FILM FESTIVAL REPORT – OIAF 2019

Another year, another festival gone by. Ever since 2013, I’ve been attending the Ottawa International Animation Festival every consecutive year; and I honestly hope that this trend won’t stop anytime soon. What makes the OIAF such a special festival, is it’s unfiltered lens on art and the social-political climate. Unlike the Toronto International Film Festival, or even in some regards the Fantasia Film Festival – which focus solely on distribution deals, premieres, and glitz and glamour – the OIAF is an experience that’s completely different from the rest of the crowd. The selection of film’s never follows a direct political agenda, avoiding the all too PC film docket from other major festivals. 

As much as I enjoy Fantasia and TIFF, the OIAF is something truly special, where a large community of underrepresented artists all come together, for a five day celebration of binge-drinking, binge-watching, and binge-partying. Even with TAC, where millions of dollars are shared between distributors and content-creators, the environment is still relaxed; boat cruise included. Now that we have reached the end of the decade, I gotta say that the number of short films this year that really connected with me, was deeply lacking. In fact, the large majority of films produced this year from other festivals, were genuinely lacking an artistic punch. Thankfully, unlike the countless other festivals I went to this year, there’s always a few beautifully crafted pieces that screen every year. Here are my favorite short films from this year’s festival; divided into different sections based on quality! 

THE MASTERWORKS

  • I’ve been a fan of Theodore Ushev’s filmography since the very beginning of my initial interest in the animation medium, and The Physics of Sorrow is another great addition to his extensive assortment of animated masterpieces. As an individual who is currently living through a time of economic and political hardships, it’s hard not to see the direct comparisons of Ushev’s adapted immigrant story with my own demographic; the generation that started fighting back for the rights of life and lost privileges. An exploding time capsule of nostalgia, memory, and a failed generation; The Physics of Sorrow is a bewildering enigma of forgotten cohorts and relived trauma. Beautifully engraved in encaustic painting, Ushev’s latest will not be forgotten anytime soon. 
  • What makes Ottawa such a diverse place in terms of its artistic and diverse influences, are the artists who consume the city’s culture. Chris Dainty is a familiar face in Ottawa’s distinct art cannon, and his latest film Shannon Amen is an emotionally devastating portrait of an artist, who unfortunately left us too soon. The film is played as gentle swansong, consumed by real-life of video footage, writings, and audio clippings from the late Shannon Jamieson. This personal undertaking of pain and agonizing artistic passion may just be Dainty’s ultimate magnum opus. 
  • Hypnotic, transcendent, and dirty, Tomek Popakul’s Acid Rain is a cautionary tale of reckless youth; a journey of self-identity and intoxicated human relations. From the vibrant designs, to the ear-worm score, the film never fails in tugging the viewer into an experience of hellish proportions. Perfectly paced and disturbingly haunting, this animated trip will leave plenty of everlasting thrills and chills. 
  • An apocalyptic masturbatory fantasy, Ivan Li’s exemplary Gaspar Noé -inspired incel shit-post is a wondrous short absorbed by bizarre innuendos. The most hilarious thing about Finding Uranus however, is a situation that actually happened prior to my first initial viewing of the film. I was talking with Ivan, and saw that he had a box of tissues in hand. I thought Finding Uranus was going to be an emotional film; a dense personal exploration of self-love. I clearly remember telling him that it was okay to have a mental breakdown in theater. Then the film screened, and I felt like a total dunce. Ivan, if you’re reading this right now…. you got me real good! 
  • Felipe de Poi Tamargo is back for another round of satirical ingenuity, with the thankful aid of Simeon Kondev. Gunno is a perfect commissioned film; stacked with one liners, abstract character designs, and a quotable sense of humor. It’s perfect in every sense of the word, from it’s set up to it’s hilarious execution!
  • Just like Gunno, The Beatles ‘Glass Onion’ is another perfect commissioned film. Utilizing references from the bands extensive decade-sprawling discography, and multimedia techniques, the end result is an artful collage of toe-tapping entertainment. John, Ringo, Paul, and George would be astonished by this film!
  • Dahee Jeong is a filmmaker that consistently intrigues me, solely based on her philosophical theories, which translate perfectly into her mesmerizing films. Movements is no exception. What might just be her most accessible film to date, her latest work is an entertaining riot, that manages to add insight and humor towards a subject that’s layers deep in pensive thought. 

INNOVATIVE CREATIONS

  • Sean Buckelew’s sub-two minute narrative short I’m Not A Robot is an insanely hyper-bolic discussion starter, that takes the basic principle of internet captchas, and turns the subject over it’s head with topics relating to humanitarian ethics and the evolution of becoming a good Samaritan. I’m Not A Robot was honestly a genius way to open this year’s festival! Not only does it perfectly encapsulates the human condition of our current era, but it’s surprisingly darkly comedic. Also, we’re probably never going get a 9/11 joke this fucking clever ever again. 
  • I’m a fan of twisty, simplistic head scratchers, and The Levers really did it for me. While it’s not necessarily the most beautifully constructed film from this year’s selection, the morals and crooked actions presented, make for some brilliant discourse. It’s first and foremost a tale about greed and corruption; the lack of humanitarian principles during a time of economic susceptibility.  
  • Mowb was easily my favorite virtual reality film in competition from this year’s selection. As a tender tale of motherhood, Mowb retreads some familiar territory without breaking a sweat. It’s earnest and adorable, where even the most unimpressed of viewers will leave the film with a sense of importance behind acts of genuine parenting. 
  • Teofrastus may just go down as OIAF 2019’s sleep hit. Emotionally nuanced and affable, this cold war anecdote is one that’s absorbed by it’s clever narrative and gorgeous stop-frame animation. Nukufilm, since 1957, has been killing the surrounding competition with their motivated platform for meticulous storytelling. Teofrastus is no exception, and may just be one of the studio’s best films to be released this decade. 
  • Erodium Thunk is another great addition to Winston Hacking’s psychedelic collage collection. Just like his music video ‘Post Requisite’, which screened at last year’s festival, Erodium Thunk is a wildly unpredictable joy ride of 80’s nostalgia and mass consumerism. The meticulous art behind collage has never been this inventive and wild!    

OTHER WORTHY MENTIONS

Even if 2019 was a bit of a slump in terms of its delivery of quality films, there’s still plenty more shorts worth mentioning! My Best Friend ‘Explodes’ ‘Rewinds’ ‘End’ were great additions to the at-times emotionally dense short film competitions. Post was a dazzling look at the worldwide history of stamps. WildAid ‘Hankograph’ was an informative PSA regarding ivory-produced hankos. Annihilation Song was a legitimate musical banger; with swarming pelican’s and creepy Uber drivers included. Sonolumin was enchanting experimentation of light and sound. Dolphin Poem was an adorable Adult Swim short with a hilarious final punchline. Daylight was an incredible vapor-wave inspired cinematic hike. Gymnasia was an effectively creepy virtual reality short. Girl in the Hallway is an important think-piece that advocates silence being a form of permanent violence. Last, but certainly not least, The Flounder directed by Lizzy Hobbs, was a tense adaptation of a classic cautionary fairy tale! 

The Ottawa International Animation Festival is just as refreshing and inventive as it was since the beginning of the 2010’s! The venues might have changed, and some previous patrons have already passed on, but the energy and spirit lives on forever! See you in 2020 everybody!

The start of a new decade for animation is just around the corner! 

Picture Taken From APT 613

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