Edmonton International Film Festival 'lit the fuse' to animation Oscar win

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The Edmonton International Film Festival can claim a solid assist in Oscar history.

On Sunday night, the Academy Award for Best Animated Short went to If Anything Happens I Love You — a harrowing story about two parents growing apart after the death of their daughter, written and directed by Americans Will McCormack and Michael Govier.

Last October, the 12-minute film played EIFF, winning the local Grand Jury Award for Short Film: Animation. The prize specifically qualified the movie for Academy consideration, a direct and ever-narrowing path to the Oscar win.

“This is a film that was made two years ago, dreamed up on a kitchen table. The team that both directed and wrote it had zero money, so they submitted to just a few festivals they could afford, focusing on Oscar-qualifying festivals,” explains EIFFs’ producer Kerrie Long.

In 2016, Long and her team got EIFF this Academy-qualifying status.

“The film got into a bunch of festivals across America — but the final festival of the year that was Oscar-qualifying is ours. And,” she recounts happily, “it wins the Grand Jury award.”

The awards picked up by If Anything Happens I Love You prior to this were awesome and appreciated, though “not prestigious enough for the Academy,” Long notes. “So they told us ours was the only festival that was Oscar-qualifying that helped move them into the Academy.”

Last week, just before the win, EIFF hosted an online chat with the filmmakers moderated by the amazing Christian Zyp, now on the festival’s YouTube channel.


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In it, Govier notes, “Edmonton was the one that we won, and that qualified us. And you get this great letter, and then the Academy says, ‘You are qualified to submit.’

“Edmonton, they lit the fuse that began the train, so we’re very grateful. This is why film festivals are so important.”

Dig down and there’s actually an extra local twist to the Edmonton connection. In a non-pandemic year, the festival jury would include jurors from the U.S. and off the continent. But with the disruptive, ‘don’t care about your problems’ COVID-19 and all, this year’s jury was just EIFF’s “teeny tiny programming team,” picking what they thought was most Oscar-worthy.

So the EIFF team can definitely claim good instincts here.

“It’s kind of like having a horse in the race, right?” laughs Long.

Getting back to the film, which of course did the heavy lifting, Long loves the now-available-on-Netflix animation’s simplicity.

“The minimalism of the animation. There’s no dialogue in it. It’s a universal story of love,” she says. “Just make sure you have Kleenex.”

Besides Netflix, If Anything Happens I Love You itself is currently showing in the animation program of EIFF’s 2021 Oscar Nominated Shorts Package, available to watch at edmontonfilmfest.com/oscar-shorts for $15 through the end of April as part of a three-program trident of international film.

Meanwhile, October’s upcoming EIFF, its 35th, will be the last one with Long as its festival producer — a position she’s held for the last 18 years.


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“It’s kind of my swan song,” she says, looking back. “I got the festival to be Oscar-qualifying. And now one of ours won!”

Co-producer and programmer Sydney Moule will take over the top job in 2022, when hopefully we’ll all be sitting in the soft seats again.

This time, the festival will be fully ready in advance to run online — though if theatres are open, “obviously we’ll go into theatres as well.”

EIFF usually runs at Landmark downtown, and the dormant marquee has kept the film fest’s slogan up since 2020.

This year’s fest will run Oct. 1-10, conveniently planned.

“We’re going with last year’s date,” Long laughs, “so that we didn’t have to make new posters.”




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