On Tuesday, The French Institute hosted a press conference ahead of the upcoming 29th edition of the World Festival of Animated Film – Animafest Zagreb 2019 (http://animafest.hr/), which will present an international program of more than 400 films from 45 countries representing high artistic achievement and famous names in global animation in the Croatian capital from June 3 to 8. The Animafest 2019 program was presented by festival artistic director Daniel Šuljić, festival producers Paola Orlić and Matea Milić, and a member of the Student Competition selection committee, Dino Krpan.
Šuljić was joined by the selection committee members who helped determine the lineup for this year’s Oscar, Annie Award and Emile Award-qualifying festival: Dea Jagić, Tea Stražičić, Krešimir Zimonić and Krpan,
The 2019 Animafest trailer was also presented, made by the Swiss-Croatian author Michaela Müller, inspired both by Animafest’s central theme dedicated to the connection between animation and fine arts, and by Animafest’s beloved open air screenings. The trailer features a score composed by Hrvoje Štefotić.
Out of more than 1,800 entries from a record-breaking 86 countries, a highly select 46 were chosen for the central Short Film Grand Competition. Šuljić pointed out that special emphasis was placed on creativity in artistic expression and a balance between different techniques, themes and creative circuits. France dominates the category with 13 entries, followed by the U.K. with six and U.S.A. with five titles. The selection also includes films from distant Taiwan, Iran, South Korea and Japan, as well as representatives of the rich local animation traditions across Europe.
Croatia is represented by three titles – Imbued Life by Ivana Bošnjak and Thomas Johnson, One of Many by Petra Zlonoga and The Fall of Rome by Balász Turai (a Hungarian co-production). Two Croatian films, Saturn in Leo by Anna Šagadin and Spaced Out by Stella Hartman, both produced by the Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb, will also be screened in Student Film Competition. The Croatian Film Competition will present 20. With four Croatian films in competition at Annecy this summer, Šuljić said that Croatian animation has enjoyed continuous presence and success on the international scene for over 10 years, and he is particularly pleased that a growing number of films come from the Academy of Fine Arts.
Among the names included in the Grand Competition selection, Šuljić noted some familiar to the festival: Phil Mulloy (U.K.), the 2016 Animafest winner, returns with his new film In the Future, in his recognisable minimalist-satirical style; Regina Pessoa, creator of the most-awarded Portuguese film in history, comes with an intimate (auto)biographical title Uncle Thomas, Accounting for the Days; the Emmy-nominated, persistent human rights fighter Jonathan Hodgson is showing his 2019 BAFTA winner Roughhouse, another semi-autobiographical film about the reach of bullying among Liverpool students during the 1980s punk era; Tomasz Popakul, one of the freshest talents on the world animation scene, is showing his psychedelic colors in Acid Rain; the versatile Franck Dion is bringing the funny political allegory/bird-steampunk Per Aspera Ad Astra. Other luminous talents can be spotted in the World Panorama program, such as Dahee Jeong, Peter Millard, Johann Kuhn and Miloš Tomić.
Krpan pointed out that 800 entries for the Student Competition included an amazing range of ideas and approaches, but with visible cultural impact of the environments they stem from, as well as individual animation schools. The selection expresses visible influences of the gaming industry and iconography, as well as obsession with technology, sci-fi and engagement with issues related to women, the LBGT community and migrant rights.
“Asian animation and style deriving from Japanese anime is highly present. This impact is visible also in French cinema, the most represented in the Student Competition, with 10 titles. The reason is definitely a large number of animation schools in the country,” said Krpan.
Krpan also announced that the winner of this year’s Best Animation School Award is the Animation Department of L’Ecole de l’Image Gobelins, established in 1975. “This school, famous all over the world, has had Oscar-nominated films (Oktapodi). It has displayed exceptional level of style and narrative structure. Among 14 applications, only two were selected for the Competition, unfortunately because of its format, but all the films are undoubtedly of high quality,” said Krpan.
Animafest will screen a retrospective of the finest works from the history of Gobelins in the Animation Schools section, as well as the best titles made by Britain’s famous National Film and Television School.
