OIFF 2014

OIFF: Film Army Goes to Ottawa

The Ottawa International Film Festival celebrated its fifth anniversary this year and it’s fantastic to see how quickly it has grown over those years. This year had a great blend of local films, like Girlhouse, and international films from Brazil, India, Russia and more. They even got an Oscar winner in there with The Lady in No. 6, which is pretty cool. It also partnered with other Ottawa events like co-presenting My Father and the Man in Black with the Ottawa Bluesfest, securing its place in the cultural landscape.

There is also the Music Video Challenge, which has been a part of the festival since the beginning. Yes, music videos still exist and are a unique art form unto themselves. This is a great way to celebrate the work that these artists and storytellers are doing in this often over-looked medium. A really unique and interesting experience in a film festival.

The gala, which kicked off the whole festival, was quite the classy affair. There was a great turnout of varied filmmakers, Ottawa’s new film commissioner and even the mayor, Jim Watson, himself. (The best comment of the evening: “Here we’re proud of our mayor.” What a bizarre concept.) Watson made a speech which included the most relevant line: “We’re not TIFF. We’re not Toronto.”

Now that's a mayor you ca be proud of.
Now that’s a mayor you ca be proud of.

Now, yes, Toronto’s film community is undeniable and is the reason most people have to leave smaller cities like Ottawa to find work and make movies. It happens. But Ottawa shouldn’t try to be Toronto (unless you too would like to be a stand in for all American cities). There is room for many different film industries to exist in this country. Ottawa has its own unique flavour and not being the size of Toronto’s industry offers its own opportunities and advantages. It’s about finding what makes Ottawa unique and running with that. (The opportunities that exist in the Market alone are copious.) There’s a lot more to Ottawa than the politicians.

Talking with local filmmakers, there’s the passion and determination that is helping grow Ottawa’s industry, just like this film festival is doing. People in Ottawa have still been making films but mainly on their own. Now there is more of a spirit of collaboration and working together to make even greater films which will push the industry further and further.

This growth is happening at the same time that there is a lessening of the fear of actually using Canadian settings. Shows like Rookie Blue and Flashpoint are more Canadian and still sell south of the border. The F-Word is intensely Toronto and still sells tickets despite the use of the Bloor Street Diner and The Royal. And in this vein, I can’t not mention the greatest show of all time Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays which was set in Ottawa – the perfect backdrop for those two characters. There is more opportunity now to explore our own cities in our films and TV.

The whole point of this is that there is room for more filmmaking industries outside of the behemoth that is Toronto. Areas like Niagara are also exploring and building their own industries too. There is a ton of potential in Ottawa right now and I have no doubt that we will see a lot of great things coming out of there. OIFF is a great way to celebrate that and showcase the work that is being done.

Thank you to everyone at OIFF for the wonderful experience and letting us be a part of the festival this year. Looking forward to seeing what you do next year!

See? You wouldn't even notice that you're not in Toronto.
See? You wouldn’t even notice that you’re not in Toronto.

Pause for Dinopaws

Do you ever happen to come across something you’ve never seen before? Ever want to touch it, smell it, keep it, grab it, or eat it?  This sounds weird until I tell you that it’s what three dinosaurs do in a preschool show called Dinopaws!

Show Specs
Target demographic: Ages 2-5
Length: 11-minute segments
Genre: Preschool
Style: 3D animated
First aired: June 2014
Seasons: One so far!

Dinopaws is an international co-production between the following:

  • Treehouse
  • Guru Studio
  • Kindle Entertainment (UK)
  • Impossible Kids (UK)
  • BBC (UK)

The scripts were given to Guru from the BBC where the director Harold Harris developed the look and feel of the show. Harris has also directed other shows like Justin Time (my post) Clone High and Bob and Margaret.

Dinopaws has quite a feminine approach; everything looks soft, cozy and very huggable! The show is rendered using an engine called VRay, which simulates real world lighting. The shadows are never totally black but follow the characters in a very playful way.


The main dinos, Bob, Gwen, and Tony are friendly, inquisitive and very excitable. They eagerly explore their unique (and sci-fi-esque) surroundings, full of pep and giggles! This show is visually very exciting!

