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Quirky, Unique and Compelling: OIAF 2019 is More than Just About Films

From September 25-29, Ottawa plays host to kindred spirits, collaborators and experts in all things animated, sharing tall tales and lots of good Canadian ale.


The Ottawa International Animation Festival is known for its quirky, iconoclastic films. But it’s so much more than that; it’s a coming together of people who love all things animation; a schmooze fest; and a friends from across the globe hanging together fest. It’s a meet the hero filmmakers, sharing stories of courage in the face of tremendous rejection fest… and a finding kindred spirits and jump-starting collaborations fest.

Watching a film you never would have considered possible? And wondering, “Where do the filmmakers get these stories? How do they come up with this stuff?” From personal experience? Did they overhear these things on a bus? Maybe they secretly recorded a red-hot family holiday. Well, at the Ottawa Festival, you can find out. The festival devotes considerable effort, and resources, to inviting filmmakers with work in competition; After each competition screening, they assemble with attendees for a set of moderated discussion sessions, providing insight and information about their work. These Meet the Filmmakers sessions offer an intimate opportunity to follow wherever your curiosity takes you. Thoughts, stories, hard earned lessons, technical discoveries and inventions… it’s all here waiting to be shared. These filmmakers have spirit and determination in spades. Tap into it. Festival artistic director Chris Robinson moderates these must attend forums, bringing his own vast knowledge of animation history and myth, along with his wry and probing sense of humor. Free with a festival pass.

All watched out? When it comes to fun, heavy comfort food and good Canadian ale, nothing beats the festival’s many parties and annual picnic, complete with famous pumpkin carving contest. Not your ordinary picnic with polite baskets of cheese and checkered tablecloths, the Ottawa Festival’s picnic is housed under a huge tent in centuries old Strathcona Park by the Rideau River. Dating back to 1976, the annual Friday afternoon outing shares its unique space with local Canadian wildlife - geese, beavers, muskrat - so keep a close eye on your beer.

According to Robison, the picnic is the signature event of OIAF. “We pretty much shut the festival down for a few hours... and it's a perfect chance for everyone to be together, to meet some new people... to get out of the dark screening spaces, to get away from all the business talk... and to just chill outdoors and enjoy being alive! ”

On the programming side, highlighting this year’s jam-packed schedule are three masterclasses, five retrospectives, and seven special screenings. These include:

The Tales of Lizzy Hobbs

Lizzy Hobbs, who created this year’s festival signal film, is also doing a retrospective screening of her very weird, playful, and technically intriguing indie films. Curious about animating typewriters? Bathroom tiles? She’s got it covered.

Robinson shared his thoughts on her selection: “She's somebody I've always loved because she always deals with these very weird, but true periods in history, always using interesting techniques.”

The Mischievous Musings of Piotr Bosacki

Piotr Bosacki presents a selection of odd but engagingly intimate works. Mixing physics lectures with rants, historical figures with goblins, Bosacki’s work terrifies, frustrates, confuses, but always intrigues.

According to Robinson, “It's like you're in a university class. But it also sounds like some rantings from a guy in his room because it's very intimately recorded. He's talking very close to the mic. It's dealing with physics, it's personal, it's absurd, it will frustrate the hell out of people. Yeah, it's like some professor gone mad... recording himself in his basement or something.”

Love Is Stronger Than Witchcraft: The Films of Lei Lei

This showcase spotlights the engaging world of Chinese animator Lei Lei’s expressive, kaleidoscopic, yet oddly touching films.

Checking in on the Masterclasses, this year’s lineup yields Lizzy Hobbs, Lei Lei, and Faiyaz Jafri.

Elizabeth Hobbs: Under the Rostrum 

Hobbs introduces us to her unconventional materials, methods, and techniques which generate the final images brought together under the rostrum camera installed in her bathroom at home. An engaging and thought-provoking speaker, Hobbs’ masterclass is sure to get the indie juices roiling.

Memory Clash: A Masterclass with Lei Lei 

Cracking open his process for all to see, Lei Lei presents the wide variety of ready-made objects he uses and shows us how he animates and assembles them in order to investigate history, family, and personal identity.

There are seven special screenings this year.

Eleven Moving Moments With the NFB: Volumes 1 & 2

Compiled by filmmaker Donald McWilliams, these two programs showcase the multi-cultural nature of the NFB and Canada, presenting the vision of founding filmmakers John Grierson, Norman McLaren, and René Jodoin, who wanted the NFB to be a studio that would both serve the public interest and be a place where artists could realize their artistic visions.

Animation Takes a Drive

“I put together a program about cars in animation,” Robinson shares about the program. “I just noticed how over the years we showed a lot of films dealing with driving and I took a specific slant of how it fucks us all up. So, like Nighthawk, which we showed a few years ago with the drunken badger. And Skip Battaglia's Car Crash Opera. We've got an old film Flip the Frog from Halas and Batchelor. A rare Estonian film from the 70s. We have Peter Foldes, who did the NFB film Hunger. We found some pretty rare stuff along the way, but it's really just dealing with the fallout. Like how we've idealized this car thing, how it's gonna change the world, make our lives easier… yeah.”

Intrigued by VR? Check out the Virtual Reality competition. Come young, come all… looking to break into children’s animation? Find your way over to preschool and middle school competitions. Looking to get an education in animation? Get a taste of what’s on offer at the Animation Exposé Fair.

The Shapes of Creativity: Yoga and Mindfulness daily workshops begin early, but if you’re up for it, this is a great way to start the day.

Animating for Change is a hands-on animation workshop with instructors Tina Le Moine and Mira Olah, who bring the UN's sustainability goals to life. Aimed at all ages and skill levels, this class helps participants create a one-minute animated video that puts your sustainability ideas out into the world.

Cartoon Network is hosting a special screening of Steven Universe and creator Rebecca Sugar will be coming.

For those hungering for a little classic indie history, rustle up some friends and come watch Animation Outlaws, a Spike & Mike special screening. Spike & Mike brought together many of the previous generations’ best independent animators: John Lasseter, Peter Lord, Bill Plympton and Mike Judge. This screening looks back with fond memories.

Looking for industry advice on Getting and Keeping the Perfect Gig? This Animation Exposé panel brings together top recruiters, industry animators, and a Q & A to get you absolutely current on portfolios, networking, interning, interviews and much more.

As always, the Ottawa International Animation Festival is a festival for everyone, tapping into all of your senses, sending you home smarter, sharper, and pitching fresh ideas!