Calgary’s GIRAF honoured to present Canadian animated films at Lisbon’s MONSTRA animation festival

Calgary’s Quickdraw Animation Society has a lot to be proud of. Aside from promoting and encouraging the art of animation for the past 25 years and hosting a well-respected animation festival, GIRAF (Giant Incandescent Resonating Animation Festival), each November, they can add programming for an international animation festival to the list.

MONSTRA is a 12-day animation festival held in Lisbon that draws animators from all over Europe, and this year QAS’s Executive Director Peter Hemminger is there to present a film pack on the National Film Board of Canada which he himself has curated.

After learning about MONSTRA, Hemminger thought it would be a great festival to attend on behalf of GIRAF, so he sent off a letter inquiring about possibly getting an invitation to the festival. Hemminger was amazed by what followed. “Their response was, just right out of the gate, ‘Do you want to program a 70-minute package of Canadian animation that was made by the NFB?’ The obvious answer was, ‘Yes, we would love to do that.’ “

With a lot of European filmmakers not being able to attend North American festivals, it’s a great opportunity for Hemminger to promote Canadian animation internationally. “There’s a chance to make a lot of direct connections with filmmakers, with festival programmers, with distributors, with all kinds of people that will then know about our festival and the work that we do. So it helps in terms of getting them and their animation to us, it helps in terms of us being able to send Quickdraw artists’ animation to them and they’ll know where it’s coming from and what it’s about.”

Unless you are familiar with Calgary’s animation community, you may not be aware of the incredible talent that our city has generated. Even Hemminger admits that, prior to starting with Quickdraw six years ago, he was unaware of the history of animation in our city, and is now excited to see where it is going. “There’s a bunch of people that we have seen come through courses and other events here at Quickdraw for the last five or six years that are now at the point that we can see the films that they are about to be making, and I think it’s going to be storming out there again. In the late ’90s Quickdraw had films that were screening all around the world, and then there’s a gap, and I think we’re about to get there again.”

Hemminger also acknowledges the work of the NFB, which obviously influences Canadian animators and is something that we as Canadians are all familiar with. “Independent animation is always a niche genre, and there’s this odd thing that we all grow up seeing independent animation through the NFB, it’s something that we’re all raised with, and the kind of animation that comes out of the NFB is exactly the kind of stuff that still gets encouraged in the community.”

The exposure for Canadian animators at MONSTRA is exciting for Hemminger, who sees great value in this opportunity “One of the really nice things about this package that we’re doing is that it’s not just Calgary artists, it’s artists from across Canada. So the main focus of the package is that it’s people who are making work either independently or it’s smaller production centres that don’t necessarily have the same connections as the National Film Board to get their films out there, and so it’s a really fortunate position for us to be in where we get to represent those.”

The package that Hemminger is presenting in Lisbon on March 25 is called Canadian Animation at the Fringes and features 17 NFB films from the past five years, which he picked and put together himself. “This is my pack and I’m super proud of it.”

(Image: William Allinson’s New Math, as featured in the GIRAF NFB package.)

Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring The Culture Cycle event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE. Contact her at