Caroline Leaf

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Caroline Leaf
Born (1946-08-12) August 12, 1946 (age 70)
Seattle, United States
Occupation Film director
Animator
Screenwriter
Years active 1969 - 1995

Caroline Leaf (born August 12, 1946 in Seattle, Washington) is a Canadian-American filmmaker, animator, director, producer, and tutor. She has produced numerous short animated films and her work has been recognized worldwide. She is best known as one of the pioneering filmmakers at the National Film Board of Canada (NFBC). She worked at the NFBC from 1972-1991. During that time, she created the sand animation and paint-on-glass animation techniques. She also tried new hands-on techniques with 70mm Imax film. Her work is often representational of Canadian culture and is narrative based. Leaf now lives in London and is a tutor at The National Film and Television School.[1][2][3]

Biography and early work[edit]

Caroline Leaf was born in Seattle, Washington on August 12, 1946. She lived in Boston for most of her life but stayed in Seattle with her parents and sister every summer. She later moved to Seattle alone to live with her grandparents and cousins. Leaf attended Radcliffe College, which was affiliated with Harvard University, for visual arts from 1964-1968. She had no prior familial implications to film nor was she interested in Cinema until she saw her first European film in university. Initially Leaf wanted to pursue architecture. During her last year of studies she randomly enrolled in an animation class as an elective. The class was taught by Derek Lamb and while she could not draw, Lamb encouraged his students to focus on movement and to work under a camera. He requested his students bring an object to class as their focus of animation and Leaf chose beach sand. This is when she created sand animation. Using this technique, she produced her first film Sand, or Peter and the Wolf and was awarded a scholarship from Harvard University. After graduation, she moved to Italy for a year to focus on her drawing. She then completed a Post-doctoral degree at Harvard where she pioneered Paint-on-glass animation. It is with this new technique that she produced her second animated film, Orfeo. She then did a bit of freelance work and produced How Beaver Stole Fire. During that time, her animation professor Derek Lamb was hired as head of the English animation department at the National Film Board of Canada. Leaf moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada to work as an animator for the NFBC in 1972. She retired from the NFBC in 1992 to pursue Documentary film work.[2][3][4][5][6]

Leaf currently lives in London and is a tutor at The National Film and Television School.

Career[edit]

Leaf made her first film, Sand, or Peter and the Wolf, in 1968 at Harvard University. The short was made by dumping sand on a light box and manipulating the textures frame-by-frame. Her second film, Orfeo, had her painting directly on glass under the camera. Later that year she was invited to join the National Film Board of Canada's English Animation Studio. During her first year and a half of working at the NFBC, she lived in the Arctic. There she studied and collaborated with an Inuit artist to complete her third film, The Owl Who Married a Goose: An Eskimo Legend .[3] In this short animation, the character’s speak Inuktitut which was seen as representative of Canadian culture.[6] Her most renowned short film was The Street, which was produced with a mix of paint and glycerin. It was adapted from the short story of the same name by Mordechai Richler, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 49th Academy Awards.[7]

From 1981 until 1986, she worked on various live action documentary films. In 1986, she produced her first animation in nearly a decade by scratching on 70mm color film and reshooting it on 35mm film. Leaf used this method for her filmTwo Sisters which she worked on for two years. Removing the black of the film revealed colours that varied on each stock, thus making each frame unique to the other. The tone and narrative of this film was dark in theme. She also experimented with extreme camera angles.[6] Two Sisters won the award for best short film at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in 1991.[8]

She worked as an animator/director at the NFB until 1991. In 1991 she left animation to work on documentary films. In 2004 she contributed animation to a film about the Underground Railroad and co-directed "Suite for freedom" (her part was called "Slavery"). It was included in the Animation Show of Shows in 2004.

She now works at The National Film and Television School in London.

Animation techniques and influence[edit]

Leaf believed that “animation at the time impeded spontaneity and artistic exploration”[2] This led to her pioneering: Sand animation, Paint on glass, and hand etching on film stock. All of her techniques have been described as having "Fluid transitions"[6] She used different techniques to best tell the story of each of her films which showcased her narrative-based style. She created simple anecdotal and fictional stories based on literary works. Her films contain characters with relatable and complex issues. Her art reflects her often dark narrative content.[2] She claims that she is "a storyteller first. Everything else in my animations are for the benefit of the story."[9]

Leaf is also considered an influential Canadian and French Canadian filmmaker for her long standing service with the NFB and her representation of Canadian culture in her films. This can mainly be seen in her films The Street, The Owl who Married the Goose, and Kate and Anna McGarrigle.[9]

Selected filmography[edit]

