Celebrating the whole spectrum of Animation – LIAF 2016
It was 13th London International Animation Festival, the Opening Gala was held in the Barbican’s Cinema One, with pre-show drinks and a selection of a few vibrant films opening the night. A selection of acclaimed animations by Chris Shepherd were screened as a taster, including his premiere of Johnno’s Dead, and was followed by a live interview with the film director himself. The talk was compelling and interesting, and would pique the interest of anyone in attendance regardless of their personal investment in his work. Hearing colourful stories about this quite dark selection of films was a great insight into their creation. In his own words, ‘if something upsets you or makes you laugh, it is a good thing to focus on’.
Following the opening, the festival began its screenings from 1-11 December in various London cinemas - but mostly the Barbican - with a selection of 128 films chosen from over 2000 submissions from 36 countries. Despite its international status, the festival is very rooted in British culture. LIAF works closely with the National Film and Television School (NFTS) who produce the festival trailers, awards the Best British Film, and has its own showcase. The organisers try their best to make a strong and varied programme, and their efforts are clear to see. There’s something for kids, who are greeted with special selections of Disney animations as well as two international programmes of shorts specifically aimed at 0-7 and 8-15 year olds. We could see animated features, special programme from Japan, celebrate Women in Animation as well as Edge of Frame showcases of experimental animation.
One of my highlights is always the Abstract Showcase. Good animated abstract films can become a story of rhythm from both a visual and sound perspective, so it can be an extremely interesting experience. It varies, year to year, and over time this screening has founds itself a growing audience and steadily increasing popularity. This showcase has it’s own award and was judged by a different panel of judges (Richard Wright & Martin Pickles) that this year picked ‘Sai Gon’ by Oerd van Cuijlenborg (France 2015) as the best film in this category.
The interesting thing about LIAF is that, stylistically, it has grown organically and in line with the nature of animation in general. This year Animated Documentaries had their own space in the International Programme, and it was definitely answering current trends in animation. It’s a good way to embrace a medium that is boundless and innovative.
The judging panels were populated by some big names, including Edwin Rostron, Carla MacKinnon and Mark Collington. They judged the International Competition Programme and awarded the following:
BEST OF THE FESTIVAL AWARD – ‘Before Love’ by Igor Kovyalov
BEST BRITISH FILM AWARD – 'Johnno’s Dead' by Chris Shepherd
BEST SOUND DESIGN AWARD: 'Otto' – Nicola Ariutti by Salvatore Murgia & Dario Imbrogno
BEST PERFORMANCE AWARD – 'Jukai' by Gabrielle Lissot
Each international competition had its own selection of bests judged by jury and audience.
The venues are good, the films are varied, and excitement is there. So, what’s left for improvement? It felt that once the opening of the festival was somehow optimistic, the Best of the Best 2016 screenings were divided into two shows which lost the opportunity for a celebration somehow. The awarded were not there to be congratulated for their work and neither were all of the judges… Well, at least at the first show. Let’s see next year!