Ottawa '94 International Animation Festival by Deanna Morse

The Ottawa festival began in 1976 and is held every two years. It began in Ottawa, then moved to Toronto and Hamilton for a few years, and has seemed to permanently return to it's first home. Ottawa is a great city for it - the screening spaces at the National Arts Centre are superb, and the NAC is located right in the heart of downtown - on the edge of the river. There is shopping nearby, a great open air market, government buildings, and the National Gallery of Canada, a truly great contemporary art museum.

I have attended the past several Ottawa festivals, and I always steal away to the National Gallery for a long afternoon. Designed by Helmut Jahn, it is a distinctive and interesting structure, and they have a varied and interesting collection of important contemporary works, including installation art, and works by Oldenburg, Krueger, Warhol, Segal, the Canadian "Group of Seven", Duchamp. For the more traditional, there is the Rideau Street Convent Chapel, reconstructed as a big room in the center of the museum. But back to the festival, where there is always something interesting to do...

Each day brought workshops, screenings, festival competition films, and of course, the Chez Ani - the late night meeting place for meeting other filmmakers. Ellen Besen and Michael Sporn offered interesting workshops on writing for animation film, Softimage demonstrated their TOONZ digital coloring system, which effortlessly inks a series of cels on the computer, and there was a panel on women in animation including Karen Aqua, Maureen Selwood and Janet Perleman. At the animators picnic, there was the traditional pumpkin carving competition.

On the closing night, after I had to leave, there was what I hear was an extravagant closing night party at the National Gallery (described above). The Retrospective and special screenings this year included Cinemascope Classics, Computer Animation, Gerald Potterton, John Bray, Al Sens, African Animation, Ernest Pintoff, Clay Classics, Sybil DelGaudio's three part documentary on women animators, and Australian Animation.

The selection committee spent weeks prescreening entries and selected 94 films for competition. The selection committee was Linda Simensky, Elaine Pain, Otto Adler and Marc Glassman. Linda is currently the president of ASIFA East, and Otto is president of ASIFA Germany. Elaine is an animator and educator, Marc is a programmer and critic. The jury was all comprised of animators: Bhimsain from India, Paul Driessen of Holland and Canada, Candy Kugel from New York, and Borijov Dovnikovic of Zagreb. Their award winning selections included: The Mighty River by Frederick Back, The Wrong Trousers by Nick Park, Hotel Narcis by Evert DeBeijer, Revolver by Jonas Odell, Stig Bergquist, Lars Ohlson and Martti Ekstrand, Altered Ego by Ange Palethorpe, The Monk and the Fish by Michael Dudok De Wit, Fight da Faida by Vincenzo Gioanola, Ah Pook is Here by Phillip Hunt, MTV by Koji Morimoto, Bob's Birthday by Allison Snowden and David Fine, The Janitor by Vanessa Schwartz and The Village by Mark Baker.

They gave a special award to Janet Perlman for her campy film that featured big-eyed kids and kittens and troll dolls: the bad taste award for My Favorite Things that I Love. Janet's flyers promoting the film included this tag line, "Great value! Only four minutes long, seems like an hour!" There were several recruiters at Ottawa this year, which is a new twist from festivals in the past. Warner Brothers Feature Animation was on site, and sponsored the animator's picnic. Cinar of Canada sponsored the opening night party. Disney had a double booth which showcased cels and clips of their features in progress, and were actively recruiting, targeting Canadian animators. Pixar (commercial division) had a representative who was speaking with recent animation graduates. Other groups recruiting: Nelvana, Amblin Animation, Industrial Light and Magic.

With the informal opportunities for interacting at the festival, it was easy to meet and chat with these industry representatives. Overall, the quality of the films was extremely high this year. There was a great variety of styles and techniques, and the competition programs were challenging and entertaining. Several of us noted that this was one of the best recent years for the competition entries. There were moving dramas, like the Mighty River and Barry Purves astonishing realistic puppet animation of the Verdi's Rigoletto Opera. Several pieces were wonderfully funny, like the Wrong Trousers, Bob's Birthday, and Joe Murray's Rocko's Modern Life: Jetstream. There were a few surreal entries that stretched the audiences perceptions: Revolver, Ah Pook is Here and Russian animator Andrej Svislotsky's Hypnerotomahia. There were fresh graphic styles in Not Without My Handbag, and Chris Mendham's Blags. There were a number of skillful character animation shorts, such as Stephen Palmer's Blindscape. Each evening was a screening treat.

From my experience, Ottawa is the best festival for animators to attend. It is still fairly small, informal, and there are many opportunities to meet and chat with other animators. It's a friendly festival - it's easy to meet new people, and there are opportunities, through the Chez Ani, to show your work, if you did not get juried into the festival. Which is likely, as I think this year there were 900 entries!

It's an inexpensive festival, too. For ASIFA members, the full pass was just a little over $100. which includes five days of screenings, discussions, and parties. And should you tire of the moving image... there's the National Gallery, or a cozy cappuccino joint nearby!