Animateka 3 – 9 December 2012 – Ljubljana, Slovenia

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Joanna and I were invited to Animateka by Festival director Igor Prassel, who I first met on the jury at Stuttgart a couple of years ago.

Igor Prassel

 

Joanna joined the jury with Michaela Pavlátová, Otto Alder, Lea Zagury and Michaela Müller, as well as having a retrospective of her films and exhibiting some artwork from the Drawings that Move show she had in Bradford & Valencia.

The Jury

 

Ljubljana – a great central venue for a really wonderful Animation Festival and what a fantastic country – even smaller that Wales, but full of culture and really lovely people.

So extensive was the programme of screenings that for me it was quite difficult to catch all of the films. I would have liked to have watched more of the Animated Film and Literature Retrospective, the Elephant children’s section and the Panorama films, but I limited myself deliberately so as not to suffer from the inevitable ‘film fatigue’.

The festival was fantastically inclusive and accessible with a brilliant selection of film screenings. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a comprehensive programme of films in competition, students, children’s and best of world animation, retrospectives by Jury members, individual workshops and special screenings like Animation & Literature, Slovenian and Brazilian Animation etc. 

We were particularly impressed with the student selection and the fact that there were so many students present who were so enthusiastic and friendly and with whom we talked to incessantly.

For me what worked particularly well were the morning working breakfast sessions over breakfast where Igor Pressel introduced animators and talked about their work in a relaxed and informal way – they were both illuminating and genial and we made many new friends. The sessions were with a range of people which included the ebulliant Lea Zagury director of the Anima Mundi festival in Brasil, the wonderful Caroline Leaf who also ran a 3 day painting on glass workshop the results of which were really impressive, and of course the delightful Otto Alder the very experienced Swiss animation curator, programmer and Lecturer at Lucerne University of Art & Design. We did a session too, illustrated profusely with animatic scenes and storyboard frames from our latest production ‘Affairs of the Art‘, I hope it went down well!

Lea Zagury

 

These sessions were followed by meet the filmmakers also hosted by Igor where students and filmmakers who had screened their work on the previous day talked about their work and answered questions. The students were impressively passionate and confident about their work – no hint of audience fright or introvertion, contrary to a generally held view that a lot of animators are simply shy and obsessional geeks. 

Igor’s directness, awareness and intelligence in hosting the sessions, made sure that they were really focussed and illuminating.

meet the filmmakers

 

 

Student works of note

In many respects the student work was even more accomplished and thought provoking than some of the films in competition, indeed one film ‘What happens when children don’t eat soup, a skilfully orchestrated and dark work by Pawel Prawencki from Poznan, Poland won the festival prize for best film.

What happens when children don't eat soup

 

Other students work which stood out were Soeur et Frère’ by Marie Vieillevie from La Poudrière a beautifully paced and understated piece full of light and atmosphere yet dealing with a real experience, for me this was one of the films of the festival.

 

Marie Vieillevie

Soeur et Frère

 

Two other LaPoudrière films also deserved a mention. ‘Écarts de conduite’  a manic and lively film on the perils of the driving test by Valenciana, Rocio Alvarez and Les Mots de la Carpe a humourous, flowing and lyrical romp by Lucrece Andreae

Rocio Alvarez and Samy Barras

Lucrece Andreae
 

Another French college, Supinfocom Valenciennes, provided an incredibly accomplished and disturbing film ‘The Stupid Era’ by Thomas Caudron, Ingrid Menet, Laurent Meriaux, Clement Tissier.  Nightmarish, dark and set in the middle ages, it’s memorable and striking imagery reminded me of parts of Eco’s ‘The Name of the Rose’ or even Pasolini’s film ‘The Decamaron’. 

The Stupid Era

 

De Riz ou d’Armenie fronted by Samy Barras, Hélène Marchal, Romain Blondelle et Céline Seillé. was a moving and tender film, perfectly paced to reflect deterioration and declining memory at the offset of Alzeimers.

De Riz ou d’Armenie

 

 
 

Estonian Animation always provides fearless and quite bizarre material and Breakfast on the Grass‘ by Mihkel Reha, Erik Alunurm, Mari-Liis Rebane and Mari Pakkas was no exception. A light hearted yet thought provoking piece, a choreographed drunken take on Manet’s classic painting complete with Pollockian river. It provided a welcome touch of humour, for me reminiscent of Maciej Dakowicz’s revealing photo essay entitled ‘Cardiff After Dark’ 

Breakfast on the Grass

 

Mihkel Reha

 

Anu-Laura Tuttelberg’s filmFly Mill‘ from the Estonian Academy of Art, was another expertly shot and crafted puppet stop motion film, full of atmosphere and tension, owing much, I think to the Czech masters Jiří Barta and Jiří Trinka.

Anu-Laura Tuttelbergi
The Fly Mill

A model from the Fly Mill

 

Another pleasant surprise in the student section were 2 films from Edinburgh College of ArtWill Anderson’s ‘The Making of Longbird and ‘I am Tom Moody’ by Ainslie Henderson, both extremely accomplished, brilliantly executed and original films which for me stood out by far as the best UK student films I’ve seen for some time. I’m sure that we’ll hear a lot more about these two films and their authors in the future.

Worth mentioning too was Last Autumn from Bulgaria’s Sofiya Llieva, a poignant and restrained piece of sand animation. There’s something about the atmosphere and flow of moving sand which gives real emotional resonance to certain themes and Sofiya used the medium to great effect in this film.

Last Autumn

Sofiya Llieva, Michaela Müller and Joanna

Although it’s been around for some time I still found Johannes Friedrich Schiehsl’s ‘366 Tage’ a tour du force, a very moving, perfectly observed and technically accomplished piece of  3D CGI animation from the Filmakademie at Baden-Wuerttemberg.

