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Ottawa International Animation Festival 2009: Day 5: Best of the Fest

OIAF is a huge event, with lots of activities in numerous venues. As the festival came to a close on Sunday night, it was a pleasure to be able to sink down into the seats of the ByTowne Theatre and watch the Best of the Fest – the award-winning animation shorts.

The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9!

OIAF is a huge event, with lots of activities in numerous venues. As the festival came to a close on Sunday night, it was a pleasure to be able to sink down into the seats of the ByTowne Theatre and watch the Best of the Fest – the award-winning animation shorts.

In my humble opinion, the quality of the animated entries surpassed 2008. Perhaps it is the passion and vision of young student filmmakers that freshened the fare.

The Adobe Prize for Best High School Animation was awarded to Did U See That? by Yuri Rhee, Ha Jung Kim, Paul Kim and Hyun Jung Lee, Korea Animation High School, South Korea. The black-and-white lines of this animation were simple and the story was too – about a young boy haunted by the appearance of a menacing sea turtle and flying hogs. The teen goes to the authorities to report what he’s seen, and is promptly locked up in the loony bin. However, his psychiatrist soon discovers that pigs do fly.

The Best Undergraduate Animation prize went The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9! directed by Jake Armstrong, School of Visual Arts, USA. This short had real comic-book space adventure sensibilities in its design and storytelling. It was also an engaging shaggy-dog story, with the shaggy dog being a goggle-eyed alien monster instead of a mutt.

The Best Graduate Animation award was given to Lebensader, directed by Angela Steffen, Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemburg, Germany. This beautifully rendered animation makes bold use of brilliant, flowing colors as a child regards a leaf and witnesses the interconnection of all living things. The animation design has strong kinship Canadian native art styles – simple at first glance but increasingly complex as the eye takes in all the nuances of the presentation.

Laska (Chick) by Michal Socha, Poland, won the HIT Entertainment Grand Prize for Best Student Animation. This is a fascinating, weird and thought-provoking animated short that uses stylized figures, shapes and movement to illustrate universal themes. Sigmund Freud postulated that all human beings are born with a natural tendency to satisfy his or her biological needs for food, shelter and sex. Chick ponders to what extreme humans are willing to go to satisfy that craving.

The Best Music Video award went to Nullsleep Dirty ROM Dance Mix by Stieg Retlin, USA. Total flashback… this animation recalled early video games both in its sound and imagery. The colors were bright and the visuals noisy. However, the Best Experimental/Abstract Animation award was given to Peripetics, directed by Jamie Raap and Henrik Mauler, UK, a 3D heart-stopper that presents remarkable animated sculpted visuals.

Best Narrative Short was awarded to Please Say Something, directed by David OReilly, Ireland and Germany. This Krazy Kat-and-mouse story engages viewers in a twisted story of abusive love even as it comments on the creative process. Its black-and-white computer-animated world is given rare color by the cat’s treasured yellow kerchief. The mouse’s footfalls are strange clicks that seem to signal danger. Because the mouse can write whatever he pleases, including rewriting personal history, he exerts complete control over the vulnerable cat. The design is black-and-white, but the storytelling is not.

Le Tiroir et le Corbeau (The Drawer and The Crow) by Frédérick Tremblay, Canada, which won the Canadian Film Institute Award for Best Canadian Animation, is another short that explores the creative process and uses color to emphasize its storytelling. At first, the stop-motion animation puppetry appears somewhat rough, but it’s amazing how quickly unblinking eyes begin to emote. The palette in this animation moves from stark white to color to deadly black, and the metamorphosis reflects the void in the male puppet’s personal life as well as his artistic soul.

Madagascar, carnet de voyage (

Madagascar, A Journal Diary

Madagascar, A Journal Diary

) by Bastien Dubois, France, took home three prizes in all – Grand Prize for Best Commissioned Animation, Best Television Animation for Adults and The National Film Board of Canada Public Prize. This exceptional animation uses a variety of illustration techniques to bring a traveler’s sketching journal to life. The images flow from page to page – sometimes pencil roughs, sometimes scrapbook style, sometimes fully painted – but the fullness of the places and people being visited is fully realized.

The Nelvana Grand Prize for Best Independent Short Animation was awarded to Kaasündinud Kohustused (Inherent Obligations) by Rao Heidmets, Estonia. This animation offered satiric commentary on television – reality TV in particular – and its effects on addicted viewers. The main male character is so obsessed with the sexy females being spit out at him by the television set that the fashionista women in his life keep walking out. This is a peculiar yet distinctive piece – and a fitting cautionary tale about watching life instead of living it.

Janet Hetherington is a writer and cartoonist who is living life and sharing a studio on Ottawa with artist Ronn Sutton and a ginger cat, Heidi.

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