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Festivals

Festival Review: New Chitose, The World’s Only Airport Animation Festival

Taking place entirely inside an airport terminal, New Chitose Airport International Animation Festival’s second edition was a unique experience.

It was a combination of distinct curiosity and claustrophobic nightmare. The main area of the airport resembles a mall, with four floors of shops all located before security check-in. Although there wasn’t a city to explore immediately outside of the airport, there was never a lack of things to do.

The festival took place inside a movie theater on the fourth floor of the airport. Between screenings, attendees passed the time at the terminal’s restaurants, bars, cafes, chocolate factory, model train caboose, arcade, and a spa, which was open nearly 24 hours daily.

The opening night ceremony with filmmakers in attendance.
The opening night ceremony with filmmakers in attendance.

New Chitose Festival director Nobuaki Doi crafted a broad lineup of animation, with a strong curatorial emphasis on new filmmakers. Rather than multiple competition programs dividing students and professionals into separate categories, Doi included them in the same international competitions, which gave them the opportunity to be screened and compete with one another.

Favorite selections included Horse by Shen Jie, Eager by Allison Schulnik, and L’Oeil du Cyclone by Masanobu Hiraoka. Additionally, there was a range of special programs, including Late Night Work Club’s Ghost Stories, as well as screenings of Steamboy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Yellow Submarine presented with “explosive sound” concert speakers.

The main airport lobby was overtaken with animation-related events.
The main airport lobby was overtaken with animation-related events.

Also included were the works of Adam Elliot, master classes from each jury member, and more. On the airport’s main floor was a large screen playing films throughout the day for everyone to enjoy, as well as a large bounce house, and a gallery exhibiting artwork, models, and toys from various anime films and shows.

Generally speaking, film festivals tend to have a summer camp feeling, and, in that regard, New Chitose took bonding to the next level. There is only one hotel at the airport, meaning the festival filmmakers, jury, and special guests stayed in the same place. There were no spatial distinctions; every morning, the vast majority of attendees casually reconvened in the hotel cafeteria for breakfast, before going about their days at the festival.

Opening reception attended by airport officials and Hokkaido politicians.
Opening reception attended by airport officials and Hokkaido politicians.

In the evening, when the airport shops shut down, the filmmakers, staff, special guests, and jury converged at the hotel bar overlooking the runway, which created an environment suited for camaraderie. Once the bar closed, which often was determined by its rowdiness level, everyone either went to bed, continued the party in a hotel room, or carried on at the spa, which was divided by gender per Japanese tradition.

The festival guest wall had photos and drawings by all the guests.
The festival guest wall had photos and drawings by all the guests.

The festival was also kind enough to take all of its guests on a day-long field trip to the city of Sapporo, which started with visit to the Okurayama Ski Jump, used in the 1972 Olympics. We took a lift to the top of the jump, which provided us with a stunning view overlooking the city. At its peak was a small shop selling ice cream and other refreshments, as well as giant, friendly crows which came up to us and politely took the ice cream. The day-trip ended with an all-you-can-eat (and drink) buffet at the renowned Sapporo Beer Garden.

While very formal, the festival’s closing awards ceremony delivered the perfect amount of fanfare. Winners were treated with energetic theme music, as they were called up to the stage to receive awards or medals and make brief statements. em>Teeth won the grand prize, and while its directing duo, Tom Brown and Daniel Gray, could not attend, they still delivered a welcome video acceptance speech that encapsulated the festival’s joyous madness:

Once its 2016 call for submissions are announced, I highly suggest that filmmakers submit their work to the New Chitose Airport International Animation Festival — and, if accepted into competition, I also highly suggest attending, especially since the festival goes out of its way to make it affordable for filmmakers to attend. It is a particularly refreshing festival that is not to be missed.

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