Šuljić detailed the core theme program — exploring the connection of animation and fine art — as well as some of the side thematic and special selections Animafest audiences can enjoy:
“Animation is a unique artistic form striving towards visual storytelling, to dramaturgy based on visual language. It is inspired by different styles of classical fine artists and it is therefore natural that the biggest number of animation departments are part of fine arts and not film academies, just like in Zagreb. This theme program will screen five short film sections and two feature films. Two blocs of short films focus on titles directly inspired by individual artists, styles or classical art in general – Italian renaissance artists, constructivists, Hieronymus Bosch and others. In this bloc we will recall Zdenko Gašparović’s Satiemania, inspired by Otto Dix and George Grosz. The third bloc focuses on artists equally present in both worlds, presented both in galleries and in animation film. Such are, for example, Croatian filmmaker Marko Tadić and South African William Kentridge. The fourth bloc features a selection of abstract films, the films many of whose authors considered moving paintings and a natural continuation of their painterly experiments. They include classics like the German 1920s avant-garde artists Hans Richter, Walter Ruttman and Oskar Fischinger, to the pioneers of many animation techniques Norman McLaren, Len Lye and Mary Ellen Bute, to contemporary authors. The final bloc presents a selection of films from this year’s entries which fit with the theme. The theme program wraps up with two features – Miss Hokusai, an anime about the daughter of the great master of ukiyo-e, screened in Zagreb for the first time, and The Painting by Jean-François Laguionie, a lavish dedication to artists like Chagall, Modigliani, Picasso, Matisse, etc.”
Festival producer Orlić described this year’s exhibition offerings:
“We made a big step forward in the number and quality of the exhibitions. Perhaps the most attractive among them, in fact an event of fashion and art, is related to the retrospective section Masters of Animation. It refers to the work of the Animafest 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, American artist Suzan Pitt. Pitt will receive the award in person at the festival opening on 3 June, and she will also host a fashion event at Kranjčar Gallery, collaborating with Animafest for the first time – an exhibition and sale of 10 one-of-a-kind, hand-painted coats made famous by Patricia Field – the iconic stylist known for her work on Sex and the City. The retrospective of Suzan Pitt’s finest films is curated by Mark Toscano from the archives of AMPAS.
“The works of Viennese animation students will partly be exhibited at the Gallery, and partly in the expanded reality version in the Grič Tunnel. The exhibition of last year’s Grand Prix winner Boris Labbé at ULUPUH is being prepared for months and the author is particularly looking forward to it. One big novelty is a collective exhibition of authors whose works have been selected for the Short Film Grand Competition and were invited to exhibit their making-off drawings and other materials at KIC, which they delightedly accepted. The new exhibition concept also includes a panel on animation in galleries and an exhibition of Božidar Trkulja at Pogon Jedinstvo, undoubtedly a must see for all of Animafest’s guests. Let us not forget the exhibition and presentation of the renowned Miyu production at the French Institute, with a rare chance to purchase a piece.”
Intended for film professionals, Animafest PRO at KIC will host masterclasses, production analyses, feature project and web-serial presentations and film criticism and video game workshops. This year’s Animafest PRO partner is the Croatian Film Directors’ Guild.
The Animafest Scanner VI symposium will gather leading experts from the history and theory of animation – the invited speaker is Jayne Pilling, the winner of the 2019 Award for Outstanding Contribution to Animation Studies. The symposium focuses on animation and visual arts, animation and education, animation and history, and animation and (virtual) reality. A collection of papers from the previous symposium editions, published by the globally significant publisher Bloomsbury, will also be presented.
Festival producer Milić said the central event of Animafest’s Children and Youth Program is the international Films for Children Competition, with 36 titles (selected from 400 entries). The Competition films were selected by media psychologist Martina Peštaj and categorized according to age groups (4-7, 7-10, 10-14, 14+).
“These films truly speak to children, focusing on topics like friendship, love, growing up, fantastic worlds, and – for those a bit older – about the meaning of life, happiness, etc. Every year, teachers, educators and professors from many schools in Zagreb and beyond gladly visit Animafest and reward their students with screenings and discussions about films, meeting filmmakers from all over the world and workshops, like the stop-motion workshop scheduled to take place at the French Institute. Excellent collaboration with Zagreb’s culture centers continues and six will take part in the festival program. For the third year in a row, in collaboration with the association Djeca susreću umjetnost, we bring animation to the paediatric wards of Zagreb’s hospitals – Rebro (oncology and paediatrics), Klaić Street, Institute of Tumours, Psychiatry in Kukuljević Street, Srebrnjak and Sestre Milosrdnice,” said Milić.
An open air picnic screening, Animafest Open Air, has been organized since 2015 in the most beautiful parks in Zagreb for all age group. Details will be published as the festival approaches, but the line-up will definitely include last year’s winner of the Audience Award for best feature film The Big Bad Fox, some time between May 25 and June 1.
“Besides, for the third year in a row, we are looking forward to Animacycle – an animated bicycle caravan across the Old Town in the sunset, led by tricycles equipped with motion screening devices,” Šuljić added. “This outstanding cultural and recreational activity is organised in an ongoing collaboration with the Academy of Fine Arts from Banja Luka and the City of Zagreb. Animacycle takes place on 2 June along the same route as previous years – we’ll be animating the facades of the Old Town and Grič Tunnel. In addition to the ride, we’re organizing a must-see screening at Gradec.”