Association Internationale du Film d’Animation, or ASIFA, was started in France in 1960 as a membership organization for animation artists and now has 50 chapters around the world. ASIFA-Atlanta, started in 1995 and is the only chapter in the South, offering animation screenings and educational programs year-round.
The story of ASIFA-Atlanta began with Linda Simensky, who moved to Atlanta in 1995 to begin working with Cartoon Network. At the time, she led ASIFA-East in New York City and previously founded the NTC Chapter of Women in Animation (WIA). Linda and interested peers met at Primal Screen, a multi-platform design studio, to discuss an animation group for everyone: ASIFA-Atlanta.
Stephen Mank of Primal Screen, the first president of ASIFA-Atlanta, was instrumental as early leadership, along with Noeve Warren and Madeline Fan, who served as co-presidents in the very early days. ASIFA-Atlanta presented an impressive burst of screenings in 1999: “ASIFA Declares War,” (WWII cartoons) “Canada Drawn,” (National Film Board of Canada animation) “Ain’t I a Stinker: Cartoons about Cartooning,” and “Good Toons Gone Bad.”
Later, ASIFA-Atlanta’s annual “Roll Yer Own” (RYO) was created, a screening of local student, independent, and professional animation. It became so popular that we split the professional animation into its own event, “Blowin’ Smoke.” RYO remained a staple of Atlanta animation for over a decade.
Animator Sarah Fay Krom became president, who screened a variety of animation including vintage beer commercials. When Sarah moved to Singapore in 2003, Lou Hertz replaced her. Lou cultivated animators and artists in Atlanta during his time at Atlanta College of Art and Creative Circus and through his work at DESIGNefx. His sense of humor and warm personality touched many Atlanta animators. Lou passed away in July of 2005 at the age of 73, and ASIFA-Atlanta was briefly dormant. Joe Peery, refusing to see Lou’s work wasted, picked up a box marked “ ASIFA 2005” from Lou’s wife and became president. Joe’s leadership experience with the Graphic Artists Guild got ASIFA-Atlanta back into action. With dedicated board members like Ward Jenkins, Joe Kubesheski, Vella Torres, and Raquel Asturias, Atlanta was presented with animation once more. Including a special “Harvey Birdman” screening, and a low-cost weekly figure drawing class, which is still going strong today.
In 2006, Karl Sigler and Brett W. Thompson began to help Joe Perry and Ward with International Animation Day, originally held in the basement of Relapse Theater. With very little promotion, the house was nearly full. The following year, board member John Ryan secured the High Museum of Art and we have celebrated International Animation Day there for a long duration of time.
In 2008, Brett was elected president. He started the annual cartoon art show with the help of board member, Alena Spragg, started a free workshop series, Animation Draw, and presented many unique events, including “Sita Sings the Blues,” “Mary & Max,” and Don Hertzfeldt. Brett also co-founded Animation Attack!, an animated film festival held in conjunction with the Atlanta Underground Film Festival.
In November 2010, Brett resigned, nominating Fatimah Abdullah as president, an arts administrator and artist, who originally joined the board as Secretary in 2007. Thanks to committee members Allyssa Lewis, Jeanette Gregory, Kristy Breneman and Jennifer Chandler, ASIFA-Atlanta continued its annual screenings with RYO and IAD, and fostered new opportunities with partner art organizations.
During this time ASIFA-Atlanta expanded ‘Animation Draw’ into children’s workshops at libraries, schools and hospitals state-wide, brought industries together with ‘Animation vs. Puppetry’ at the Center for Puppetry Arts, coordinated panels at Dragon Con, championed students with the 12 n’12 Animation Challenge, and hosted ASIFA-Atlanta’s first fundraising dinner, Taste du Animation, with the Goat Farm Arts Center and Sofia XIV. Working alongside festival directors, they extended animation programming for the Buried Alive Film Festival, Tournes French Film Festival, the PBS shorts program, and the long-standing Atlanta Film Festival.”
In 2015, after years of dedication and much appreciated service to the animation community, Fatimah stepped back into an advisory role to join the current advisory board along with vice president Allyssa Lewis who in turn started her own animation recruiting agency My Animation Life, passing the torch to Ginger Marisa Tontaveetong, local animator, ASIFA-Atlanta inducted programming director, and Atlanta Film Festival filmmaker-in-residence to take over as executive director. Along with Ginger, a new batch of enthusiastic and dedicated young blood committee members, including local animators from Floyd County and Bento Box, became involved in continuing the legacy of promoting and enhancing the animation community in the Southeast. They incorporated ASIFA-Atlanta into ASIFA-SOUTH, expanding their reach to partners in other southern states to promote and provide resources for our local artists and animators.
Currently, ASIFA-South conducts over 100+ activities and events a year, including its signature annual ASIFAC Animation Festival and Conference, aimed at bettering the animation community in Georgia and showcasing talent in the South. With a year-round team of dedicated and passionate volunteers and a board of directors from studios in Atlanta (Bento Box, Floyd County, Primal Screen, Awesome Inc, Black Rainbow, etc), ASIFA-South continues its commitment to fostering equity and cultural understanding through animation.