The infant ManiFest animation film festival does more with less.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Nothing was going to stop Emily Cohan from getting to the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
The now-26-year-old Marina resident normally crosses the country on a motorcycle, but this time she traveled in a station wagon with her Kawasaki Ninja 250 stuffed in the back, and sister in tow. Or at least started to.
“Our car broke down in Nevada,” she says. “It was 15 degrees. No cell phone reception. We had to flag down truckers.”
After hours stuck by the side of the road, they got a tow to Kragen’s, got the parts they needed, and got to the famous film gathering with only one day to catch flicks. Cohan, who fell in love with animation as a teenager, had a definite preference: “I said, ‘We have to see the animation films.’”
Her sister acquiesced and they saw stuff “from all over the place.”
“This is something I should continue working on,” she thought to herself.
So just as she had resolved to reach Sundance, Cohan resolved to bring something like it – a forum devoted to her favored medium – to Monterey. She approached several movie theater venues, but it was Fred Weinert at Cannery Row IMAX who was most receptive. Which worked out for Cohan, too, whose short film, In the Sled of Night, is one of the 13 2 – to 5-minute works that will be screened.
“I think every [animator] wants to see their film at IMAX,” she says.
Upon approval, she got to work right away on ManiFest (a splicing of “Monterey Animation Festival”). Well, almost right away; first she took off on a motorcycle road trip. But when she came back, she started assembling the pieces, soliciting for participants on festival circuit website withoutabox.com, San Francisco’s Alternative Press Expo and Craigslist, and putting up posters and dropping postcards around town.
The films started coming in – from Thailand, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Atlanta and L.A., in categories ranging documentary, experimental, science fiction, 2D and 3D, and music video.
Though most of the 13 finalists are family safe (students can get discounted tickets), they also have a streak of youthful/adult sensibility.
Perista, by Kim Weiner with music by Zac Zinger, looks like a canvas of morphing chalk sketches, narrated by a woman who tells an anguished story about living through war: “The guerrillas… they killed the best men… I don’t know what the politics was during those years. I was a little kid.”
Lifeline, a thesis film by Andre Salaff, has been well-traveled as an official selection at sci-fi and animation festivals in London, Uruguay and Boston. It’s a love story in science fiction clothing that looks like a refined Bill Plimpton piece.
Kidnap, a Chinese/L.A. production by Sijia Luo, is too cute and charming for words, though the main character, a little girl, has plenty to spare. Demi Urge Emesis, by Aurelio Voltaire, looks like a Tim Burton student claymation project and boasts Burton movie composer and former Oingo Boingo frontman Danny Elfman as narrator.
Evan Curtis’ Chief Serenbe, named after a self-sustained farming town in Georgia, is a stop-motion short (think Gumby and The Fantastic Mr. Fox) that drops off an action figure into the real world to wordlessly wander through a city. It’s prefaced by a Kerouac quote and gives few clues as to a plot, but it’s an enigmatic meditation on a subject that’s universal and personal to the animator:
“The idea behind it,” says Curtis, “was not to have a strong narrative so that everybody in the audience would be able to identify with the character. I’m from New York. I moved to Atlanta and it was pretty lonely. I felt uprooted. I would imagine a lot of other people could identify with that kind of feeling.”
“Beautiful,” Cohan says of it. “It’s one of my favorites.”
(Which has no bearing on which film wins the best of festival honor – that’s decided by audience vote.)
Animators David Dutton (Eye Know), Andre Salaf (Lifeline) and Kimberly Weiner (Parista) are scheduled to attend and panel a Q&A after the screening, which Cohan estimates will run one hour. Afterwards, the IMAX lobby will serve as the venue for the second part of the evening – an art/illustration expo with DJs and artists present including Squid Row cartoonist Bridgett Spicer, illustrator and musician Hanif Panni and Mary Ann Ryan Sadler of Dr. Sketchy’s drawing workshop at Alternative Café.
Unaware that ManiFest fell square in the middle of the Monterey County Artists Studio Tour weekend, Cohan is shimmying her festival and expo into position to segue after it instead of competing with it, leaving postcards for her film festival with at least one of the artists of the studio tour to give to visitors.
“I view [ManiFest] as a really awesome party, a good last stop,” she says. “Everybody I’ve talked to is excited.”