Culture & Conversation

Animations and Attitudes

As the AmérAsia Film Festival enters into its final weekend of screenings, a special panel tonight will bring the discussion back to the painstaking process called “animation” and the artists who remain captivated by its endless possibilities.  Among those attending will be local filmmaker/visionary Jonathan Ng, who offers ROVER a glimpse of what the evening has in store.

For those who aren’t familiar with your work, how did you end up becoming a Montreal-based artist?

I became a Montreal-based filmmaker and animator because I had the unique opportunity to direct and animate my first professional film Asthma Tech at the National Film Board in 2004.  Although there is an NFB location in Toronto, there wasn’t any animation being produced there.  The powerhouse of NFB animation is really the studio in Montreal, where many Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning animation filmmakers continue to produce their films.  It was essentially a requirement for me to relocate to Montreal to produce the film in a creative and inspiring environment with the benefit of all of the filmmaking experience and technical expertise of the Film Board.  After that, I just stayed.

Who will be joining you for tonight’s Artist Talk on Animation?

Alison Reiko Loader, an NFB animation filmmaker and installation artist, Masoud Raouf, another NFB animation and documentary filmmaker, and Joon Yang Kim, an animation art historian and scholar who has flown all the way from Korea to moderate the panel.

What is the focus of the event?

I believe we will speak a bit about our artistic aims and the inspiration for some of our latest works.  We will each show examples of our films.  The talk will also touch on our cultural backgrounds and how they relate to our filmmaking process within the Canadian filmmaking landscape.

Regarding cultural backgrounds, on the opening night of the festival, you spoke about your experiences with Casting Agencies suggesting white actors doing accents over actual Asian voice-over actors.  Why do you think there is still some hesitancy within the industry to represent all ethnicities equally?

My short answer for this one would be, if you don’t see the adequate representation of yourself and your community, whatever it may be, then it really becomes up to you to push to get into the roles where creative input is highest – ie: writer, director, producer roles – and make sure your work is so strong that it can’t be denied.  Only then will you have the power to start influencing these types of industry trends.

It seems as though, with the popularity of Anime and Miyazaki films, audiences around the world have come to familiarize themselves with Asian culture through animation, to a certain degree.  Would you say animation has helped break down barriers in a way that traditional live-action film never could?

I would say that animation, more than any other art form, has the potential to tell much more personal and self-reflective stories, simply by the laborious nature of the creative process and the thoughtfulness required to produce it.  We are seeing now that animation can even be a way to tell politically daring stories from closed societies.  For sample, such films as Persepolis relating to Iran and Piercing 1, a non-approved feature animation from China.

This spring your latest short film, Requiem for Romance, will hit theatres.  Tell us a bit about the techniques you used to bring those awesome watercolor backgrounds to life, and where you drew your inspiration.

My recent film was inspired by the three signature genres of Chinese cinema: the kung fu film, the tragic love story and the water ink animated film.  I blended all three of these genres to tell a personal story of heartbreak while expressing the differing attitudes towards art within contemporary Chinese society.  The technique I used for the backgrounds was a sort of time-lapse imagery from live ink and water paintings that I painted indirectly, that is to say that I didn’t directly paint with a brush so as not to get my hands in the image.  I had to use fairly creative and experimental methods to get the ink and water to move around and manifest itself into the environmental images I wanted.  The characters were animated by hand using a Cintiq and various softwares and everything was composited together in the final stages.

To participate in the discussion, get to Hotel Zero 1 today at 4pm.  Admittance is free.  For a closer look at Ng’s awesome animations, visit his appropriately-named homepage www.jonjonphenomenon.com .  The AmérAsia festival wraps up this weekend with a screening of Hirokazu Koreeda’s family drama I Wish, a seminar focused on networking and securing financing for film projects, and a grand ol’ dance party, featuring DJ Mister Vee.  Full details available at www.amerasiafestival.com/2012 .

 


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