ASIFA website and BAF 2010 review

22 Nov 2010

Despite only joining Asifa UK last year, we’ve become loyal advocates of the wonderful work that they do to promote the animation industry both here and abroad. As a result we will soon be making their brand new, very shiny website where you can find out the latest animation news, meet other similarly afflicted people, find jobs etc.

Until then, I shall leave you with this article that I wrote for the quarterly magazine 'Dope Sheet' summarizing my top bits of last week’s Bradford Animation Festival, and a recommendation to subscribe to Asifa UK as soon as humanly possible.

"For many of us in the fun filled world of Animation, November means a trip to the curry capital of the North, to be inspired by another healthy dose of innovative filmmaking. And Bradford Animation Festival 2010 did not disappoint. This was another year filled with captivating speakers, breath-taking films and enough animation heroes to make the student delegates salivate in awe.

It’s hard to mention all of my favourite parts of an event that included Gene Dietch and his diminutive wife, Tim Searle’s passionate review of British Animation, a long overdue Lifetime achievement award to Ray Harryhausen and a career choice affirming look at how animation can be used as a therapeutic tool. For me, the standout event in a very enjoyable week was Paul Franklin of Double Negative, who gave us a fascinating insight in to the world of visual effects within Inception and Dark Knight.

One of the things that makes BAF the most popular animation festival in the UK is the quality and number of speakers that they invite from within the animation industry and the peripheries. One example of this was Gary Jackson from Scary Cat studios, who gave an enlightening speech on his work making models for stop motion animation. Turns out that there’s a whole lot more to an armature than balsa wood and twisted wire.

Paul Mendoza of Pixar was informative and charismatic as he spoke about the production pipeline at the famous studio, as well as his influences and career. He then made the somewhat catastrophic mistake of mentioning that Pixar were hiring and was immediately lost under a swarm of student animators, never to be seen again.

Two first-rate programs from Clare Kitson invoked nostalgia and a fair amount of jealousy for the heydays of British animation, when Channel 4 was funding the films that won countless awards and recognition for our Industry from around the world.

As always, BAF showcased an impressive and eclectic collection of shorts, music videos, commercials, features and series’. Screening after screening left me impressed and inspired, both with the technical prowess on display and the rollercoaster of narratives. One moment I was sobbing in to my popcorn at Dustin Grella's “Prayers for Peace”, the next I was giggling like an infant at Alan Shorts “The Fly,” and then I was stunned by the technical wizardry and effects of Patrick Jean’s “Pixel”

The judges (Tim Searle, Clare Kitson and Mette Peters) made a few controversial decisions, causing loud and impassioned arguments directly afterwards as we all debated/ screamed the reasons why our favourite films should have won each category instead. But as no one person seemed to agree on which films should have won the newly named and highly coveted “Osgoods,” most had to grudgingly concede that the judges had done a pretty reasonable job.

Barry Purves, as always, spoke with wit, passion and an intriguingly patterned waistcoat as he delivered the awards. He also treated us to a sneak peek of his latest stop motion epic, which I sense I may need to watch with caution and tissues.

For me, the standout film of the festival was probably “The Little Boy and the Beast” by Johannes Weiland of Germany. Subtle, moving and beautifully poetic, this tale is both funny and sad as it moves towards the plot reveal that you eventually realise you knew all along.

As for the Grand Prix… well like I said, some controversial decisions! It went to Andreas Hykade’s “Love and Theft,” which is fun and bright and mesmerising, but not a lot else (in my humble opinion).

Grand Prix
Love and Theft by Andreas Hykade (whimsical and fun but didn’t create any kind of emotional response)

Special Jury Prize
A Lost and Found Box of Human Sensation by Martin Wallner and Stefan Leuchtenberg (Powerful and beautiful, but keeps the audience at arms length rather than inviting them in.

Audience Award
The Little Boy and The Beast by Johannes Weiland (Stunning film, restrained but powerful)

Big Bang Big Boom by Blu (An incredible logistical accomplishment, full of energy and ideas)

Prayers for Peace by Dustin Grella (A very moving film with a haunting vocal performance)

Short, Shorts
Pixels by Patrick Jean (A must see film for any child of the eighties or fan of what we now have to call ‘retro’ video games. Technically very strong)

Heroes of the UAE by Ben Falk and Josiah Newbolt (Imaginative, well made and full of surprises)

TV series
Heirlooms by Wendy Chandler and Susan Danta (Great concept and well executed. Well done to the Commissioning body too for taking a risk)

Music Videos
The Tom Fun Orchestra: Bottom of the River by Alasdair Brotherston and Jock Mooney (The best of a not hugely inspiring bunch, but still well worth watching for it’s important ecological message)

Films for Children
Monstre Sacré by Jean-Claude Rozec (A wonderful film with a great story and fantastic visuals. Made me want to have kids just to show it to them)"

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