June 29, 2007
Our pals at the Fantasia film festival have unleashed this year's lineup, and as always, animation fans are well served—but they have to do a little more work to get their fix.
Features seem a little diminished, but not so much as last year. The fest starts and ends strong—Tekkon Kinkreet is the opening film, and the Korean Yobi the Five-Tailed Fox is the last animated screening, on the second-to-last day of the festival—but those are the only two features on 35mm film. The odd-looking stopmo film We Are the Strange is in high-definition video, but the other features (the Flash-animated Minushi, Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow and Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society) are all projected, standard-definition video. Previous Fantasia fests prove that watching projected video can still be enjoyable, but spending four days at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema watching nothing but 35mm reminds you of the kind of difference the medium makes.
There are also two short feature documentaries that are about animation, and they're screening together. Animania is about Canadian anime fandom, which appears to focus on how the current generation of teen fans relate to anime. I've seen and heard so many reports on teen fandom I'd be inclined to give it a pass, but last year—back when the movie's focus was less on the teens—I was interviewed extensively for Animania, and I was asked some very interesting questions. I'm hoping they applied the same kind of thoughtfulness to their adolescent subjects. (And no, I'm not in the actual Animania movie, but apparently I'll appear in the DVD extras.) The other documentary is the French Ghibli et le mystère Miyazaki (Ghibli and the Mystery of Miyazaki), which needs little explaining but which is definitely a must-see, especially with interviewees like Isao Takahata, Moebius and Takashi Murakami.
Fantasia's real source of pleasure for animation fans comes from the animated shorts, but that's also its real source of pain. For years I've been preaching that animation shouldn't be ghettoized, that it should be treated like "regular" film. The problem is that Fantasia gives me just what I ask for, scattering its animated shorts among omnibus films (Ten Nights of Dreams) and over a dozen collections of shorts, only two of which are animation-specific (a best-of compilation from last year's Ottawa fest, plus the latest edition of The Outer Limits of Animation, which inexplicably includes the two-year-old, almost overexposed, not-terribly-out-there In the Rough). Miraculously, it's possible to see all of the animated shorts with only one schedule conflict: The one screening of The Outer Limits of Animation is at the same time as Watch Out! Beyond the Genres of Korean Short Films, which includes the 34-minute The Hell (Two Kinds of Life).
And really, that's the most amazing thing about Fantasia this year. They've added a third cinema to their venues, but in three weeks of screenings there appear to be fewer repeats than ever before. It's a testament to the passion of their crew that they're still going so strong.