On Saturday, June 25, Merging Arts will present the 8th annual Womanimation Film Festival in Providence, and if you’re not quite sure what it is, their slogan says it all, “It’s women…It’s animation…It’s Womanimation!” The Womanimation Film Festival will take place at AS220 and will feature 11 short films from around the world. The films will showcase a wide range of animation styles from stop motion to painting on glass, and the films will represent an even wider global cross section as the festival features shorts from Belgium, Israel, the Czech Republic and more.
With selections just being locked in and schedules announced, I was able to ask co-founder and co-programmer Toni Pennacchia a few questions about this year’s festival.
Josh Gravel: Can you give me a brief introduction and overview of the festival?
Toni Pennacchia: The purpose of the festival is to highlight women’s contributions to the animated short film art form. Back in 2008, we started highlighting women’s films (both live-action and animation) as part of SWAN Day (Support Women Artists Now). Eventually, we sort of did our own thing and decided to highlight animated films for a couple of reasons. One, as we did with SWAN Day, to highlight women’s contributions, which often get lost in the mix. But more broadly, to emphasize the importance of storytelling in animation. Often animation is thought of as either just for kids or generally wacky or experimental. Our mission is to demonstrate that there is some serious (yet entertaining) storytelling possible within the animated short film format.
JG: What types of films will you be screening this year?
TP: This year’s festival has a bit of a split personality. There are several very women-centric or feminist-oriented films, often a bit risqué. On the other hand, there are some very lyrical, family-friendly films. It really is a pretty diverse mix. As always, we have a mix of animation styles, from traditional 2-d to stop-motion to 2-d computer to paint on glass.
JG: Is there anything that sets this year apart from previous years?
TP: One unexpected thing is that we have a couple of previous participants with newer films that we are screening. This is not because of favoritism, since we also rejected several submissions from previous participants. Again, I think the “split personality” is a little different this year. One thing people sometimes think about the festival (incorrectly) is that it is an agenda festival. While we don’t shy away from those types of films (and this year have more than average), it really is again about the storytelling and the art form, not any particular message.
JG: What would you like your audience to get out of your programming?
TP: We want to sort of hit that sweet spot between challenging and entertaining the audiences. It’s definitely nothing like the mainstream cineplex fare, though on the other hand, it’s not just “weird for the sake of weird.” I think people will find that it’s very substantive programming, but enjoyable at the same time, and not something you’d find anywhere else. We’re one of the few festivals in the world devoted to women’s voices in animation.
JG: Was there anything that you specifically went after for this year’s festival?
TP: Not particularly, other than overall high quality that we look for every year. One of the fun things about programming is the sort of organic development of the program as you cull down the better submissions to find a program that makes sense. We want to balance a good overall flow and relationship between films, but on the other hand touch on a variety of themes and not spend too much time on any one motif. For example, we had several finalists dealing with nature themes, but ended up limiting that in our final selection.
The 8th annual Womanimation Festival takes place Saturday, June 25 at AS220, 115 Empire Street in Providence. All 11 shorts will screen together as one feature length presentation with showtimes at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm. For more info check out the Merging Arts website at mergingartsproductions.com.