GIRAF fest celebrates 15 years of introducing Calgarians to the animated art form

Quickdraw Animation Society’s Giant Incandescent Resonating Animation Festival, or GIRAF for short, is returning this week, Nov. 21-24, to showcase some of the world’s most innovative and exciting animation.

Executive Director Peter Hemminger describes it as “a celebration of all the weird and wonderful possibilities animation creates,” and encourages people to attend, even if they are an animation newbie, which he himself admits he was prior to his role at Quickdraw.

“Having been in this world for six years now, I’ve completely fallen for animation — I’m just in awe of what it can do as a medium. The festival is pay-what-you-can this year, so there’s basically no risk in showing up, you’ll see things you’ve never seen before, and you might just find a new art form to fall in love with.”

Into its 15th year, the festival has found its stride and is now really hitting the mark with Calgary audiences.

“I think we’ve really figured out our programming voice and what keeps us excited about the festival,” explains Hemminger, who adds that he believes that GIRAF has done a better job sharing that with Calgary audiences.

A lot of planning goes into the festival, and the only way to truly do it justice is to let Hemminger himself give us a run-down of what to expect from the festival:

GIRAF’s 15th year opens with On LGBTQ2S+ Animation, a showcase of contemporary films from queer creators that doubles as the release party for a free publication celebrating the work of LGBTQ artists. The screening will also include visiting artists Lauren Hortie and Sonya Reynolds, two Toronto animators whose shadow-puppet films share forgotten stories of Canadian queer history.

From there, the festival moves on to On-Gaku: Our Sound, winner of the top prize at the Ottawa International Animation Festival (one of the world’s biggest animation fests). Based on the Manga of the same name, it’s a pitch-perfect tribute to the joy of starting a band, and it builds from a deadpan beginning to pure rock ‘n’ roll bliss by the movie’s end.

This year’s festival includes five short packs of brand new films. The two-part Indie Animation Mixtape is a grab-bag of shorts with different styles, techniques and themes, united only by their artistry. Outside of those, there is Possible Worlds, a pack of shorts that veer towards sci-fi and fantasy; Love Sweet Love, which looks at relationships and attraction from an assortment of angles; and Late Night, which is where things get weird and unsettling. Beween the five packs, that’s 50 films, almost half of which are making their Canadian or world festival premiere.

GIRAF’s other visiting artist this year is an absolute legend in the world of animation, and film in general. Phil Tippett is a stop-motion and visual effects artist best known for his work on Star Wars, RoboCop, Jurassic Park and Starship Troopers. He’ll be doing an hour-long artist talk on his storied career, as well as sharing his newest stop-motion work, the dark fantasy Mad God.

There’s plenty more beyond that, too: a brand new restoration of Son of the White Mare, a 1981 Hungarian cult classic with some of the most stunning, psychedelic animation you’ll ever see; a feature on surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel (Un Chien Andalou) and the making of his documentary, Las Hurdes; a panel discussion on how to make a living as an animator in Calgary; and a celebration of films created through Quickdraw’s Chris J. Melnychuk Scholarship & Residency.

Best of all, for the festival’s 15th anniversary, Quickdraw is throwing open the doors and making every single screening pay-what-you-can. It’s our birthday gift to our community, and our way of inviting the whole city to experience the medium we love.

(Photo: English title Tadpole. Dir Jean-Claude Rozec. 2019, France.)

GIRAF takes place Nov. 21-24 at various locations around Calgary. For more information and the schedule please go to

Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and continues to work within the Calgary arts & culture scene to promote the city’s numerous and varied events. Contact her at