For those in attendence, I only saw competitions 3, 4 and 5. Three of the prize winners came from the opening competition screening, so perhaps I was just unlucky.
It's impossible to know if the selection was a true cross section of what's being done today or a reflection of the tastes of the people selecting the films, but I found the films in competition to be a major disappointment. The films were far more interested in design and concept than they were in character or acting. They had no sense of pace, most being horribly slow. Humor was in short supply and a lot of the humor was based on cruelty. There was a lot of violence directed towards animals and it wasn't cartoon violence; it was death and dismemberment.
I tried to imagine what type of person would get up in the morning and be happy to work on some of these films. I found them difficult to sit through and couldn't imagine spending weeks or months creating them.
Two of the areas where the films were strongest were the films made for children and films made for the web. The children's films were more upbeat, more entertaining and better paced than the films in the regular competition. The exceptions in the children's films were the ones made for American TV. The soundtracks were loud and unrelenting. Their pacing was terrible. It's clear that they were overwritten, but the scripts were deemed to precious to cut.
The makers of internet shorts have the advantage of knowing how often their films are viewed. I think this has resulted in a healthy respect for the audience. The films communicate clearly and humorously and don't let their designs overwhelm their content.
There are screenings known as showcases, where the films screen out of competition. I would love to know how the films are categorized, because the showcase films were generally superior. The international showcase included shorts by Disney and DreamWorks. Why were they quarantined? Were their budgets too high? Were they too entertaining? Was the jury too impressionable?
At the 2004 Ottawa festival, an animator friend of mine said that the trick to attending Ottawa was to go to all the retrospectives and showcases and avoid the competition screenings. I'd amend that to include watching the children's and web films, but my friend wasn't far wrong. Next time, I think I'll follow his advice.