Animated Cinema festival celebrates old, embraces new • PHOTO VIA JOSEPH CHEN

WFAC brings animation to town

Animated Cinema festival celebrates old, embraces new • PHOTO VIA JOSEPH CHEN
Animated Cinema festival celebrates old, embraces new • PHOTO VIA JOSEPH CHEN

Anya Lomako

The Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema (WFAC) is back for another year. Hosted from November 14 to 17 at the Chrysalids Theatre, the animated cinema festival is a hand-picked, non-competitive festival highlighting the year’s best animated films from around the world.

Joseph Chen, founder and curator of the WFAC, is proud to present a festival unlike any other. “[I want viewers to see] how beautiful it is to see stories weave back and forth,” says Chen.

Showcasing a selection of new and unreleased films, Chen calls the festival a “Coles notes version” of the year’s most majestic visual masterpieces, presented with animation as the medium of choice. It’s a rare chance to see many of these films on the big screen, as most will not get wide distribution.

Since its inception, WFAC has shifted focus from catering to an exclusively Japanese anime audience, to one that embraces culturally diverse renditions of the craft.

As curator, Chen particularly enjoys giving viewers the opportunity to see how classic Japanese anime has influenced films originating in other countries, such as France. As such, the 2013 program showcases films from all corners of the globe. Attendees will be treated to a variety of films that explore a variety of subject material from disease and human experiments to more classic themes such as abandonment and lost love.

Some highlights of the festival include the award winning Rio 2096: A Story of Love and FuryThe Congress (France) which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and looks at the life of an aging actress, and 009 Re: Cyborg (Japan), a screen adaptation of the same titled comic which tells the story of nine humans kidnapped to undergo human experiments resulting in cyborgs with super human powers.

Looking to add something new this year, WFAC will delve into film history, screening 1993 classic, The Thief and the Cobbler, paired with a documentary about its creation. Directed, co-written and co-produced by British animation artist Richard Williams, The Thief and the Cobbler is considered to be “the most famous unfinished film,” says Chen.

The film holds the record for longest animated production — more than thirty years. The showing will be complemented by a panel discussion of international experts and a question and answer period. The discussion will serve as a cultural cherry-on-top after a screening of the most complete version of the film available.

Despite the success of the festival in past years, Chen believes the potential of animated art is held back by social stigmas. He says the festival is, in its own way, a gesture to dispute the belief that “animation is just for kids, or something limited.”

This stigma is part of the reasoning behind Chen’s selectivity regarding the caliber of films included in the program. The goal is to find works where magnificent visuals are matched with refined and poignant storytelling.

Meticulously pre-screening the festival program, Chen hopes people view the festival as an invitation to discover “the under-appreciated art of mature, meaningful storytelling.”

Festivals like WFAC have been part of the driving force in establishing arts and culture scene in Kitchener-Waterloo since the very first festival 13 years ago. WFAC strives to bring a piece of international culture to a local audience.

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