Ottawa International Animation Festival 2008

This week was mostly taken up watching cartoons at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. In no particular order, here are a few of the things I noticed:

The Depose of Bolskivoi Hovhannes is a film about sheep (enough said), by Will Inrig, from Canterbury High School here in Ottawa! It even won an award and got notice on the CBC.

[Image from Sita Sings the Blues by Nina Paley, from]My favourite one was Sita Sings the Blues, partly because it reminds me of my girlfriend's cat and an Indian Rajput style painting she has on the wall. It's very unusual in that it uses music mostly from 1929 for the singing parts, and that actually fits in with both the plot and the emotions of the main character. Okay, admittedly most of the blues tunes are about broken love, so the fit isn't that hard. The use of different animation styles (Rajput, silhouette, modern pencil line, Flash vector graphics) also was fun and even had a purpose. It's also amazingly done by just one woman, Nina Paley. Nice to see that my prediction about people making their own movies in the future in an essay for my 1985 anthropology class came true! More details about this enjoyable feature film are at and

[Biggar town sign as of August 2008]I was surprised by People from The Dark Years 'Bates' when they described the suicide of a depression era family between Biggar and Perdue Saskatchewan. I had just been there a month previous, taken photos of the Biggar sign and stopped for an afternoon visit with someone in Perdue. Even Wilkie came up in both movie and family history. That made for quite an eerie feeling. More on The Dark Years series at

I met Chris again, the teacher, with a guitar, from middle America. Just had time to say hi.

This year I managed to see all the entries in the schools competition (thanks for showing them), and it was again an opportunity to see stuff that was fresh and not yet flattened by experience. Supinfocom had some amazingly professional 3D animation in the schools contest, but only got an honourable mention.

Even the abstract animation was watchable this year. The animated graffiti on the wall in Blu's Muto was nifty.

I did go to the book signing for Animation Unleashed: 100 Principles Every Animator, Comic Book Writer, Filmmaker, Video Artist, and Game Developer Should Know and bought a copy. I had a nice chat with Ellen Besen there, though unfortunately she wasn't doing any story analysis workshops in the festival. But I have a quite enjoyably written and illustrated (by Bryce Hallett) book to make up for that! Looking at the first few chapters reveals an unusually friendly text (the copious illustrations complement the words, and are indeed needed in a book where graphics is a big topic). So after reading the book, I'll know what to look for when I see a movie or cartoon.

PES's Western Spaghetti was as amazing as his earlier Game Over which recreated classic video games with kitchen utensils. I'd never think of using red round pincushions as tomatos, or bubble wrap foaming in a pot to simulate boiling water.

Both I and the public agreed that This Way Up by Smith and Foulkes was good. Story telling, silliness and hell combined well in this undertaker's trial.

Finally, I liked the dramatic tension that strung itself through The Swimming Lesson. The jury of children did too.

- Alex

Copyright © 2008 by Alexander G. M. Smith.