Ann Arbor Film Festival

Last night, I went to the 48th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival to check out their annual animation program, This Animated Life. The program consisted of about 15 short animated pieces, each running one to ten minutes in length. And, between them, they reflected just how rich and diverse the current state of animation is. From the rough, emotional flip books of Stephen Irwin, to the polished computer animation of Pixar’s Rodrigo Blaas, the presented work really ran the gamut. As is always the case, some resonated with me more than others. I didn’t, for instance, care very much for the rapid-fire series of what seemed to me to be images of bubbles captured in glass. It was lovely, but it didn’t speak to me like Andy Glynne’s Over and Over (and Over) Again, which is about growing up with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As someone who suffers from OCD, I think he captured the essence of it quite nicely.

triumphofthewild02_bigOn another personal note, I very much enjoyed seeing Martha Colburn’s Triumph of the Wild, having met her in Baltimore over a decade ago, as she was just starting out as an animator. At the time, she was living in a loft with a fellow named Jason Willett, and collaborating a bit with our mutual friend Jad Fair. (Remind me to tell you sometime about the week that Jason lived with us here in Ypsi after being stopped by authorities, trying to walk through the tunnel into Canada.)

[The image above is from Martha Colburn’s Triumph of the Wild, which is a frantic retelling of American history in the form of living collage.]

And, as if the two hours of animation weren’t enough, there was also an active Q&A session with three of the animators who were in the audience – Karen Aqua, Laura Yilmaz, and Juan Camilo Gonzalez, all of whom spoke eloquently and openly about their processes, their influences, and the challenges they face as artists working in this medium. I was particularly struck by something Laura Yilmaz said. She said that she’d started out as a live-action director, but found the process of working with actors and the like to be too frustrating, which made me wonder how many other great animators came to their profession due to negative experiences in “the real world.”

One last thought… In retrospect, I don’t know if it was the best idea in the world for us – the organizers of the Shadow Art Fair, who were co-sponsors of last night’s event – to contract with the French collaborative Peepooh, which is kind of half performance art group, and half terrorist cell, to introduce the films. Here, for those of you who are interested, is what they came up with:

Oh, and if you do decide to go out today or tomorrow, to see any of the other great films the AAFF folks have lined up, be sure to head back to the screening room, in the back of the theater, to check out our friend Michael Flynn’s new “Pedal Powered Film Projector” installation, a spin-off of our Cycle Powered Cinema project here in Ypsilanti. It’s basically a recumbent bike setup hooked up to an 8-mm film projector showing an early color cartoon reel. As Michael is a professional exhibit builder, it’s very well done, and I think you’d enjoy it. I tried it out last night and had a lot of fun with it.

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  1. melissa
    Posted March 27, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    Peepooh’s work has really developed since the last time I saw them in San Francisco. They’re really pushing the post-post postmodern conflict between identity and cheerleading to a whole new level.

  2. Posted March 27, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    That might be true, but I would not recommend them to potential employers. I found them difficult to work with and extremely demanding. When I think Peepooh, I think professionalism. And that is not what we got. Far from it. We had several suggestions, and they were unwilling to even consider them. They had their own “pyramid” agenda from the start, and they were unwilling to consider alternatives.

  3. Alice
    Posted March 28, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I saw Peepooh in the late 70’s open for Muminchance. They did this bit where they peed a ridiculously long time. It went on for at least 15 minutes. One would stop, and another would start almost immediately afterward. Like the last drop of one would hit the ground as the first from another did. I’ve never felt so alive.

  4. Caper T Dow
    Posted March 28, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I saw them consume a ’67 Chevy over the course of a week. That was a few years ago, so it may have been a different lineup.

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