Animation program produces two Oscar nominees

by Barbara Black

Once again, Concordia animators are making waves in international competition.

Graduate Torill Kove has been nominated for an Academy Award for short film animation for My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts. It is based on stories her grandmother told her about life in Nazi-occupied Norway. The film is a co-production by the National Film Board and Studio Magika of Norway.

Also nominated for an Oscar are Concordia animation teacher Wendy Tilby and her collaborator Amanda Forbis, for When the Day Breaks.

Their poignant nine-minute saga of a sensitive pig has cleaned up. When the Day Breaks, also an NFB production, won the Palme d'Or for best short film at the Cannes Film Festival, took first prize at France's Annecy animation festival, and just got a Canadian Genie for best animated short. An earlier Tilby film, Strings, was nominated for an Oscar in 1992.

Another Oscar nominee was an Imax production, by Pascal Blais Productions, of Ernest Hemingway's celebrated novella, The Old Man and the Sea, for which Concordia English professor Harry Hill did the voice-over. The giant-screen movie is playing at the Imax theatre at the Old Port.

The nominations were announced February 15 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). The Oscars will be presented in Los Angeles on March 26.

Such is the closeness of Montreal's intensely active animation family that Tilby was a mentor to Kove. Tilby, who is currently teaching animation at Harvard University, was interviewed by e-mail this week.

"I had the pleasure of meeting Torill in 1993 after she called to inquire about the animation course at Concordia University," Tilby said. "She was in urban planning at the time, and had a fabulous portfolio of architectural drawings and cartoons. She joined my class unofficially and enrolled in the animation program the following year.

"She was a natural. She went on to join the National Film Board where she worked on several productions before directing My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts. I couldn't be more pleased (and proud!)."

Stefan Anastasiu remembers Kove as an outstanding student, one of those who took an "independent study" course that gives the student four hours a week one-on-one with a teacher on a special project. It's something, but it's a far cry from the four hours a day, six days a week, that he enjoyed as a film academy student in Romania.

Anastasiu calls the lack of time "a shame." He has between eight and 12 students at a time who are taking the intense tutorial, and gives them "three times as much [time] -- 12 hours -- because I just can't let them leave without understanding this complex phenomenon."

Anastasiu is one of three full-time animation professors, along with Christopher Hinton (who was nominated for an Oscar several years ago for his film, Blackfly) and Celia Sawadogo. They are passionate about what they do.

"Animation is so fastidious, so time-consuming," Anastasiu said. "It takes six months to two years just to do a short film. It's very repetitive work. You must be passionate to keep the original idea that long, to keep the sparkle."

Wendy Tilby reports that "Harvard has a much smaller animation program than Concordia. It is taught by only one person, a visiting artist, usually for one- or two-year stints. It's a fantastic opportunity for me, particularly as I'm able to design the course as I like. The students are wonderful and hardworking, and the atmosphere and 'goings-on' on campus are always interesting."

Tilby, who taught part-time at Concordia from 1991 to 1995, has nothing but praise for local animators.

"Montreal has been a nucleus of animation (and documentary filmmaking) for many years," she said. "This has much to do with the presence of the National Film Board, which has produced a tremendous body of work and fostered a rich culture of both commercial and innovative auteur filmmaking.

"Concordia University is the only local university-level animation course in town. The faculty are great and are dedicated to maintaining a fine arts approach to animated filmmaking while keeping up with trends and technology."

For Chair of the Cinema Department Peter Rist, the Oscar nominations for animation are a truer measure of quality than the awards in the highly publicized feature-film category.

"Over 5,000 Academy members place their votes in [the Best Pi cture] category, and it ends up being a popularity contest rather than a recognition of artistic excellence," he said.

"But not the Best Animated Short Film. This is always a truly international affair, and this year, I think not a single American film has been nominated. Only a few members of the Animation branch of the AMPAS get to pick the films, and it is definitely the single most prestigious animation film award of the year. Only the Annecy Animation Festival and the Cannes Festival prizes are even close in prestige -- and When the Day Breaks won both last year."

Animation b+w

This is an image of a work in progress by Benoit Ladouceur, a third-year student in Concordia's Animation program.


Cinˇroute provides access to NFB motherlode

Everybody admires the National Film Board of Canada, but nobody gets to see their films. An exaggeration, maybe, but these acknowledged cinematic gems lack the accessibility of the Hollywood product.

Now, cinema students will be able to screen any of 800 NFB films at two sites here at Concordia, thanks to a project called Cinˇroute.

The project was brought to Concordia by Oksana Dykyj, head of Visual Media Resources in IITS. It is a partnership of CANARIE (the Canadian Network for the Advancement of Research, Industry and Education) and RISQ (the Rˇseau interordinateurs scientifiques quˇbˇcois).

The two Concordia sites for Cinˇroute are the downtown Learning Labs of IITS and Vanier Library's Periodicals and Media Services at Loyola. The films are available to Ca Net 2 users in full-screen, full-motion MPEG-1 format. For more information, call Luis Nasim, 848-3437 or




See Concordia's Oscar-nominated films

Friday, March 24

DeS¸ve Cinema

1:15 to 2:30 p.m.

Blackfly, Strings, My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts, When the Wind Blows

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