The Sommets du cinéma d’animation: local and international talent, animated

November 24, 2016

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In its first 15 years, Montreal’s festival of animated film, the Sommets du cinéma d’animation, has come a long way. The city already had a reputation as an animation hotbed, and the Cinémathèque québécoise decided to host a festival to give local artists exposure and show audiences some great movies. One glance at this year’s program and the list of countries represented – Lebanon, Estonia, Russia, Japan, France and many more – it’s clear that the initiative is paying off.

We spoke with Marco de Blois, the festival’s artistic director, who talked about what’s new and interesting this year.

The festival turns 15 this year. How has it evolved?

At first it was tiny, but now we can really call the Sommets a major international festival. There are a lot more foreign delegations. Montreal is a Mecca for animated film, and the festival is an ambassador, which was our ambition at the beginning. There are so many talented animators here, there’s no way we can’t have a proper animation festival! We need to promote local artists who are making every kind of animation, from films to special effects.

How have you managed to convince audiences that animated films aren’t just for kids?

The Sommets is a festival for everyone. It’s true that many people assume that animation is for children. But by presenting a high-quality program, we have convinced Montrealers that animation can be much more, similar to graphic novels, for example. We try to appeal to the audience’s curiosity and intelligence. And some of the films deal with very serious topics. For example, J’aime les filles by Diane Obomsawin is about the awakening of homosexual desire. A film from Lebanon, SAMT (silence), explores the repression of sexual freedom in the Middle East.

In addition to numerous short, medium and feature-length films, this year the festival will have its first competition for very short films.

We wanted to bring some new energy and fun to the program, and we had the idea of showcasing movies shorter than two and a half minutes. The audience will get to see 33 films in 55 minutes! It’s important to give these films exposure, because they’re often excellent but they rarely appear at festivals. The short form is full of challenges: concision, efficiency, power.

Strange creatures and monsters seem to be prominent in this year’s program. In what ways will we see them?

There’s going to be a big show by the Montreal-based collective Clyde Henry Productions, the two artists behind the film Madame Tutli-Putli, which made it to the Oscars in 2008. They make stop-motion animations using particularly intricate puppets. Forty of their pieces will be on display from November 24 to 27 at the Cinémathèque. Then there’s Framestore Studio, which will give a talk on November 25 at 3 p.m. on the making of creatures for special effects. And until January 3, there will be a display of hilarious creatures by Canadian filmmaker Diane Obomsawin – who will also be here to give a master class on November 24.

5 ways to make the most of the Sommets du cinéma d’animation

  1. The René-Jodoin award will be presented on November 26 at 3 p.m. to filmmaker Steven Woloshen, who makes films scratched and painted directly on film stock, a style reminiscent of the great Norman McLaren.

  2. In collaboration with the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM), the Sommets presents a retrospective of animated documentary films.

  3. A pass good for all screenings costs just $50.

  4. Several round tables and workshops, including a master class by Joan Gratz and a discussion of film funding issues in the Internet age, are free of charge.

  5. French director Jean-François Laguionie rarely travels, but he will be in Montreal for a screening of his film Louise en hiver (November 26, 7 p.m.).

Les Sommets du cinéma d’animation

November 23 to 27