April 29, 2009
To pay homage the generous donation of former Cinematheque quebecoise director Robert Daudelin's exceptional collection of Jazz vinyl records and periodicals to the Phonotheque quebecoise, the Cinematheque will be screening some musical animation gems.

Some of the shorts, notably Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs and Tin Pan Alley Cats are controversial for what many (including myself) consider racist imagery, which was the norm for the dominant popular culture of the day. What many of these shorts also have is unparalleled animation with an incredible sountrack and unparalelled timing.

This screening also features a new 35mm print of The Greatest Man in Siam, newly acquired by the Cinematheque.

Catch it on Thursday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m., but if you miss it, you get a second chance on May 14.

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February 26, 2009

The first cartoon star will be at the Cinemathèque Québécoise in Montréal for Spring Break. Screenings of seven Felix the Cat shorts will take place every afternoon from March 2nd to the 6th. The movies will be accompanied by live music written and performed by Université de Montréal music students.

Parents who can't go with their kids can always catch a screening of Ratatouille on Thursday at 18:30.

For more information, check out the schedule on the Cinémathèque's website (in French)

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November 13, 2008
(photo courtesy of Stephanie Yuhas)

The founding editor of fps passed away peacefully in the presence of his family on November 11, shortly before 10 p.m.

You may have noticed this year, we tried to keep up with news in the animation industry but Emru wasn't posting as often. He was having difficulty wrapping up our annual animation charity auction at the end of last year because of a mystery ailment, which turned out to be an aggressive form of leukemia. Ironically, last year's auction proceeds went to the Cancer Research Society.

Emru is also my big brother.

On January 30, he found out that I was not a compatible match for him as a bone marrow donor, something neither he nor I knew anything about until I began to research it. We talked and messaged about it that day. The next morning, he asked me remember to post about the early Japanese animation retrospective at the Cinematheque Quebecoise because he had another checkup, since he found out he was also not in remission. Even though we were trying to save his life and help other people, animation was still an important part of our lives. When we would talk on the phone we would discuss the day's accomplishments in terms of donor recruitment and awareness, and what news was interesting in the animation world.

Truthfully, Emru treated his relationship to animation and stem cell awareness in a similar fashion: People over things. When he was passionate about an idea or a movement, he would reach out to people and try to bring people together to create something bigger than the sum of its parts. He encouraged others to believe in their abilities and aim high.

Vicky Tamaru of Plexipixel encouraged people to attend bone marrow drives around the US to help Emru, and provided an exhaustive list to make it easier for people to get involved. This was crucial, as Canadians cannot run bone marrow drives and Emru and I had to rely on other ways to educate people in our country.

When the Cinematheque's retrospective began in February, I was incredibly touched by the outpouring of support from the local animation community, and animation curator Marco de Blois mentioning Emru's need for a donor during such an important occasion.

The day after the retrospective began, Toon Boom Animation added a new page to save the Toon Boom Voice: Emru had provided the voice for the company's tutorials. After Emru found a match in early June, they understood many other people needed to find donors, and decided to keep the page running so the information would be available.

We created flyers and other promotional materials, and it was no surprise that one of the biggest attention grabbers was a portrait of the anime version of Emru, designed by local artist Veronique Thibault. Young people especially were drawn to the image, then paid attention to the important information that was included. At Anime North this year, I ran into old friends of Emru who remembered how he was present when anime was an inchoate "trend" and how he championed the works that he felt deserved more attention. At Otakuthon, it was similar.

Emru was notified in June of a potential match the day before he was set to travel to a planning meeting for the annual ACM SIGGRAPH conference. He was co-chair of the Computer Animation Festival until he fell ill, but the SIGGRAPH organizers refused to let him resign and insisted he stay on as a consultant even if he was only able to help in a limited capacity. He was thrilled at the idea of being cleared to travel, seeing fellow volunteers again, and being able to help out.

Just as I was gearing up for the Fantasia film festival, I was also preparing an ad for the Rock The Bells concert tour with the help of two friends. One was Ward Jenkins, who provided this beautiful illustration of Emru. Two of the films Emru especially enjoyed this year before he really had to stay away from crowds were Genius Party and Fear(s) of the Dark at the Fantasia Film Festival and he registered his enjoyment of them days before his death. Fantasia organizers donated the proceeds from one of their films to Emru, and this helped his family enormously, as neither he nor his wife could work much in 2008.

