To Be or Not To Be An ASIFA-Sanctioned Festival
Surving Without ASIFA?
At this time, I believe the Ottawa festival could easily survive without ASIFA, and this should be of grave concern to the board. Since Ottawa 88, entry and sponsorship levels have increased each year. While ASIFA certainly assisted Ottawa in its early years, being a sanctioned festival has not played a significant role in these increases. It is doubtful that either of these components will be affected if Ottawa loses ASIFA's approval. In a time of drastic government cuts to the cultural sector, the state of the industry more than anything else determines the success or failure of the festival. If Ottawa is now considered one of the top animation festivals in the world, thanks should go to its staff and volunteers; to the North American companies who have supported us; to the few remaining government supporters who, in the face of massive cuts, continue to acknowledge the national and local importance of the festival; not to ASIFA.
Despite these complaints, the relationship between ASIFA and Ottawa carries a long history, and it would be foolish to cut these ties without first attempting to mend them. In response to these problems, Ottawa organizers have come up with some alternatives.
For an ASIFA board member (International or Canadian) to receive free accommodations and/or passes, they will have to either find a sponsor to cover their costs, or work for the festival. This work could include curating and organizing retrospectives and/or workshops, or simply working as a staff member during the festival. Secondly, festival directors must have a say (and vote) in the creation or revision of festival rules from the beginning. The ASIFA board is simply not equipped to fully understand the structures, problems and contexts that are unique to each event. Finally, the ASIFA-International board would do well to break up the "old boys' club." This "club" has increasingly alienated the younger generation by not better informing and involving them in the ASIFA process. Most of us have no idea how one becomes elected to the board, let alone when actual meetings occur. The medium is becoming increasingly dominated by a younger generation whose concerns are not being adequately represented. If ASIFA is to be of any service, it must reflect this new generation.
These are merely a few suggestions based on my perspectives from the Ottawa festival, I am certain that there are other stories and suggestions. To ensure that these words expand beyond the screen, it is essential that a dialogue be establishedÏamong ASIFA members and interested parties to discuss the future of this association. Ottawa organizers were not overly enthused about creating a more corporate festival, but we had little choice. While other festivals can seemingly do without corporate support (e.g., Zagreb), Ottawa exists in a completely different geopolitical context. If we are to remain the most relevant animation festival in North America, we must reflect both the artistic and industrial nature of this medium. Like it or not, animation consists of art and industry, to ignore one is to deny the entire history of animation.
As we approach the end of the century, there is great excitement about the variety of new avenues open to animation. But whether ASIFA will catch up depends on its ability to escape from its 1960s ideals, break free from its bureaucratic tunnel vision, and evolve into a more active, assertive association that truly reflects the diversity of this complex and always changing world. It also depends on you.
Chris Robinson is Executive Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival and the International Student Animation Festival of Ottawa, which will take place in September 1997. In addition to writing articles on film and animation, Robinson organizes a bi-weekly series of underground film screenings in Ottawa.
Surving Without ASIFA?