Weird name, weird cartoon

One of the most bizarrely named festivals ever to exist is celebrating its second birthday. The Giant Incandescent Resonating Animation Festival, better known by its less cumbersome acronym, GIRAF, is the brainchild of ACAD student Brandon Blommaert. Blommaert felt Calgary was lacking a venue to showcase the world of animation, in particular the realm of independent animation. For most people, animation is defined by Saturday morning cartoons and slick computer graphics in the latest summer blockbuster. GIRAF aims to change all that by embracing the irreverent and risque world of independent animation as art.

GIRAF 2 was hosted at the Quickdraw Animation Society in downtown Calgary. Quickdraw is a not-for-profit organization set up to educate and assist artists in creating independent animation and is one of only two such centres in all of Canada. Hidden among Calgary’s multitude of skyscrapers, the Quickdraw crew have created a studio with everything local artists need to run amok and explore their creativity.

Taking place over two days last weekend, GIRAF 2 featured the screenings of shorts, discussion panels and the opportunity for participants to try their hand at animation. All the events are designed to be highly interactive and help get GIRAF-goers more involved in the world of independent animation.

The Friday event was originally slated to be a screening of Victoria-native Rick Raxlen’s films followed by discussions with him, but due to unfortunate circumstances he was unable to attend. Not to be caught with their pants down, GIRAF’s organizers quickly gathered together three Calgary artists to screen their works and spend time chatting with the audience. Xtine Cook, not to be confused with Xtina, showcased her soon-to-be-released black comedy from the world of puppetry. Don Best represented the world of camera-less animation, a technique involving scratching and manhandling film to create images made famous by Norman McLaren, and Don Filipchuk closed the night off with his humorous animated shorts featuring his characters Siv and Zeek. Both Best and Filipchuk are alumni of Quickdraw and their films served as great examples of what artists can create using the facilities at Quickdraw.

Although GIRAF is a great way for the general public get their first taste of independent animation, the festival is geared towards artists already involved in the animation scene. While technically competent, Best’s animations of abstracted shapes dancing to a soundtrack of dissonant mechanical noises were difficult to appreciate without first understanding the world of camera-less animation. The artists were happy to share their experiences of being an independent artist during the question and answer period, but discussions quickly became bogged down in answering technical questions from members of the audience already studying animation.

GIRAF is an excellent showcase of Canadian independent animation, warts and all. However it is an event for artists, by artists, and may be an intimidating first experience for anyone not currently studying animation. For anyone who is or one day dreams of creating their own animations, GIRAF can’t be beat.

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