The London International Animation Festival (LIAF) may take place in the English capital but its gaze reaches far beyond its home country. Based at the Barbican this year, it includes a special British showcase and a spotlight on films produced by London’s Royal College of Art but, as usual, the focus of its 2011 schedule is its international programme, a series of screenings that present a happily eclectic snapshot of independent animation from around the globe. Brilliantly broad in terms of technique and subject matter, the films jostle for a place in the final day’s ‘best of the fest’ screening and the honour of the festival competition prize. A preview compilation of shorts reveals a promising selection. Sjaak Rood’s Fast Forward Little Riding Hood (2010) is a charming re-telling of the classic fairy tale in a lightning minute-and-a-half of scribbles and doodles. Big Bang, Big Boom (2010) is the latest, very brilliant, offering from Italian street artist Blu. A riot of colourful murals and inanimate rubbish springing to life, the stop-motion film stages the story of the earth’s evolution against the dull grey of city pavements and urban buildings. Finishing with a Darwinian whirligig, man evolves from ape to a machine gun-toting soldier who shoots at his ancestors around the circumference of a gasworks wall.
Blu uses the age-old animation process of stop motion to create a fresh visual style. Another traditional animation method is celebrated in this year’s technique focus screening, which will showcase the use of paper cut-outs on film. A mainstay of animation dating back to early 20th-century cinematic pioneers such as Lotte Reiniger, cut-outs continue to produce visually arresting results as evidenced by Maya Erdelyi’s Phosphena (2010), a kaleidoscope of intricate paper creations and abstract confetti. If Erdelyi’s film is an indicator of the selection, the screening should provide a very stimulating survey of shorts.
At the other end of the spectrum, cutting-edge 3D mastery promises to be strong with a showcase of Siggraph works and animations like David OReilly’s The External World (2010) and Damian Nenow’s Paths of Hate (2010). Mimicking a twisting, throbbing video game, Paths of Hate demonstrates magnificent technical achievements as it follows two warrior pilots fighting to their death, vapour trails of blood exploding across the sky. Nenow’s film not only appears in the international programme but also in the festival’s Focus on Poland strand, which brings together animations from a country with a long history in the medium and a potent narrative tradition. As a supplement to the strand, award-winning Polish filmmaker Wojtek Wawszczyk will be hosting a masterclass and introducing his acclaimed feature George and the Hedgehog (2011).
The organisers of LIAF are adept at drawing engaging talents to the festival and another special guest at this year’s festival will be filmmaker Theodore Ushev. Ushev will be answering questions about his new film, Lipsett Diaries (2010), which explores the life and work of experimental filmmaker Arthur Lipsett, who was plagued with mental illness before committing suicide aged 49. Lipsett Diaries is one of the most applauded shorts of the past 12 months and the event will provide a compelling opportunity to view Lipsett’s and Ushev’s works side by side. LIAF’s programmers have always shown a comprehensive yet inventive approach. They aim to introduce London audiences to extensive views of specific filmmaking cultures (in addition to the Focus on Poland, there’s also a New York Who’s Who, which will showcase indie animation currently being produced in the Big Apple), but they also take pleasure in not being too prescriptive. The Panorama series of screenings and Late Night Bizarre event bring together oddities that are neither included in the competition nor fall into neat categories of filmmaking. With programming dedicated to searching out thought-provoking and technically impressive works, LIAF looks to have some very promising events taking place across London.