My favourite thing about this show is that Tony doesn’t speak English. He’s full of squeaks, moans, ooohs and ahhs. You don’t even need to translate it between languages!

Some parents have complained about the use of made up words, like this lady here:

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 5.16.35 PM

CBeebies is a channel owned by BBC. Some were concerned that kids will start learning the wrong words. But that’s really part of having fun! Dr. Seuss is a great example! Well it’s great that CBeebies was able to respond, however I don’t think they would change a character based on this woman’s comment.  According to the developer and head writer Alan Gilbey, it’s part of Bob’s charm and imagination to make up words:

“Bob is the biggest and he’s a Stegopawrus, slow of body and ponderous of mind. He thinks BIG thoughts, is the philosopher of the group and (because language is new in Dinopaws world) he loves to invent new words that sum stuff up. He composes little ‘bouncy word parties’ too – which we would call poems.” - Alan Gilbey (The rest of the interview here.)

See, it’s part of Bob’s charm! Also this show is not mean to be educational but entertaining.

A great place to watch episodes is right here (but you need to pretend you are from New Zealand and Hola! can help with that).

Just for fun, here are some other dinosaur-related shows:

  • The Flintstones (1960)
  • Land of the Lost (1974)
  • Dinosaucers (1980)
  • Dino-Riders (1988)
  • Dinosaurs (1991) – The creepiest dinos ever…
  • Barney & Friends (1992) – I totally thought that he was dog for the longest time…
  • Walking with Dinosaurs (1999)
  • Dinotopia (2002)
  • Prehistoric Park (2006)
  • Primeval (2007)
  • The Land Before Time (2007 TV series)
  • Dino Squad (2007)
  • I’m A Dinosaur (2008)

So what I’ve learned from this show is that I should explore everything and when I find something I should touch it, smell it, keep it, grab it, and eat it. Good, because that’s what I’ve been doing so far.

OIFF 2014

OIFF: Not just a sound a French dog makes

Now the lights from TIFF have faded, what is there to look forward to for Canadian film festivals? Well, it just so happens that the Ottawa International Film Festival is taking place this very week! Going strong for five years now, the festival will be showcasing 25 films from all over the globe from October 16-19. Screenings will be held at the historic Mayfair Theatre, Ottawa’s oldest active theatre (which also happened to be a porno theatre for two years back in the ’70s but we all have those phases).

Maybe you are looking to expand your scene so check out the Music Video Challenge on Thursday, October 16. You can chill with the cast and crew of Girlhouse, which is screening beforehand. The night will feature live performances from bands from the Ottawa music industry. Join the party hosted by Brian Cauley and Andrea Wrobel.  Though you can check out the full line-up here, here is what I’m looking forward to the most.

The festival kicks off with Girlhouse, the Canadian slasher about a girl who moves into a house that streams an X-rated website. An obsessed fan hacks the address and decides to pay them a visit. You can’t beat a good slasher film in October. Personally, I am most excited about the shorts program on Saturday the 18th. From Dead Hearts where a young mortician falls in love,  A Mile in These Hooves about two foster brothers who set out to break the world record for longest journey in a two person costume (also a bravoFACT), Be the Snow about the adventure of a pillow that runs away to discover the outside world, to Silent Invaders where a town is overrun by mimes. That’s just going to be a good time. Another short of note is India’s Rab da Vaasta about a small town barber with a traumatic past who is forced to deal with an ethical choice while shaving an unusual customer. This is played against the socio-political backdrop of India in the 1980′s and is based on the short story Espuma y nada más (Just Lather, That’s All). I totally read that story in high school. On a more serious note if you are into some docs, there’s The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life about the oldest living Holocaust survivor and pianist. If you have a good memory, you’ll remember that it won an Oscar so that’s not too shabby. In the Turn takes on the role roller derby plays in the LGBT community through the journey of a 10-year-old transgendered girl. With the rise of roller derby as a cult phenomenon in the past few years, this is definitely an interesting look into that world.

The festival kicks off on October 15th with a gala which is sure to be an evening of glitz and glamour, and alcohol-fuelled networking. What more can one ask for out of life? Be sure to get your tickets and come on out for some film festival fun in the capital this week!