Director Biography – Suraya Raja (DON’T THINK OF A PINK ELEPHANT)

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Suraya Raja is an animator and director, and a graduate of the National Film and Television School, where she completed an MA in Animation Direction. Her films tell stories of the absurdity of human behaviour, the internal and the tragicomic, influenced by her previous work in psychology and social issues, and also by her day-to-day observations of human behaviour.

Director Statement

I get a lot of inspiration from my observation of people, and am really interested in how we think and behave. I have an interest in stories, which inhabit the internal, of mental health, perception and the comedy of human behaviour and interaction. Often my ideas come from social interactions in the mundanity of every-day life, and sometimes from my background of working in homelessness, psychology, substance use and offending.

I am drawn to creating characters that come across as weird or unpleasant, and shifting the perspective as we start to recognise ourselves in them. I am fascinated by the way in which we all think, and how we are really not all that different from one another. I wanted to make a film about a character’s experience of a mental health issue, without it being explicitly about a mental health issue, a story that people could engage with as a story. It couldn’t be educational or preachy, and needed to have a humorous edge, without being condescending.

I chose to make a story of a girl who experiences puro OCD, a form of OCD that is less known about. Intrusive thoughts, generally unspoken of, are something we all experience. My intention was to present these thoughts, often bizarre, taboo and funny, in a way that we can relate to, and to then reveal the more serious and distressing nature of the problem for Layla. I also wanted to really get across the internal thoughts, as they might be experienced, through the use of mixed techniques, contrasting physical textures, and sound.

Layla learns that facing your fears is a way to overcome them. Through avoidance techniques, Layla has learnt to ‘get by’ in day-to-day life, until suddenly she is confronted with her darkest fears. Ultimately Layla makes the decision to face these fears to save Friskies, the cat she loves, and in doing so realises she can trust herself. After the turmoil she experiences in the shed, a terrifying battle with her own thoughts, she is surprised to find herself still holding onto an object that she would have struggled to even look at before. As she looks at the object she experiences a sensation. She is not ‘cured’, but better able to deal with the issue she has.

Short Film: DON’T THINK OF A PINK ELEPHANT, 7min., UK, Animatiom

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We’ve all had thoughts of what might happen should we jump from a high place, drop the baby, or stab someone with a fork. Usually we can dismiss them without a care – but what if we couldn’t?

Don’t Think of a Pink Elephant enters the world of a teenage girl fighting daily against compulsive thoughts and urges. Layla is terrified by her potential to do harm, until challenged to face her darkest fears.

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Director Biography – Arna Selznick (THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING)

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Arna Selznick is an award-winning director and story artist. As a pioneering female director of animated feature films such as The Care Bears Movie in 1984, Arna inspires and entertains families with her imaginative storytelling. Arna’s director credits include: The Care Bears Movie, Little Bear (season 2), and Back to School with Franklin. In addition, Arna’s feature story artist credits include feature films such as: The Nut Job Sequel, Spark, and Rock and Rule; and television series such as: Nerds and Monsters, Kate and Mim-Mim, 6teen, The Animated Mr. Bean, and The Inspector Gadget original series.

Director Statement

When I was 8 years old, I was much like our hero, the Girl in our film. She is a maker of things. She has a best friend Dog, and they do everything together. Yup, that’s how I was then. Me, always drawing and making things, and my dog always by my side. So, I jumped at the chance to direct this short film adaptation of writer/artist Ashley Spires’ book, THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING.

The creative journey is often not an easy one, as Spires so well depicts in the book. When things go right, we feel the absolute joy of creation! But when things go wrong, we might persist and persist, only to reach a point when we feel there is nothing left to do but give up. That’s when the breakthrough comes for our Girl.

As Girl says in our film, making stuff is hard! The process of adapting this book to film was all that and a total joy.

I was honoured to work with my screenwriter partner, husband John van Bruggen, who crafted our lovely screenplay.

I was thrilled to work with Nelvana’s talented Most Magnificent team, who brought the vision of our story to life. Every day, the crew achieved a new level of technical expertise and creativity. We wanted our computer-generated film world to feel handmade, so we designed wonky, uneven shapes. Girl’s ‘made things’ are quirky and incredibly ingenious. Our characters are gorgeously furred. Surface textures are subtle and deep. We animated mostly on twos, like a stop motion film. The animation is sensitive, and the characters feel genuine. Our sound designers included extensive real time Foley and a beautiful score from Judith Gruber-Stitzer.

Our exceptional voice cast includes Whoopi Goldberg as Narrator, Alison Pill as Mom, Lilly Bartlam as Girl, and Tony Daniels as her hilarious friend Dog.

At the heart of our story is our Girl’s journey. It begins with a new toolbox and ends with a new perspective: What’s truly magnificent can be something simple, that is made for a friend.

I hope you enjoy watching THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING as much as I did making it.

