Tag Archives: festival

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

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?

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:

http://www.miaf.net/

http://www.acmi.net.au/miaf-2011.aspx

MIFF review 2010: Catfish

6 Aug

Photoshop skills

They didn’t fool me. They just told me stuff I didn’t care to question”

I didn’t expect to like Catfish. I certainly didn’t expect to admire it so vigourously. It’s a documentary that starts with a cute premise. After Yaniv, a handsome New York hipster, has a photo of his published in the new York times he receives a paintings reproduction from Abby, a young girl in Michigan. An unorthodox correspondence begins: he emails photos to her, she sends him back a painting. Soon Yaniv makes contact with Abby’s whole family, and he is particularly drawn to her older sister, Megan. With 2 friends in tow, the whole process of virtual connection and a growing infatuation, is documented with care and intimacy.

The thrilling final half follows the group as they make the massive journey from NY to Michigan. The difficult confrontation is handled with a care and dignity we rarely see in tabloid accounts of the dangers of the Internet and anonymity. It’s a documentary with a lot of heart, and the sensitivity shown by the 3 boys, while full of preppy bravado, is very endearing

Still, A big question mark hangs over Catfish. It’s just too good; too perfect. Is it all real? is it all fake? If it’s the former Yaniv and his entourage hit doco gold , and they executed it marvellously. If it’s the latter, it’s still a brilliantly entertaining and insightful synthesis of some pertinent subject matter.

****1/2

MIFF 2010 review: Spine Tingler!: The William Castle Story

29 Jul

A definitive, if slightly by the numbers, account of the king of gimmicks, the master of schlock and all-round Hollywood nice guy, William Castle. Well paced, featuring great clips and guests ((John Waters etc) and making excellent use of the 3d photo thing (which we first saw in ‘the kid stays in the picture) this is a constantly entertaining doco that is well worth viewing by film buffs and those who have missed out on his kooky films.

It was surprising to hear about the close relationship Castle had with some of the hard hitters from the serious side of film making. He worked closely and in parallel with a diverse range of figures: Orson Welles, Hitchcock, Polanski (he owned the rights to “Rosemary’s baby”, a film he was originally slated to direct). He was never as respected as these people, and, much to his chagrin, only ever rised to the top of the b-grade talent pool.

However, he did b-grade like no one else, with gimmicks and screwy technologies (emergo, percepto) that were so fun it didn’t matter if the movies were any good. Electric seats, death by fright insurance, ghost vision glasses, audience poll deciding ending etc. This is a warm and generous account of a much loved showman.

****

http://www.spinetinglermovie.com/

MIFF 2010 Review: The Illusionist

28 Jul
This delightful yet melancholic foray into the music hall world asks the poignant question – does magic really exist?

A quirky, emotionally crafted animation based on an un-produced script by pioneering comedy legend Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle, Monsieur Hulot’s holiday), L’illusionniste whimsically invites us to explore the eccentric personalities of backstage Paris, the kilt-flying Scottish countryside and finally Edinburgh, the capital of all things arty.

mmmm arty

Along the way veteran magician Msr Tatischeff (Tati’s real Russian surname) takes pity on young Alice and magically presents her a new pair of pretty red shoes. She stows away in adoration while the magician trudges wearily from one audience-absented-auditorium to another to keep up his struggled pretence.


He’s aging, his stubborn rabbit won’t cooperate and the new young rock stars get all the glory. It’s the story of disillusionment – as the child grows up into a woman she lets go of all things childish; the magician realises he can’t maintain his illusion of money and success. He’s even pushed to get a secret midnight job at the car wash. This beautiful, disappointed fairytale speaks louder than words as we shift into a new era, leaving us in wonder of the bygone days of red velvet theatre, magical men and naughty white rabbits.
Beverley Callow

MIFF 2010 review: Petition

26 Jul

While the concept of China not treating its less powerful citizens badly may not be a revelation, the footage contained within this film certainly is. Filmed over 12 years, mostly in secret, by amazingly dedicated film-maker Zhao Liang, it follows the fate of a disparate group of Chinese seeking justice in Petition village (picture the ombudsmen’s office crossed with centrelink crossed with train station ticketing terminal and staffed by officious, young men, some teenagers; completely uncaring). Its Kafka-esque, it’s like banging your head against a brick wall and it’s incredibly sad. Continue reading

MIFF 2010 review: The Inventions of Dr Nakamats

26 Jul

Hairdresser: I hope they only show the good bits.
Nakamat: No these people leave all those out. they only show the weird bits.

How right he is -there is no shortage of weird bits in this outstanding doco. A pitch perfect, and hilarious, profile of a prolific Japanese inventor and full time eccentric. It captures what he is brilliantly, but not why he is – very little of his past is discussed, all we know is that he loves his mother and invented a soy sauce pressure pump for her. The director hints at a loneliness in Nakamat’s life, but this is never explicitly drawn out. His awkward interactions with his family and harshness with strangers (the non-adoring variety) indicates that he deals better with objects than people. Despite his outrageous streaks of ego, Nakamat is a charming and very amusing man; there was constant laughter in the crowd, and it was mostly with affection. Stylishly put together and very entertaining, but with a 60 minute running time it leaves you wanting more.

****1/2

MIFF review 2010: Rubber

24 Jul

A lovably malevolent tyre goes on a psycho kinetic rampage through the American outback (he can blow up peoples brains- don’t rubber this guy the wrong way). Engagingly bizarre and playfully self-referential, it features good, campy performances and is nicely shot. Like a good slasher /horror this low-budget production doesn’t overstay it’s welcome- short and not so sweet. my drunken friend tim fell asleep, but he is no critic. Overall a promising debut feature from renowned experimental producer Quentin Dupieux (Mr Oizo). You won’t look at a tyre the same way for a while.
***1/2

MIFF’s a’comin’ (July 22, 2010)

19 May

2010 Melbourne International Film Festival descends on Melbourne in about two months. Too soon to get excited?

They’re currently looking for volunteers (perks include a 13 film mini-pass, closing night party, drugs) and looking to fill various paid positions…I’m tempted to go for assistant ticketing manager, but I think i’d rather just see the films. And dealing with irate men in berets is not my cup of Joe.

No word on who the new artistic director will be to replace departing Richard Moore (who admirably weathered quite a storm of controversy last year). Moore will still be heading the festival in 2010.

Hair twins

Miff site