(August 30, 2016 – Ottawa, ON) Perhaps it’s because we’re approaching our 150th anniversary of confederation, but there seems to be a very welcome uptick in projects looking back at Canada’s long history in a number of areas, including film. The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF), North America’s leading animation film festival, has just announced such a project and visitors to their 40th annual festival next month will have a chance to see a remarkable piece of Canadian film history.
Remarkable because it has survived, remarkable because he has been fully restored, remarkable that it was made in the first place. It will be a special screening of Canada’s first feature length animated film, the 1955 production, The Enchanted Village, or Le Village Enchanté. Organizers of this year’s festival underline that this screening would not have been possible without the “enormous effort by Cinémathèque Québécoise and Elephant, The Memory of Quebec Cinema.
“[We] acquired the original printing elements of The Enchanted Village at the beginning of the ‘70s,” said Marcel Jean, Executive Director of the Cinémathèque Québécoise. “They have since been preserved in optimal conditions. Thanks to our partner Elephant, The memory of Quebec Cinema, a 4k restoration of this unknown piece of Canadian animation will now be accessible to a wide audience. We are honoured that the world premiere of the restoration will take place at the OIAF at the occasion of its 40th anniversary.”
Brothers Réal and Marcel Racicot, who directed the film, worked six years in their evenings with four assistants to make this cell-animated fantasy. The film was released in December 1955 and played in Montréal, Québec City, Hull and Sherbrooke. Set in the Abitibi area of Québec, The Enchanted Village follows a Catholic family who have recently settled in the area. With the other settlers they help build a village, then a church. Their only wish now is to find a bell for the church. Soon, they find a tiny but magical bell that enriches their lives…until a menacing figure appears in the village one day.
Naïve and sometimes technically awkward, dealing with Catholic themes and folklore, offering some Hollywood-cartoon slapstick jokes, The Enchanted Village is a tour de force considering that it was made in very modest conditions.
The Ottawa International Animation Festival takes place September 21 – 25, 2016 in various venues throughout the city of Ottawa. The Enchanted Village will be showcased on Friday, September 23 at 5:00PM at the National Gallery and Saturday 24 at 5:00PM at the Arts Court Theatre.
Click here for another link to OIAF and to other September 2016 film festivals.