When it comes to animation, women are often misrepresented both on-screen and off. Looking to expose a world outside of the Disney princess paradigm, Toni Pennacchia and Paul Elsnau, founder of the local MergingArts Productions, created the Womanimation! festival, a one-day showcase of animated shorts made by women from around the globe. Now they're bringing the fifth annual installment back to Providence after hosting it in Brookline last year. “The idea was to highlight short films to kind of get a taste of different women and different cultures,” explains Pennacchia. “As far as I know we’re one of two festivals in the world that focus on this.”
With eleven films from seven different countries, this year’s line-up promises plenty of cultural variety, all while dealing in some way with the idea of youth as either a whimsical state of being or as something looked back on.
This idea of finding a thematic common ground is important to Pennacchia. “One thing I find that’s a problem in a lot of bigger festivals is that it just seems like they threw some shorts together," she says. "It didn’t feel like an experience. I want the feature film experience, but with the variety – to have it feel like there’s some kind of flow.”
While thematically linked, visually the films will vary in ways that are testaments to the endless possibility of animation. Running the gamut of 2D, stop motion and mixed media, the films on display are bold in their creativity, employing techniques that aren’t typically associated with animation.
In some cases even the subject matter side-steps conventional wisdom as to what animation is all about. Two of this year’s films are documentaries, though certainly not in the conventional sense of capturing a subject in real-time. Bajo la Almohada (Under The Pillow), directed by Spanish animator Isabel Herguera, uses the illustrations and voices of children living in a clinic in India, while a film from France serves as a retrospective on the life of an early twentieth century renaissance woman. “It’s kind of a documentary, but it’s not a documentary,” says Pennacchia of Amélie Harrault’s Mademoiselle Kiki et les Montparnos (Kiki of Montparnasse). “She was an interesting woman. How would you document that if you don’t have any archival footage? To do that through animation really brings it back to life.”
“There is that element,” adds Elsnau. “As a medium animation can do anything.”
Womanimation! will be at the Cable Car Cinema and Café on Saturday, June 22 with showings every two hours starting at 1pm. Pennacchia and Elsnau will both be present to introduce and discuss the films, and voting will be held afterwards to choose an audience favorite. Prior to each screening, DJ Madam B will be spinning music by women from all over the world.