I got back from Slovenia last weekend, and it’s going to be hard to encapsulate the experience of the Animateka festival. It was the most fun ever, being a jury member. You get to know your fellow jury members pretty well, you get to talk about animated shorts a lot, you get to meet some of your heroes and make new talented friends, and in this case anyway, we also got to share some of our favorite films with the festival audience. I got interviewed a total of 5 times for the festival website, festival blog, local Slovenian radio, a local arts magazine and a local arts blog. I got to meet Oscar winner Suzie Templeton who lives in Amsterdam but had never gotten the chance to meet before, I got to watch the talented festival director Igor Prassel run around and yet keep everything in balance, and got to have an animated conversation with fellow jury member Andreas Hykade about recent infamous short Hipopotamy and why I think it is, shall we say, a problematic film.
The most fun was being able to screen Strange Creatures as a special Jury program. I also screened Mario, The Lost Mariner (only its third festival screening!) and the Dark Hip Falls video (also only its third screening ever!). The films went down really well! People were very impressed with them, but more than that they were delighted to learn about the animation scene in Seattle. There were people there from all over – representatives of animation festivals in Croatia, Poland, Hungary, Brazil, Serbia, representatives from production studios that help people produce short films, as well as filmmakers from all over Europe.
Something this festival really brought home to me is how much more community there is in Europe for independent animation. Just think of the amount of animation-specific festivals that exist in the US – not many! I can only think of the NW Animation Festival. But in Europe, almost every country has a big one. People are constantly collaborating with each other to make exciting things happen – inviting a filmmaker from South America, but have her visit another festival as well to split costs; get a well known animator to run a workshop across two organizations; work with the German embassy to bring in a gallery show of the history of German animation; help an animator’s collective launch their newest DVD collection, etc. All for independent, auteur animation! I can’t think of anything comparable in the US. It really makes me think how SEAT can help bridge those gaps.
Here I am being interviewed by local radio station Radio Student – I talk about the difference, as I perceive them, between the animation scenes in the US and Europe, about the films I showed at the festival, about my process of inspiration, and about Bruce Bickford, whose latest pencil short is in the Strange Creatures program.
This is a fun questionnaire for the festival blog, and here I am being interviewed on camera, which means I accidentally nod and blink a lot and babble at points. I talk about why I use so many techniques, the differences in animation scenes between the US and the Netherlands, SEAT, and the Strange Creatures program I showed, and again Bruce Bickford! People are really interested in Bruce here.
The jurors were: myself, Andreas Hykade, renowned animator from Germany; John Canciani, artistic director of the Internationale Kurzfilmtage Wintherthur festival, Akinori Oishi, a multi-media artist from Japan and Cecilia Translavina Gonzalez, animator from Colombia. We were judging the competition programs, which at this festival are reserved for Central and Eastern European films. I also watched most of the student shorts, which can be from all of Europe, and the festival also has other programs that feature world-wide animation. Here you can see the full list of awarded films. We could award one Grand Prix prize, and then we each got to give out a Special Mention.
Films I really liked:
To Thy Heart by Ewa Borysewicz, Poland, 2013:
This film won the big prize. This means that it was a film all five jurors thought really hit home, and got us excited. The trailer above is sadly all that is available for viewing online at the moment, and it’s not the best representation of the film, I think. The short film shows a young woman looking out of her apartment window at a swing set, where a man she knows is hanging out. She remembers an encounter with him that involved flirting, and unexplained promises. But then he betrayed her and she vows revenge. The film really comes alive with the voice-over that is full of slang and emotion, and the girl’s recounting is mixed in with a church chorus in a brilliant way. I can’t wait until you get a chance to see it!
Grand Prix award statement: “For the way it weaves a personal story with religious ritual, and how the voice-over connects the two worlds; because the animation matches the reduced and original drawing style, and for the way this style complements the voice-over, allowing us to enter the character’s world, the Grand-Prix winner is “To Thy Heart” by Ewa Borysewicz.
A Blue Room by Tomasz Siwinski, Poland/France, 2014:
This is the film to which I gave my special mention.
Jury Special Mention announcement: “Dreams are notoriously hard to capture accurately in art. But this film depicts a strange, unnerving and surreal environment that convinces us we are in a dream, or a nightmare. But why the nightmare?
The story unfolds so that we are given clues to the protagonist’s plight without giving too much away, and yet by the end we are given a resolution that explains a lot of what has come before, making it a satisfying, if unsettling experience.
Because of its ambitious and challenging storytelling choices, my special mention goes to A Blue Room by Tomasz Siwinski.”
Interview with Tomasz at the festival, where he talks about the film a little:
Aubade, by Mauro Carraro, Switzerland, 2014:
Rainy Days by Vladimir Leschiov, Latvia/Canada, 2014:
Fok Nabo Distorio by Francesco Rosso, Estonia, 2014:
Sadly no trailer online for this film, but some nice stills and production shots here.
The Twilight Hour by Reza Riahi, France, 2014:
SISISISISISI by Juan Camilo Gonzalez, Colombia, 2011:
And finally, I saw this really cool project called Re-cycling, that screened at the festival opening ceremony. It is a collective film directed by Paola Bristot and motivated by the centenary of the birth of Norman McLaren:
This is a collective film, where 10 European animators were asked to make one minute of animation directly on film. The animators had not ever used this technique before, and were supposed to base their one minute on an object randomly picked and mailed to them by another animator. Objects included a device to close jars tightly, a flute shaped like a bird, a pair of scissors, etc. The final 10-12 minute film (including interstitials that showed which object was next) worked really well. Each segment was very different from the next, but the fact that they were all scratch or drawn on film held them all together. I bet this film will have a long life in festivals and eventually online as well. Congratulations!
I hope I can attend Animateka next year, and recommend it to everybody!