Arna Selznick
September, 201

Short Film: THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING, 22min., Canada, Animation

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The Most Magnificent Thing is an inspirational story about a little girl with a creative spirit, determined to make great things. Joined by her best friend, her pet dog, the two happily explore the world, doing absolutely everything together. When she receives her very own tool kit, the little girl sets out to make the most magnificent thing for her best friend – but it’s not as easy as she thinks! The Most Magnificent Thing is a timeless tale about learning through perseverance and hard work, the power of love, and selflessness.

News & Reviews

Director Biography – Barbara Peikert (MI DI WORM)

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Baraba-pe was born and raised in Switzerland. Since 2009 she has been working as a self-producer, filmmaker, photographer and sound artist in the art Atelier a./f. As the founder of the theory of Astrazione-fiction, she has been contributing to the development of abstract fictional art since 2005. The fields of interest of the experimental and animated films concentrate on the chromatic flow and the fictive abstraction, holography, photography, light and sound effects enrich the aesthetic perception on the basis of the filmography of ECLAT/ECRAN (Shine/ Screen). She studied at the Masana in Barcelona, at the Accademia di Brera in Milan, at the INA-GRM in Paris in Audio Engineering and Digital Sound Design and was assistant of sound installations at the CRM (Centro ricerche musicale) in Rome. She graduated from the Università di Sapienza di Roma, the ENSAD High School and the Universities of Paris 1+8: Master in Art, Aesthetics and Light Design.

Experimental films:
Cartoons with 2D Animation+3D illusions templates, color, sound:
2018 MI DI WORM no. 10, 1′; MI DI WORM no. 1-19 (year of reference 2015); AF_VOLVERSTOI_no 1-65; AF_ST-TIC_TAC; AF_SAGOMA, 25’’; Periplaneta, 6’ (shooting Spain)
Staging with RGB flow lighting effects and geometric shapes (year of shooting France 2005):
2017/19 AF_EINSTRAHLER (Radiator) 10’; AF_WRACK, 13’; HEXA SEXTA 16’; Bille Balle (BALL BALLOON) 190“; AF_EINäuger (One eye) 10′
Space and time axis model the sequence of the images and stage the discolored color flow
2018 AF_SO_WAL, 4’; AF_SOMONT_NB, 145’’; AF_SOMONT_R, 140’’; AF_SO-RO, 4’37’’
Early Experimental films of astrazione-fiction:
2012 A- SOL_TIC, 2010 WRACK_CUBE, 10’; 2008 Blue-TUONO, 15’; CA-lunatic, 4’; compilation Eclat/Ecran 2004 (Prismis, Bleu électrique, Halo4).

For additional information, please contact me.

Director Statement

The intermittent image sequence is noise for tone painting: rattling noise, rumble, rattle, clatter, jingle, and in part appear to be synchronized with the image sequence of this simulated sound. “Abstract worms” may have last three attempts to call all together with ironic and exotic whistle and rattle noises. The painting seems floating and disappearing in darkness.

The sequences of simple forms transform smoothly into animated films. Geometrically technical composition principles are explored: the self-producing world of images integrates the search for a color logic, conceptual contexts of image design and is automated as a self-emitting reflection, reacting to stimuli with a tone-painting stimulus.
Baraba-pe, 2018

Short Film: MI DI WORM no. 10, 1min., Switzerland, Animation

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Synopsis MI DI WORM no. 10, 2018, 1’, color, audio
The starting material is a frame-to-frame animation art of 2-Stop motion: A production with visual effects. Of the type related to a stereoscopic recording, the flickering wiggling-picture ramifications of the yellow color animate strokes on a red background. Part of the constellations complement intermittent in animated gestures: Similar to caves drawing or a children’s schematic stick figures. The setting has met with curiosity. The points stand out, as they would be a fantastic set of notes, virtually painted to listen to.

News & Reviews

July 2019 Film/Screenplay Winners

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July 2019 Winner

festival posterRED & THE KINGDOM OF SOUND, UK, Animation/Fantasy

festival posterDIVINE CONSULTANTS – THE BEGINNING, Finland, Animation/Adventure

festival posterTHE BACKWARD ASTRONOMER, USA, Animation/Drama

festival posterSAVING GREEN, 5min., USA, Animation

festival posterHAPPY THE ANGRY POLAR BEAR, 3min., Animation/Family

festival posterWE, 3min., Iran, Animation

festival posterWHALE FALL, 3min., USA, Animation

festival posterNOMADIC CLOUD, 5min., Sci-Fi/Animation


Producer/Director: Matthew Toffolo

Festival Moderators: Matthew Toffolo, Rachel Elder

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editors: Kimberly Villarruel, Kyle Drier, John Johnson

Festival Directors: Rachel Elder, Natasha Levy

Camera Operators: Denissa Palmer, Temitope Akinterinwa, Efren Zapata, Zack Arch