subtle swings at the Catholic Church, almost entirely made through the Archbishop, are balanced out by heavy themes of redemption and salvation.

Almost three years in the making, and partially financed through Crowdfunding, the dedication and detail put into director Fernando Cortizo’s debut feature film is easily recognised, with a Goya nomination and a steady run of screenings at film festivals across the globe. Despite a shaky plot and the occasional technical mishap, Cortizo has produced a stop-animation that’s a little too spooky for the little ones, but eerie and entertaining enough for an older crowd as well.

Gabby Easter lives in Melbourne and writes for Time Out magazine.

Heaven’s Gate Minute by Minute: 162 of 229

7 Dec

162 of 129

Well, I was right. They shoot the grubby faced man to pieces. Alas, he will never have that bath he so desired. I hang my head and make the sign of the cross, then remember I’m an atheist, then remember I forgot to hang out my washing, then remember that it’s alright because I asked Phil to do it earlier.

As the SGA forces fire at the cabin, Ella rides in on her wagon, guns blazing. A bullet hits the wagon and she is forced to leap from it onto her horse. Good. It was a stupid vehicle anyway. The sound effects of bullets ricocheting is very cartoon like. “Piew…sssh.” I think the sound department may have stolen the effect from the Warner Bros. animation sound library. Yosemite Sam isn’t going to be happy when he learns his copyright has been infringed.


MIAF Day 3 – International Program #8: Abstract Showcase

22 Jun

Word from event organiser, Malcolm Turner, is that MIAF is one of the very few major animation festivals to promote abstract animation, and I tip my hat to him. I have been lucky enough to witness the abstract session three years in a row and it never fails to amaze me. Walking into this session is tantalising because you never know what to expect. There are no rules or criteria to these films; they exist to be out of the ordinary, and those willing to have their mind expanded will thank themselves.

20 Hz (Ruth Jarman, Joe Gerhardt, 2011) – Hypnotising waves and patterns of static. Looks much more appealing than it sounds.

One Second Per Day/ Une Seconde Par Jour (Richard Negre, 2011) – The challenge was set: 1 second of footage, 25 frames per second, for every day of the year. Entertaining from an audience point of view and intriguing from a wannabe-creative point of view in terms of what can be achieved in a set period of time, and how simple and complex one second of film can be.

Strings (Benjamin Ducroz, 2011) – This Australian film has a brilliant flow of colourful vectors to fast-paced music. Miniature film with lasting impact.

Sensology (Michael Gagne, 2010) – This is the kind of film I come to a festival hoping to see. An animated representation of three avant-garde pieces of music. May not be the most original idea but the beauty and pacing of this film is utterly incredible.

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 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.

Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF) – Be There!

21 Jun

By Michael De Martino

From June 19-26 the Melbourne International Animation Festival (MIAF) will be running at ACMI in Federation Square. Over 400 films will be screened at this ever growing animation event. Come and witness animation from all over the world and experience an array of visual and aural styles you never thought possible.

MIAF is my number 1 pick of all the film festivals available to us Victorians. It is easily accessible, tickets are very reasonable (especially the season pass), you are able to meet the filmmakers, and it focuses purely on hand-made cinema: animation, where the possibilities are limitless. There is so much variety that everyone will be able to appreciate certain aspects of it.

Last night I was fortunate enough to attend the Gala Opening screening where we were given a taste of what to expect from the collection of themed sessions. These films ranged from the themed nation – Poland, other international films, some classic UPA films, films from the UK’s Royal College of the Arts, some cut-out films as a part of the themed style, and films from our own back door. If I could judge the rest of this metaphoric book by the cover I witnessed last night, then I’d be saying this is gonna be one damn good book.

With an eclectic assortment of screenings to attend, the one I am most anticipating is the Australia Showcase which will be screened at 4:15pm on Saturday the 25th. Last year’s Australian Showcase blew me away. I was truly astounded at this nation’s ability to create magnificent animation. If you have ever doubted Australia’s artistic abilities, prepare to have your faith regained because animation is where so much of Australia’s talent has been hiding, and I believe it is damn well time that more people realised this. At the end of the Australian session there is a meet & greet where the audience is introduced to the filmmakers. I’ve already got my spot booked!

If you get the chance at all this week you absolutely must make an effort to see at least one screening of this festival. It is one of the only festivals dedicated to animation in the country. You have my word that it will be a memorable experience. These Australian animators need your support and this is the way to show it.

For more information head to the MIAF official website or the ACMI website: