GLAS Animation FestivalAuthor: Cable Hardin | Date: 6/14/18, 4:35 PM
As an animator and educator in the USA, one of the challenges I find in exploring animated filmmaking in a non-virtual and sincere way and sharing that experience with others properly, is that the opportunity to do so is very few and far-between.
If ever there was a way to eliminate that void for showcasing alternatives to mainstream animated film in the US, it’s the GLAS Animation Festival. Four days of not only short films and features that really emphasize experimental approaches to image, sound, story and media, but there was also a strong presence of mainstream industry too. GLAS has a fitting address in Berkeley, California, with most venues just a short walk from UC Berkeley.
The setting was lively and almost warmish, though not too sunny as the West Coast rains were still washing in from the coast in deluges. The very walkable downtown Berkeley has the feel of a medium-sized town, but with the brighter and darker trimmings of a much broader urban landscape (if you don’t have to drive, don’t. And when you find a place to park your vehicle, leave it there). The festival’s headquarters and official accommodations Hotel Shattuck Plaza could not have been more centrally located to other venues (the main screening venue Shattuck Cinemas was no exception, as it’s out the door to the right about 200 feet). For this grateful writer, even with a humbly supplemented budget from a midwestern land-grant university, the rates were still reasonable with the festival discount. If GLAS has a good partnership with Hotel Shattuck, I’d not discourage it. The all-day happy hour priced-beverages (with festival pass) in the boutique hotel’s extremely classy and airy bar and restaurant didn’t hurt either (my good ol’ ag-based school did not supplement that expense, however). Good food, snacks, and spoils of California were plentiful in the downtown area. A bustling Saturday farmer’s market in operation just around the corner was a welcome break from darkened screening rooms.
Events scheduled in the long weekend were packed and included shorts screenings, features, panel discussions, portfolio reviews and networking for students, abundance of special programs of curated films with very diverse topics and a wide range of appeal (Presentation from David O’Reilly and Phil Lord/Chris Miller, retrospectives from Ruth Lingford, Jonathan Hodgson and Réka Bucsi, to name a few). Like other larger film festivals, there were plenty of events and topics to choose from and makes for a fun challenge to distill the schedule to suit specific interests.
GLAS offered a healthy variety of shorts in the well-curated and selected competition short programs in addition to the children’s competition and international showcases. Some that come to mind include Kangmin Kim’s “JEOM”, a father’s fear of a birthmark genetically passed to his son, displayed in a richly textured paper cutout technique that has the charms of both kid’s refrigerator art and a fevered night terror. Another memorable short was “Power”, by Dana Sink, from a series of similarly constructed moving puzzles in which line animations of whirlygigs and Rube Goldbergs cleverly fuse together to reveal a larger picture and meaning. So. Many. Great. Shorts.
Another highlights was the Google Spotlight/VR station that displayed Jorge Gutiérrez’s 360 VR film “Son of Jaguar”. Unlike most VR experiences, this one actually worked for me and kept me interested and not nauseous. I also appreciated the spotter who was with me so I didn’t fall over a chair in the registration hall when I moved to avoid the giant luchador power move. The accompanying panel presentation from Google Spotlight Stories was also scheduled to discuss working in the newish VR medium.
On the mainstream industry side, targeted mainly at students, there was also a very popular and fantastically conversational panel from Pixar, consisting of all-women, representing a wide gamut of roles from the studio and sharing aspects of preparing for and working and thriving in the studio.
Having attended the North American flagship festival, the Ottawa International Animation Festival just in October of 2017, it was notable to see that the Ottawa presence was in full force and represented by many of its key operators. Ottawa sets a great precedence for this kind of event and the right act to emulate and in some cases, duplicate, as GLAS develops its own unique identity and appropriate role in the US animation exhibition scene. And if this is the idea, and you don’t make it to Ottawa in the Fall, maybe wait a few months and head west – or for the many animation students already in the region, just stay put and the show will come to you.
2018 was only the third iteration for GLAS, and it seemed like it was well on its way to further establishing itself as a mainstay animation event in the US and dare I say, the northern hemisphere. I hope 2019 sees GLAS develop even more distinctly and continue to evolve as an outlet for the sincere breadth, depth, and scope of animation as art, education, business, and for those lucky (or cursed) few, a way of life.