OIAF 2014: Festival Wrap-up and 'Best of the Fest'

Seth's Dominion. Photo taken from the production, courtesy of the NFB.
Sigh. Another festival is in the can. 2014 marks another great year for the Ottawa International Animation Festival as it caps off five days of excellent screenings with booming audiences and ’toons galore. Five great days of festival-going yielded screenings of all five feature films in competition, plus 100 shorts across the competition screenings and special programmes. Attendance seemed up for OAIF, as The ByTowne was consistently packed with anifans at every screening. (And having so many screenings at The ByTowne made the hardest part of the festival trying not to get popcorn at every single screening!) There wasn’t a dud in the bunch, either, which shows that Ottawa really is the best place to see the top tier of animation.

This year’s screenings featured cutting edge and innovative approaches to forms both new and old. The films were very quirky, funny, dark, and strange. The shorts were especially notable, since every short in the competition warranted its place in the programme, for even in the few cases where the story/content was lacking, the form of the film more than capably made it worthwhile. The features were also up this year for OIAF, for although the crop had fewer features (five this year as opposed to eight last year), it nixed the Arjuns and Babeldoms out of the equation. The standout among the features was easily the National Film Board of Canada’s doc Seth’s Dominion (I’ll have a review of that up soon at Point of View), which deservedly won a unanimous prize from the feature film jury. Overall, the festival prizes went to the right films, especially 1000 Plateaus, Lesley the Pony has an A+ Day, and the Public Prize winner We Can’t Live without Cosmos.

The standout film at OIAF, however, comes as a bit of a surprise for me. It’s not a surprise that it’s the best—I’m more surprised that I saw it at all since I usually skip the larger/more mainstream releases at festivals since there’s often a chance to see them at another time. The emphasis on Disney this year, however, plus the buzz from Annecy, drew this interested filmgoer all the way out to the suburbs in the east end of Ottawa—the absence of the World Exchange cinema made this festival a bit harder to manage—for a screening of Disney’s latest short, Feast. Feast is one of Disney’s best shorts and the extended behind-the-scenes talk by director Patrick Osborne offered significant insight into the extensive process that goes into crafting a single short from pitch to production. It’s a magical film and the extra awareness the talk provided allowed one to appreciate it even more. Feast shows that even a studio can be just as cutting edge and creative as the independents at the festival.

It’s on that note, though, that I declare Feast “Best of the Fest” for OIAF 2014. It’s impossible to cap off a list of honorable mentions at ten, though, since the year was so strong.

Without further ado, here are my picks, in alphabetical order, for the top twelve films at the festival:

(Steven Woloshen; Canada)

(Marc Riba & Anna Solanas; Spain)

(Patrick Osborne; USA)

(Christian Larrave; UK)

(Torill Kove; Canada/Norway)

(Ainslie Henderson & Will Anderson; USA)
(Jake Armstrong & Erin Kilkenny; Ireland)

(Stephen Irwin; UK)

(Kasia Nalewajka; UK)

(Einar Baldvin; USA/Iceland)
(Michèle Cournoyer; Canada)

(Konstantin Bronzit; Russia)

Thanks again to all the festival staff, volunteers, filmmakers, publicists, and theatre staff for making this another great year at OIAF!

What are your favourite films from OIAF 2014?