OIAF: Canadian Showcase

Big Mouth. Photo taken from the production, courtesy of the NFB.

This year's Canadian showcase at the Ottawa International Film Festival spotlights a wealth of visually arresting works from our national cinema. The annual programme makes for a great showcase for the National Film Board of Canada once again, as the NFB produced five of the ten shorts in the programme, which are arguably among the strongest films tier of the programme. One NFB short, Big Mouth (8:16), got a strong review here on Cinemablographer back when I saw it at WSFF. I liked the film even better this time around since my taste for it wasn't soured by Snow Canon, the film that followed it at WSFF. Directed by Andrea Dorfman in a colorful and kid-friendly array of quirky cut-outs, Big Mouth is sure to excite the kid in all of us.

Among the more aesthetically ambitious and noteworthy NFB films is Here and the Great Elsewhere (14:25), directed by Michèle Lemieux, which makes a smart and piercing story through impressions of a pin board. Also featuring unique animation from the NFB lineup is Hothouse 7 'Sick' (1:00), which is one of the few animated films I've seen that strings life together through yarn and needlework. The best NFB offering in the programme, however, is the breathtaking paint-on-glass piece MacPherson (10:51).Directed by Martine Chartrand, MacPherson is a lovely retelling of the friendship between poet Felix Leclerc and Jamaican chemical engineer and jazz fiend Frank MacPherson, which lead Leclerc to write a song in tribute of his friend. The touching sense of nostalgia created by the music is deepened by the blue hue of the film's beautiful visuals.
MacPherson. Photo taken from the production, courtesy of the NFB

Outside the output of Canada's cinematic superpower, the Canadian Showcase features five films from what we may playfully dub the ROC. Festivalgoers will find some high quality Canuck fare from animators working across the land. For example, the Canadian showcase begins with Title Sequence for the Shape of Rex (3:22). As the title suggests, this short is actually the introductory sequence of an upcoming feature. The colorful credits provide a good opener for the programme and they'll surely have viewers anticipating more.

One film that is particularly worth noting in the Canadian context is C'est la vie: The Chris J. Melnychuk Story (7:00). Directed by a whopping total of nineteen animators from Calgary's Quickdraw Animation, C'est la vie is an intimate portrait of award-winning animator Chris Melnychuck and his battle with tongue cancer. This sentimental tribute is a poignant story of how one can find a voice through arts like animation.
The Country of Wolves
Most powerful among the rest of the Canadian content, however, is Neil Christopher's The Country of Wolves (Amaqqut Nunaat, 11:37). A rare and thrilling piece of cinema to come out of Nunavut, The Country of Wolves is an evocative story of two brothers who are out hunting on the sea and find themselves hunted by carnivorous wolves when they are stranded among the ice flows. With a powerful, folkloric visual style and an intriguing voiceover that recalls this year's TIFF film Frost, The Country of Wolves is a remarkable slice of Canadiana that honors the rich storytelling of our nation's indigenous culture.

The Canadian showcase screens again on Friday, Sept. 21 at 3:00pm at Arts Court Theatre.

For more info on the Ottawa International Animation Festival, please visit www.animationfestival.ca