Year Title Credit Listing
1969 Sand, or Peter and the Wolf animator, director
1972 Orfeo animator, director
1972 How Beaver Stole Fire animator, director
1976 The Owl Who Married a Goose: An Eskimo Legend animator, director
1976 The Street animator, director
1977 The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa animator, director
1979 Interview co-animator, co-director
1981 Kate and Anna McGarrigle director
1981 The Right to Refuse co-Screenwriter, co-producer, director
1982 An Equal Opportunity director, co-Screenwriter
1983 Pies animator
1983 War Series animator, director
1985 The Owl and the Pussycat director, producer, designer
1986 he Fox and The Tiger: A Chinese Parable director, designer
1986 A Dog's Tale: A Mexican Parable director
1988 Paradise Found animator, director
1990 Two Sisters animator, director
1991 I Met a Man animator, director
1993 Bell Partout animator, director
1994 Fleay's Fauna Centre animator, director
1995 Brain Battle animator, director
1995 Radio Rock Detente animator, director
2004 Slavery director

Awards[edit]

Year Award Competition Title
1975 Emilie Reynaud Special Award France International Animated Film Festival The Owl who Married a Goose
1975 Etrog for Best Animated Film Canadian Genie Awards The Owl who Married a Goose
1976 Victorian Government Prize Australia International Film Festival The Owl who Married a Goose
1976 Third Prize - Silver Boomerang Australia International Film Festival The Owl who Married a Goose
1976 First Prize Australia International Film Festival The Owl who Married a Goose
1976 First Prize - Films for Children Ottawa International Animation Festival The Owl who Married a Goose
1976 Silver Cindy Award USA Cindy Competition The Owl who Married a Goose
1976 Special Award for Animation USA Cindy Competition The Owl who Married a Goose
1976 Silver Award USA Information Film Producers Association Convention The Owl who Married a Goose
1976 Grand Prix Ottawa International Animation Festival The Street
1976 Wendy Michener Award Canadian Genie Awards The Street
1976 Etrog for Best Animated Film Canadian Genie Awards The Street
1977 Blue Ribbon Award - Language Arts American Film and Video Festival The Street
1977 Special Prize Australia International Film Festival The Street
1977 First Prize - Animated Films Ireland Cork Film Festival The Street
1977 Chris Bronze Plaque USA International Film and Video Festival The Street
1977 First Prize Film Festival of High Plains - Texas Tech. University The Street
1977 Special Jury Mention International Festival of Short and Documentary Films The Street
1977 Red Ribbon Award - Language arts American Film and Video Festival The Owl who Married a Goose
1977 First Prize Austria International Short Film Festival The Owl who Married a Goose
1977 Special Jury Mention Findland International Arctic Film Festival The Owl who Married a Goose
1977 Critic's Award France International Animated Film Festival The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa
1978 Award for Best Animation Spain International Short Film Festival The Street
1978 Merit Award USA Annual International Film Festival The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa
1978 Grand Prize Poland International Film Festival The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa
1978 Special Jury Award Ottawa International Animation Festival The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa
1978 Certificate for Outstanding Achievement Golden Gate Awards Competition & International Film Festival The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa
1979 AMER Golden Eye Award Annual AMER Film Awards The Street
1979 Jury Award for Best Short Film Montreal World Film Festival The Interview
1979 First Prize (5-15 mins) World Festival of Animated Film The Interview
1980 Certificate for an Outstanding Film Hong Kong International Film Festival The Metamorphosis of Mr. Samsa
1981 Grand Prix Australia International Film Festival The Interview
1991 Best Film Award France International Animated Film Festival Two Sisters
1991 Grand Prix Los Angeles International Animation Celebration Two Sisters
1991 Best Animation Award Sweden International Short Film Festival Two Sisters
1992 Honorable Mention American Film and Video Festival Two Sisters
1992 Special Jury Award Shanghai International Animation Film Festival Two Sisters
1992 Alberta-Quebec Award Quebec-Alberta Prizes Two Sisters
1992 Best Film Award Finland International Film Festival Two Sisters
1992 Silver Apple Award National Educational Media Network Competition Two Sisters

Other awards[edit]

  • 1994: Norman McLaren Award
  • 1996: Life Achievement Award at the World Festival of Animated Film - Animafest Zagreb

Nominations[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Roberts, Eric (1998). "Hand-Crafted Cinema Animation Workshop with Caroline Leaf". National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 21 March 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d Hamel, Jean-François (2010). "Grandeur et Humanisme". Ciné-Bulles. XXVIII (1): 32–33. 
  3. ^ a b c McDougal, Dana (January 2000). "Caroline Leaf". The St. James Women Filmmakers Encyclopedia. 18 (4): 88. 
  4. ^ Maurice, Elia (January 1978). "Caroline Leaf". Séquences (91): 102–117. 
  5. ^ Canada, Government of Canada, National Film Board of. "National Film Board of Canada". onf-nfb.gc.ca. 
  6. ^ a b c d Wright Wexman, Virginia; Petrolle, Jean (2005). Women and Experimental Filmmaking. Urbana: University of Illinois. pp. 193–201. ISBN 0252072510. 
  7. ^ Leaf, Caroline. "The Street". NFB.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  8. ^ Leaf, Caroline. "Two Sisters". NFB.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2009-07-05. 
  9. ^ a b Pagliano, Jean-Pierre (2003). "ENTRETIEN: Caroline leaf: Je n'aime pas les contes de fées". Positif (508): 93–95. 

External links[edit]