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Festival aims to draw in animation fans

Organizers pulled a few strings to include puppet fare, too

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/4/2010 (2517 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you think cartoons are the domain of benign sweetness and light, you might want to meet Kier-La Janisse.

Before she programmed films for Cinematheque and Austin's Alamo Drafthouse, Janisse of Winnipeg's Big Smash! Productions, was the brains behinds a notorious Vancouver horror film festival called Cinemuerte. Specializing in transgressive horror movies and thrillers from around the world, it was a labour of love for Janisse that ultimately cost her thousands of dollars of her own money to produce.

The Secret of Kells

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The Secret of Kells

Self-portrait of animator Bill Plympton

Self-portrait of animator Bill Plympton

A short from Seconds Under the Sun.

A short from Seconds Under the Sun.

Janisse, 37, is putting her money where her heart is once again with Plastic Paper, a festival devoted to the more innocuous (but no less edgy) arts of animation and puppetry.

Co-curating the four-day event with local filmmakers Clint Enns and Leslie Supnet, Janisse brings her passion to the fest, which will see the Winnipeg debut of the Oscar-nominated feature The Secret of Kells and appearances by a cult animator and the scion of a puppeteering legend. And if it all seems a far cry from programming Italian cannibal movies, Janisse suggests otherwise.

"Animated films are more respectable in a certain way, but they get to be a lot more experimental than regular films," she says. "So you could have something be completely surreal and nonsensical or whatever, but it's still a more respectable medium.

"And a lot of these films, I'd consider to be experimental."

On the program:

-- Seconds Under the Sun (Wednesday May 5 at 8 p.m.)

A program of Japanese animated shorts from 1972 to 2009 curated by Toronto programmer Naomi Hocura. "This is one of the best short-film programs I've ever seen," Janisse says. "With most short-film programs, you get maybe three duds, but I loved everything in her program." Indeed, all three of Plastic Paper's programmers were so impressed, they elected to make this the opening night event, with Hocura in attendance.

-- Handmade Puppet Dreams with Heather Henson (Friday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m.)

The daughter of the late Muppets creator Jim Henson, Heather Henson was invited by Janisse to a special screening of The Muppet Movie at the Alamo Drafthouse a few years back, where Janisse also got to see Hensson's touring program of short puppet films. "I loved her program and I don't think I expected to as much as I did," Janisse says. "It made me a lot more appreciative of puppetry in general." Henson's Winnipeg show is a "best-of" four past programs and while "it's kid-friendly, it's marketed at adults," Janisse says. "There's not a whole lot of silly voices." Tickets are $10.

-- The Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat-Cereal Cartoon Party (Saturday, May 8 at 10 a.m.)

Janisse revives the tradition she began as a Cinematheque assistant programmer, combining a buffet of breakfast cereals (including hard-to-get cereals purchased in the U.S.) and a program of equally junky retro animation culled from TV shows of yesteryear. Tickets are $12.

-- Bill Plympton's Animation Master Class (Saturday, May 8 at 1 p.m.)

Bill Plympton may be an Oscar-nominated animator, but he has a cult following drawn to his oft-surreal spectacles and his off-centre sense of humour. "What I like about his work is that he always uses a pencil and paper and he hand draws everything," Janisse says. "His feature films normally feature something like 30,000 drawings." Plympton teaches animation classes in New York City and "he's going to do a condensed version of the classes as a workshop here," Janisse says. Admission is $20.

-- The Secret of Kells (Saturday, May 8 at 4:30 p.m.)

This 75-minute film set in a walled-off Irish abbey during the Middle Ages was nominated for an Oscar in the best animated feature category alongside Up, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Princess and the Frog, and yet never received a meaningful theatrical release. This screening may be the city's only chance to see it on a big screen before it goes to DVD.

-- Summer Wars (Saturday, May 8 at 7 p.m.)

You may never have heard of this 2009 Japanese feature, but the anime fantasy about the battle for a virtual world (called Oz, if you please) by Mamoru Hosada is "a way bigger film than we should be able to have," Janisse asserts. "Mamoru is considered the new Miyazaki."

For complete listings, go to www.plastic-paper.org.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Randall King.

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