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5 Things About Quickdraw’s GIRAF Festival of Independent Animation

Another week, another incredible and incredibly unique film festival in the city.

This time it’s the 14th annual GIRAF Festival of Independent Animation, put on by the brilliantly creative community known as the Quickdraw Animation Society.

The event, which takes place Thursday, Nov. 22 to Sunday, Nov. 25 at the Globe Cinema and Quickdraw’s studios, will screen some of the finest short and long-form films of those pushing the limits in the medium from all around the world, including here at home.

Prior to the event’s kickoff, Quickdraw’s executive director Peter Hemminger let us in on five things you need to know about this year’s GIRAF.

1. They’ll be screening more than 60 films from 17 different countries, which were chosen from more than 1,000 submissions.

“This was by far the best pack of submissions that we’ve ever had,” says Hemminger. “It was easily the hardest one to make the decisions of narrowing down the 1,000 films into the 60 or so that we were going to show. We could have programmed two or three other festivals on top of this and been just as happy with them.”

2.The visiting artist this year is Vancouver-based filmmaker Amanda Strong — an Indigenous Canadian filmmaker “whose stop-motion films address issues of identity and history.” She’ll be doing a workshop on the Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the Quickdraw studios, and later on the Sunday night a selection of her work will be screened at the same venue.

“It just made sense. We had shown Four Faces of the Moon, one of her films, last year at the festival,” he says. “Usually one of the things with animation is that when someone has produced a short film their next one doesn’t come out for a few years, so she was going to be on our radar when her next one came out, she was someone that we wanted to look at. And she has already two other films that are out there that are the same kind of quality, and the fact that she is that prolific and someone that we were already talking about we felt like the energy is there right now and so this is the time to bring her out here.”

3. Included among the feature films this year is director Ashkan Rahgozar’s 100-minute The Last Fiction, which Quickdraw describes as “the most ambitious animated feature ever to come out of Iran.”

“It’s been on my radar for a little bit, and Cartoon Brew which is kind of the major website for animation news, it’s been on their radar for a couple of years. But amazingly enough they actually submitted to our festival, which features, usually we have to put a lot into tracking them down and this one they’re just trying to get it out there,” Hemminger says of the film, which is based on a 1,000-year-old epic poem.

“The thing that’s going to surprise people the most about it is honestly it feels in a lot of ways like a western anime, and I know when I think about what I’m exposed to in terms of what Iran is like, what we see in the west is a very particular view and I had no idea what popular culture would be like there or anything along those lines. And this is an independent film and when you watch it it really cuts down on that distance between the cultures, at least for me, that was the most surprising thing about it.

4. Some of the work being screened from Quickdraw-connected artists include those from recent scholarship student Mihaela Slabe, another film from late local artist Vic Someday, and films from former Calgarians Richard Reeves (his Linear Dreams is considered “one of the finest scratch-animation films ever made”) and Brandon Blommaert (one of the co-founders of GIRAF).

“To me that’s such a nice mix from throughout Quickdraw’s history,” he says. “One of the things that I love about it is that — Richard Reeves in particular, but it’s something that we try and hold onto all around here at Quickdraw, is that even though he hasn’t physically been making films at Quickdraw for probably 20 years now, he still credits all of his films as being made as part of the Quickdraw Animation Society, because to him it’s not about the place, it’s about the community. To be able to bring that to GIRAF is such a wonderful thing for us.”

5. There will be a pair of retrospective screenings over the weekend: A 30th anniversary showing of Jan Svankmajer’s Alice, which is “a darker, more surreal take on Alice in Wonderland”; and a career retrospective of Suzan Pitt, who is one of the pioneers of independent animation, her 1979 work Asparagus was the opening film at midnight screenings of Eraserhead in Los Angeles for two years.

“One of the main things with GIRAF is that it’s about showing off animation as a medium, and one of the best ways to do that is not just to show what’s coming out now but to see the stuff that inspired it. That’s why it’s always a big part of the festival for us, to make sure we have a couple of retrospective pieces in there just to give more that full picture of the medium.”

(Image from Amanda Strong’s Biidaaban.)

Quickdraw Animation Society’s GIRAF Festival of Independent Animation runs runs Thursday, Nov. 22 to Sunday, Nov. 25 at the Globe Cinema and at Quickdraw (2011 10th Ave. S.W.). For tickets, festival passes and the complete schedule go to https://www.giraffest.ca/.

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