 

In Competition/General

The standard of Russian animation is always very high and one film in the childrens section perfectly demonstrated this. This was Dina Velikovskaya’s wonderful ‘My Strange Grandfather’ from the Russian State University of Cinematography,a masterful demonstration of stop motion puppetry was beautifully staged and effortlessly animated. How do they do it? Dina’s presence at the festival and her calm, restrained responses to questions in one of  the ‘Meet the Filmmakers’ sessions was an absolute delight.

 

 

Dina Velikovskaya 2nd from Right

Michaela Pavlátovás retrospective was mischevious, enlightening and especially informative – I’d not seen much of her work apart from the brilliant Words, Words, Words and Carnival of Animals and of course Tramher latest titillatingly naughty take on the erotic fantasies of a woman tram driver in Prague, which is proving very successful and extremely popular. Her humour and wickedness is infectious and her acute observation and effortless technique shone throughout the programme. I’d really like to see the two live action features she’s made.

Michaela and Joanna

 

There was something riveting about Edith Stauber’s film ‘After Treatment’ a quietly understated film using minimal animation which exploited simple graphic means and which combined acute observation with the filmmaker’s own experience of the tensions, rituals and dehumanising effect of the ‘Out Patient’ ordeal.

After Treatment

Another student film which especially impressed Joanna and fellow Jury member Michaela Müller was We may meet, We may not’ by Lithuania’s Skirma Jakaite of the Vilnius Art Academy, an enigmatic and intriguing film exploring the complex relationships between mother and daughter and skilfully integrating traditional and computer animation.

We may meet we may not

 

Estonian Animation

What is it about Estonian animation apart from the Pritt Parn influence? 

Estonian films somehow manage to combine teetering political incorrectness with supremely anarchic and subversive content and faultless technique. Estonian animators appear to fear nothing, their films are often brilliantly eccentric and rarely forgettable. Whatever your initial reaction to the films they live on in your memory.
 
At Animateka the Estonian films were no exception, Kristian Holm’s ‘Big House’ was a popular and delightfully light hearted piece, which exploited rhythm and humour in a beautifully economical piece of social comment. It was Leah Zagary’s choice as her personal highly recommended film.

The Big House

 

Kristian Holm

 

Two other Estonian films for me stood out for very different reasons and are worth mentioning. ‘Oracle is Born by Rao Heidmets confirms what I said  previously – totally OTT, mixing techniques, chaotic but supremely confident, it demonstrates the maxim “just do it” and, literally in this case, what the hell!

Oracle is Born

 

Hardi Volmer’s ‘Domestic Fitless’ – my god – Madison Avenue meets the Master Race! Great technique, effective sound track – the kind of Dream that I imagine Arnold Schwarzenegger had before he made ‘Pumping Iron’. Hardi manages to conjure up a vividly Kitsch world  – a golden Venice Beach in an Albert Speer landscape, a musclular Dior ad. Such is the fascinating weirdness of this film, it deserves a much more dense analysis. I must see it at least twice more.

Domestic Fitless

 

On third showing I warmed to Villa Antropoff by Vladimir Leschiov & Kaspar Jancis although it walks a fine line between being overtly sexist and racist and genuinely commenting on economic migration. Everybody in it seems to be a stereotype, so somehow it cancels out any offensiveness. This film was Otto Alder’s ‘Special Mention’ jury choice.

Villa Antropoff

 

General/World Animation – Some Personal favourates out there

‘Ursus‘ by Reinis Pētersons Latvia. This very charming children’s film is simply told and delightfully animated. It straddles a continuing human fascination with anthropomorphism – animals as cute entertainers  – and the natural habitat that they once frequented and touches on the darker side of hunting and killing of animals in general. Some of the transitions from the human to the wild were expertly handled especially the bears reconnection with the wild forest. This was Joanna’s ‘Special Mention’.

Ursus

 

 

Some other favorites shorts….

The Triangle Affair  Andres Tenusaar

Oh Willie Emma de Swaef and Marc James Roels

Junkyard Hisko Hulsing

It’s such a Beautiful Day Don Hertzfeldt

Tunnel Maryam Kashkoolinia

Some Actions which haven’t been defined yet in the Revolution Xun Sun

 

Features

I’d not seen Ignacio Ferreras’s feature ‘Arrugas‘ (Wrinkles) so what a pleasant surprise to see such an accomplished film dealing with an area of life that receives limited attention even though the subject is one that will inevitably affect all of us, but Ferrari’s treatment of it is sensitively handled without becoming remotely mawkish or patronising.  In particular the characters have real force and distinctive identities. Ferrari exploits humour so adeptly that  we are drawn into a narrative which portrays decline and loss of dignity simultaneous with the development of comradeship in an astonishingly unsentimental way. For an animated feature to sustain such a level of emotional involvement for a full 90 minutes is, I think, remarkable.

 

The Festival

Our thanks to everybody involved with ANIMATEKA  All in all we had a fantastic time there. The setting, atmosphere and overall organisation was impeccable and the programming exceptional. In particular the warmth and hospitality of  Festival Director Igor Pressel, and the Festival team Vito Scagnetti, Katja Hohler, Jasna Cakarun, Smail Jusic, technician Martin and everyone else .

Both Joanna and I thought that this was one of the best and most creative programme of student work that we’d seen for a very long time. Not only were many of the films really creative and original but the presence of so many eager and confident students, really anxious to share and communicate their ideas gave the overall festival a distinct and unique atmosphere. The fact that there were so many student films in the competition programme and that the overall winner was a student’s film reflected the present incredibly high standard of European student films.

 

Les Mills  26 December 2012