AFX: The Animation Festival of Halifax
Museum of Natural History, 1747 Summer Street and others
Picture this: You're in your coziest PJs, crunching on sugary cereal and watching your favourite Saturday morning cartoons. That mental sketch might be reminiscent of the carefree days that were your childhood, but thanks to the Animation Festival of Halifax, it's one of the many present-day realities you can experience this week.
And amidst the fun and laughs, it's a chance to see animation in new ways.
"Sometimes when I tell people I'm a filmmaker and an animator they'll immediately say 'Oh, you make cartoons,'" says Andrea Dorfman. "We bring to the idea of animation our own experience with it, which is often as children watching cartoons."
The Emmy Award-nominated filmmaker, who also created the viral video poem How to Be Alone, will be a panelist at AFX's first installment, speaking about animation's power to create social change. As an artist who's worked with human rights organizations to create films that touch on tough topics such as gender violence and rape, she understands the craft's value beyond entertainment.
"There's something about animation's child-like quality that connects to our inner child and allows us to let our guard down about complex ideas," says Dorfman. "What I love about the festival is it exposes audiences to all of the different possibilities animation can achieve."
Possibilities which artistic director for AFX, Siloën Daley believes in wholeheartedly concerning animation. "It's always wonderful to bring ideas from outside of the region because it broadens the inspiration of local artists," she says of the festival, which features traditional animation while also shining a light on animation's potential in the worlds of medicine, social justice and virtual reality, to name a few. Having produced the popular Animation with Love Festival for the past seven years, Daley rebranded with support from major local studios including her own, Carbon Arc, to give attendees a full-featured experience and inspire the future of Haligonian animators. Running from May 10-13, the festival includes screenings, demonstrations and workshops designed to teach attendees how to pitch, design and have their animated films nominated for an Academy Award.
With many learning opportunities in store, strategic director for AFX Phillip Stamp says he wishes he had such support early in his career. "I always loved to draw and tell stories, and the idea that it could be a viable career was alien to me and wasn't something I discovered until my early 20s," says Stamp. "I hope people will be exposed to the fact that this is not just a viable industry, but a thriving one which is open to many possibilities."
And thrive it shall: With many local animators stepping onto the scene to showcase their films, talent is not in short supply. Filmmaker and animation newcomer Sarah Gignac says she's excited to attend the festival which will feature her debut film Borscht and Fresh Bread which proved to be quite the learning experience. "I've made short films before, but I had experienced people to lean on. In animation it's all on me," she says. "It's scary, but pretty exciting too." Fortunately, through trial and error, Gignac caught the animation bug and now hopes to produce a series of shorts.
One thing these members of the local animation community all mention is animation's power to evoke emotion. "It really gets to the heart of audience in a really pure way," says Daley. "Hopefully it starts new dialogues in ways we can't even imagine. There's something to inspire and interest people at all levels of animation experience, and bring them together to engage with like-minded individuals."