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Quickdraw Animation Society high-fives the great women animators at GIRAF animation festival

Thursday 19th, November 2015 / 04:06
By B. Simm

GIRAFCALGARY — Since 2005 the Giant Incandescent Resonating Animation Festival [GIRAF] has been showcasing and celebrating independent and experiment animators from around the globe. Once again, wonderful original works come floating to Calgary and will be shown at the Globe Cinema and the offices of the Quickdraw Animation Society from Thursday Nov. 26 to Sunday, Nov. 29. Peter Hemminger, Quickdraw’s executive director, provides a glimpse into what this fun little fest is all about this year.

With over 1,000 submissions from 65 countries, Hemminger and Laura Leif, Quickdraw’s programming director, have had their work cut out for them zooming in and curating the four-day event. Hemminger explains what that frontend process is like.

“The amount of animation out there is staggering. There’s stuff out that pushes boundaries in certain ways, whether it’s to do with the technique, something to do with the content, or just something to do with why we can’t explain why we’re excited about it. So when you’re going through 1,000 films and narrowing it down to 50 shorts you want to show, you can find the stuff you think is really inspiring. The goal is to put together a festival that showcases those inspiring works but also so it’s like an event for the audience. It’s not like you’re just coming and watching a movie, we’re having guest musicians, and workshops where you can actually learn about animation.”

One of the festivals highlights is Lyle Pisio, a local animator who just finished a 10-part series called Hakius where each film is done with a local musician. He collaborated with Peter Moller, Chantal Vitalis, Chad VabGaalen and Chris Dadge for that series. Pisio also played in an experimental jazz band, called the Street of Crocodiles, and at the request of GIRAF they’re going to reform and perform as part of that screening.

Another event Hemminger is particularly pleased to have is a documentary and a selection of films by the Quay Brothers curated by director Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight, Interstellar). Since the ‘70s the Quays have been influential stop-motion animators most well known for Street of Crocodiles (where Pisio got the name of his band from) and is often cited as one of the best animated films of all time.

While Hemminger notes that having Christopher Nolan’s name attached to a screening is “probably the biggest thing we’re ever going to do as a festival,” he’s also geared up to show the work of Heather Kai Smith, an illustrator-musician originally from Calgary now based in Vancouver at Emily Carr.

Poster: Courtesy of GIRAF

Poster: Courtesy of GIRAF

“Last summer she did this series at Quickdraw called Great Women Animators, which were lectures and screenings on women animators who have always been a part of animation but have always been ignored. It’s just the way the industry kind of went. In the early days of animation, Disney, for instance, would explicitly only have women paint in cels (preparation work). That was all you could do for a woman’s job. Disney didn’t think women were actually qualified to draw anything or lead any of the projects. So they were more at the fringes or behind the scenes and had to be working very independently.”

One would think that by the time Judy Chicago’s feminist statement revolutionized the art world in the late ‘70s with her provocative The Dinner Party, those unaccommodating wilderness days for female animators would have been a distant memory.

“You would think that,” says Hemminger in full agreement. “But there weren’t really a ton of people talking about this even as of last year. The weirdest thing about this, since Heather did that series she put together a zine and a blog. As soon as that blog came out, every online animation publication wrote an article about it and these great women animators. Then festivals started having more programing about women animators and they started approaching Heather about this stuff. I think Ottawa this year commissioned a series of short films about women in animation throughout history. Whether that’s a coincidence or not, I’m not sure… But I think there’s this thing that you don’t notice you’re not talking about something until you notice others are talking about it. The timing Heather had for this was exactly the right time people noticed that this was something worth exploring.”

Catch the GIRAF animation festival at the Globe Cinema and the Quickdraw Animation Society’s offices Nov. 26-29.

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