By Morgan Cairns
CALGARY – With a lineup announcement that coincided with Aleister Crowley’s birthday and Friday the 13th, you can bet that 2017 is going to be GIRAF’s spookiest year yet. Presented by Quickdraw Animation, the Giant Incandescent Resonating Animation Festival (abbreviated as GIRAF) will kick off its 13th year on November 23, showcasing the best, the weirdest, and the wildest of animation around the world.
The four-day festival at the end of November, GIRAF will present a variety of animated films, both short and feature length, from around the world. “It can be raw, it can be gross, it can be beautiful; but as long as it’s strong and honest in its story, I think that’s what [we] look for,” notes Program Director Ryan Von Hagen. “GIRAf has set itself distinct from other festivals in being innovative in the film’s techniques, so we’re not scared of weird. We like weird.”
Kicking off the festival with French film Girl Without Hands, this modern take on a Brother Grimm fairy tale pushes the boundaries animation as an artform. “It’s telling a crazy, compelling, beautiful story, but at the same time it’s super abstract and painterly,” says Von Hagen. “It’s so abstract, and morphing, and beautiful, but at the same time you know what’s going on in the story…It’s amazing to see that done and I feel like only animation can really do that”
Preceding this dreamlike film will be a live performance by none other than Calgary’s dreamiest harpist, Jennifer Crighton aka. Hermitess, who has made her own animated projections to accompany the performance.
Rounding out the feature films for this year’s fest will be a selection of films from Japanese animators, including post-apocalyptic Junk Head, and a retrospective of the late animator/director, Satoshi Kon.
A film that took eight years to make, Junk Head is the first-time feature of interior decorator turned filmmaker, Takahide Hori. “He directed, did the story, did the animation, did the character design, as well as the sound design,” mentions Von Hagen. “It took him eight years, but for good reason…This is an example of animation being an artform that can purely come from one creator.”
A contrast to first-time filmmaker Takahide Hori, this year’s retrospective comes from acclaimed Japanese animator Satoshi Kon, featuring two of Kon’s most well regarded films, Perfect Blue and Paprika.
“He’s an amazing animator who is super innovative and imaginative,” notes Von Hagen. “You can see his influences in Hollywood directors like Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky.” Touching on themes of how modern people cope with leading multiple lives, Von Hagen hopes that the films will hit home with attendees. “Private and public, onscreen and offscreen, waking and dreaming, these themes are super relevant in 2017.”
“Paprika deals with waking life vs. dream life, in a somewhat similar theme to The Matrix,” continues Von Hagen, “but where The Matrix is really dark and grim, Paprika is super imaginative and over the top.”
And while the features lineup is impressive this year, if you ask Von Hagen, the short film programming is where GIRAF really shines. “For me it’s the short films, always. To be able to spotlight how strong experimental animation can tell a story.”
With 4 short packages, each with 13 films, to choose from, you can bet there’s going to be something for everyone. Starting off with the Mixtapes, these packages of indie animation are a “smorgasbord of the best animation to come out within the last year,” explains Von Hagen. “It’s a wide variety of styles, all in competition to our jury…It show[s] the strength of short film from around the world.”
And nestled amongst these shorts from around the world, you can expect to see projects from Calgary animators, as well.
“That’s something we mix very well, the animations coming out Calgary do hold their water when mixed with what we consider the best in animation,” adds Production Coordinator Tyler Klein Longmire. “It’s really cool to see stuff that got made in a studio here shown beside a film that’s nominated for an Oscar.”
The third, and one of their most popular packs, is the Late Night shorts package, Dark Side of the Toon. “Not all animation should be seen in daylight,” jokes Von Hagen. “This stuff is maybe darker humour, maybe violent. It has a darker twist.”
And finally, the festival will close with the shorts package Magic, Monsters, and Mysticism, playing off GIRAF’s superstitious 13th year with an occult-themed pack with animation from the 1920s to today.
Whether you’re a practicing animator or a fan of the artform, the GIRAF festival is a way for spectators of all ages to engage with the wacky and wonderful world of animation. “It’s a way to show the community that’s been so great around Quickdraw, who are so obsessed with animation, to show them different types of work that’s going on around the world,” comments Von Hagen.
“It got its start as a way for films coming out of Quickdraw to be shown to people in the community,” adds Longmire. “It’s a nice way to get people engaged in the medium. We find that after GIRAF, people come in wanting to make their own films. It really keeps the cycle going.”
GIRAF will take place November 23-26, with screenings at The Globe Cinema and Emmedia gallery, as well as workshops at Quickdraw Animation. More information can be found at giraffest.caanimation, Emmedia gallery, GIRAF Film Festival, Girl Without Hands, Junk Head, Quickdraw Animation, The Globe Cinema, The Matrix