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Ottawa International Animation Festival Overview

In the middle of an unusual heatwave in Ottawa, Canada, visitors gather from all walks of life for a five day long film festival known as the Ottawa International Animation Festival. This annual event has been happening since 1976 and I was able to attend the 41st festival in downtown Ottawa this September. As an animator myself I was excited to see the best and brightest films that were selected for OIAF’s short film competition, as well as several feature films, talks, and parties where fellow animation industry people get together to enjoy drinks and share their love of animation.

The festival is held in several different areas of Ottawa, most of which are within a twenty to thirty-minute walk of each other. My first stop was the Arts Court near Rideau Street to pick up my festival pass and grab a goodie bag, which also had the festival’s schedule for this year. The festival is jam-packed with events every day, including exclusive TAC (“The Animation Conference”) events for special pass holders who want to pitch their own animation ideas and connect to other professionals in the industry.

The main attraction of the event is the short film competition. The best of the films submitted to the festival are chosen and placed in one of five screenings, and attendees can vote on the shorts they enjoyed the most in each screening. Seeing a short online or in a class hardly compares to seeing it on a theater screen, and enjoying it with an audience of fellow animators and animation enthusiasts. There were many types of short films, from the surreal to the abstract to the narrative, with a wide variety of genres from drama to comedy.

Torrey Pines

As a festival that takes place in Canada, the OIAF also features two screenings focusing exclusively on Canadian films: the Canadian Panorama and the Canadian Student Competition. This year many of the films focused on the plight of Native American struggles, an intense topic in Canadian culture, and it was a chance for minority voices to speak out and tell their own stories.

Outside of the screenings, there were also events focused on learning about animation and networking. The Animator’s Picnic was held on Friday afternoon, where animators from different schools and studios can enjoy free food and good conversation, as well as participate in a pumpkin carving contest. Given the heatwave, the picnic was hotter than was necessarily comfortable, and I spent most of my time there underneath the picnic tent rather than sweating directly in the heat, but the opportunity was still an enjoyable one and I got along well with everyone I talked to.

Grand Prize Winner, Masaaki Yuasa's 'Night Is Short, Walk On Girl'

There was also the Animation Career Fair held at the St. Brigid’s Church, where animation studio and college representatives had booths and advertised what they were looking for in new hires or prospective students. Held all day on Saturday, it was a great chance to find out what bigger studios want from animators and what the newest animation programs are teaching younger people.

Altogether the festival is a grand celebration of animation in all its forms, as well as a chance to meet major players in the animation world. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at their 41st annual gathering and plan to attend the OIAF again in the future.