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International festival explores animation as art

By Jake Bews, November 17 2015 —

Humanity has had a fascination with preserving what they see in drawings for centuries. This led us to moving pictures, adding motion to art to create animation. As a medium, animation has grown increasingly popular as a method of both preservation and exploration.

GIRAF, Calgary’s international animation festival, has celebrated all types of animation for the past 11 years. From Nov. 26–29, GIRAF will show films from all over the world at the Globe Cinema, Quickdraw Animation Society and Broken City.

Quickdraw executive director Peter Hemminger says he and other members of the Quickdraw film selection board chose this year’s selection of 75 films out of nearly 1,000 submissions from 65 countries.

“We pick the ones we get excited about,” Hemminger says. “It’s a very small percentage of the films that get submitted that we actually book, but we are genuinely in love with all these films.”

GIRAF‘s opening gala on Nov. 26 showcases films that struck a chord with the programmers, including World of Tomorrow, a new film by popular animator Don Hertzfeldt, best known for his hand-drawn, Oscar-nominated stick-figure short, Rejected.

“[World of Tomorrow] is about this kid who’s visited by her future self, who comes back in a machine that takes her into the future,” Hemminger explains. “It has some incredibly thoughtful things about the meaning of life, but it also has these ridiculous, stupid, crass jokes along the way.”

Hemminger is excited for many of the event’s other features, including the iconic Japanese anime film Ghost in the Shell, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Another particularly interesting piece is Tarboz, a solo project by eccentric local muscian Chad VanGaalen. The science-fiction short is a 25-minute-long exploration of space and time, centred around an intergalactic trash collector.

“This is going to be the first time it’ll be shown in front of an audience, so I’m really, really excited to see how people react to it,” Hemminger says.

In addition to screenings, the festival offers workshops in a few less-used animated mediums. Local artist Lindsay Sorrell will be holding a workshop on creating three-dimension DIY-holograms.

One of GIRAF’s most popular events is the gala’s after-party, where Quickdraw opens up their downtown studios and invites fans to play classic video games on big screens.

A common misconception surrounding animated media is that it’s only for children. But most screenings at GIRAF are licensed events, so they’re for adults only. Hemminger says this was intentional, adding that Quickdraw plans to hold a separate, more youth-oriented event in the future.

“We’re focusing on making it super clear that this is animation that’s meant to be viewed as art,” Hemminger says. “Art is the word I want to use, because not all of it is mature and not all of it is sophisticated. It’s not the kid’s cartoons that people think of all the time.”

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