In September, I gave him the run-down of all the happenings at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, which began the day after Emru's received his bone marrow transplant. He received it at the Ottawa Hospital, and he joked about the timing of the transplant being perfect, because he was planning since the previous year's festival to be in Ottawa anyway. I hardly reported on the festival this year, as I was busy campaigning for stem cell donor registration with Emru leading up to it, and I was more exhausted than I thought I would be when I got to the festival. Once there, I received an astonishing outpouring of support for Emru, a festival regular for 19 years - this would have been his 20th year, and I think his presence was still felt despite his physical abscence. It was actually an extension of the support he had received in the form of calls, emails, blog postings, articles, letters, and events that had been occurring to help him. He cherished the sketchbooks he received full of sketches from festivalgoers.

He was happy to hear about the great films at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema, a small festival with a big lineup. He and I always looked forward to it, whether we could attend or not. In the last few years we made a point of it and enjoyed ourselves tremendously. It starts today and I wish I could be blogging about that and heading there tomorrow as I had originally planned, instead of writing about this. Joseph Chen, the WFAC curator, just sent me an email saying he wished he could be in Montreal for Emru's visitation.

No matter where you are, if you love Emru or love animation, he loves you too.

Visitation Information

Learn more about becoming a stem cell or bone marrow donor.
It starts with a cheek swab (Canada, US) or blood sample (Quebec, UK).
If you match, you do not put your own life at risk to potentially save another.

UK - Anthony Nolan Trust, African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust
US - National Marrow Donor Program, DKMS Americas
Canada - Hema Quebec Stem Cell Registry, OneMatch Stem Cell Network

Other Countries

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September 3, 2008

La cinematheque quebecoise
is screening recent Chinese animated shorts on Thursday, September 4th.

Marcel Jean is the guest programmer. I've provided a loose English translation of what he wrote on the CQ website.

Faced with feeding it numerous television stations, China has recently become, on a quantitative scale, one of the most important producers of animation in the world. Seeking to limit imported productions from Japan and Korea, Chinese officials are basically encouraging local production by creating high production quotas and encouraging the creation of major schools, equipped with cutting-edge technology, which trains thousands of animators on a yearly basis.

In comparison to this rapid development, auteur animation film are still marginalized. As a result, the Chinese presence in large-scale international animation festivals (Annecy, Zagreb, Ottawa, Hiroshima, etc.) remains weak and, seemingly, purely diplomatic. In Annecy, this summer, for example, just one Chinese film was featured in the short competition and it was... a commercial. At this point the festival organizers can claim to have presented a Chinese film...

This situation is explained by the abscence of a framework that is able to support auteur animation in China. Cette situation s’explique par l’absence de structures permettant de soutenir le cinéma d’animation d’auteur en Chine. The free market economy is effectively, the fundamental motivator governing every production, and there is no place for pure research in a cinema where creation is driven solely by a specific demand. If there is no specific demand, nothing is offered.

The sole exception to this: the schools. In this economic context, schools remain the only space where production is not totally regulated by an imperative for economic growth. Not all schools: some essentially train technicians destines to increase the industry ranks, but there are some privileged spaces where creativity has a real place: Beijing Academy, Chinese Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, Nanjing Institue of the Arts, are examples.

The program of recent animated films I have devised reflect this reality. Most of the films were directed by students, others by instructors. Pan Tian Shou, for example, is the work of Joe Chang, a Canadian national that used to live in Vancouver, who now oversees animated cinema at the academy in Hangzhou. Inspired by a famous painter, Pan Tian Shou is representative of a strong undercurrent of films inspired by traditional Chinese paintaings. Two other films — Season and Butterfly et White Snake — also belong to this prolific body of films. At the same time, I tried to limit the films of this genre to provide a good amount of space to atypical films that offered a closer look at the realm of possibilities in today's Chinese schools. Save, by Anli Liu, and Tree, by Jie Lin, which include an ecoloical message that is undoubtedly stunning. Directed in 2002, Daily Diary, by Han Bo, is reminiscent of Flux, by Chris Hinton, also directed in 2002 at the NFB. Directed in 2007, The Emerald Jar, by Xi Chen, evokes that yle of Russian Igor Kovalyov. Fantasia festival fans will delight at She is Automatic, the ingenious Star Wars puppet animation parody with music from the Chinese rock group, New Pants.

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