Two Vancouver films highlighted at international animation festival

Some of the very best in international animation was celebrated at the annual Spark Animation festival in Vancouver over the weekend and the works of not one, but two Vancouver-based women made it on the featured list.

'It's my first film that I ever did and my first festival, so it's very exciting,' says one animator

Kerel Alaas’ Doors was one of two student-made films by Vancouver artists screened in the Made in Canada category for the festival. (Kerel Alaas/Vimeo )

Some of the best in international animation was celebrated at the annual Spark Animation festival in Vancouver over the weekend and the works of two local artists made it on the featured Canadian film list.

Both Kerel Alaas and Tisha Deb Pillai were studying at Emily Carr University of Art and Design when they created the films, which have been selected for the Canadian category.

Pillai has since graduated from the animation program while Alaas is in her fourth year.

"It's my first film that I ever did and my first festival, so it's very exciting," Alaas told CBC host of North By Northwest Sheryl MacKay.

Each door in Doors is a portal to a new scene and a new side of the character. (Kerel Alaas/Vimeo )

Her short animated film Doors was inspired by childhood memories, Alaas said, and tells the story of a mother who is coming home from a business trip.

"Both of my parents were really busy and worked a lot so we could have a good life," Alaas said. "We were always waiting for them to come and it was one of the most exciting things when 'Mom is here, Dad is here, yay!'"

Each time the mother in the animation passes through a door, it's a portal to another scene.

Throughout the animation sequence, the character transforms each time she goes through a door, showing the different sides to her as she changes from business woman travelling for work, to meeting a friend for a coffee in a far-flung city, to coming home to her family. 

Unconventional family

Pillai also drew inspiration from childhood memories for her film If You Fall. It's set in India in the 1990s and shows a father teaching his young daughter how to ride a bicycle.

"The mother is the primary breadwinner and the father is the primary caregiver and this situation causes problems in their relationship," she said.

"At the same time, it's seen through the eyes of the little girl and how she perceives it."

Pillai said she grew up in a family situation like that, which she described as unconventional. Her parents voiced the characters in the film and the best part of making the film, she said, was showing it to them.

Tisha Deb Pillai’s If You Fall tells the story of a family facing challenges and overcoming the unknown as the young girl learns to ride a bicycle and her parents come to terms with an unconventional relationship. (Tisha Deb Pillai/Vimeo )

Power of animation

Both Pillai and Alaas said that the power of animation lies in its ability to tell a story that other forms of film, like live action, aren't able to capture.

"You can exaggerate reality," Alaas said.

Pillai agreed that it opens up doors to creative storytelling.

"It doesn't have to just be a literal interpretation of the story, it can become very experimental and abstract just to express an idea," she said.

Alaas' Doorsand Pillai's If You Fall will be screened at VIFF Vancity Theatre starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 29.

To hear more, click on the audio below:

With files from North By Northwest