Croatian animation festival Animafest — The World Festival of Animated Film Zagreb, the second oldest festival in Europe — will be held in Zagreb between June 3 – 8. Animafest was a biennial festival until 2005, when Animafest introduced its animated feature films program and turned into an annual event. Each odd-numbered year is devoted to feature film and each even-numbered one to short film. This year, the focus will be on the animated short film. Animafest artistic director Daniel Šuljić gives us a first look at this year’s program.
Animag: What can visitors expect from the festival?
Daniel Šuljić: As usual, this year we have a student, professional and commissioned animated short film competition. It is significant to mention female filmmakers are dominating the student competition. All together, out of 1,725 films from 73 countries, for this year’s Festival competitions and panoramas, we have selected 144 films. However, the total number of films to be screened exceeds 400.
What will be this year’s central focus?
Šuljić: The main thematic program is dedicated to puppet animation, not including general stop motion, only ‘real’ puppet films — no object animation or pixilation or similar. The program presents the choice of 45 leading puppet film makers, like the Quay Brothers, Barry Purves, Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Jiří Barta, Peter Lord, among others. We will have a lecture by Adam Wright, an expert in animatronics.
Why puppet animation?
Šuljić: There is a real wave of new filmmakers who decide to express themselves through puppet films in the last few years. For me, there are two main reasons: Some artists are not entirely satisfied with the workflow of CGI, they love to feel the material and love the tactile moment of creativity. And puppets give you that. The second, more practical reason, is that cameras and software are quite affordable these days, and everybody can make a film in professional conditions at home. The only thing you have to have is talent.
Who will be Animafest international guests this year?
Šuljić: We expect about 150 international guests; different professionals, jury members, filmmakers and students. Also we are organizing a two day international symposium Animafest Scanner (June 4 and 5) where the guests will be: Marcel Jean, artistic director of the festival in Annecy and the winner of the Award for Outstanding Contribution to Animation Studies; Professor Paul Wells, Director of the Animation Academy at the UK-based Loughborough University. He will talk about his animated documentary about MacKinnon & Saunders, the famous puppet makers from UK. And one of the other speakers will be Giannalberto Bendazzi, the author of the animation ‘Bible’ Cartoons: 100 Years of Cinema Animation.
What else is on the program?
Šuljić: We will host a retrospective to celebrate 100 years of the innovative filmmaker Norman McLaren (1914-1987). The Animafest lifetime achievement award will be handed out to Yuri Norstein, creator of Tale of Tales, accompanied with a retrospective as well. Animafest also illustrates an interesting trend, the growth of Chinese animation, with beautiful films inspired by ancient China and its art: The Banquet of the Concubine, which tells a story of love and jealousy; Mahjong, which uses shadow theatre; The Country of Summer Insects, whose style is reminiscent of 12th and 13th century painting; and Black and White, which talks about harmony. We have invited multimedia artist Lei Lei to design Animafest 2014’s visual identity, including this year’s trailer (www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIM3zS9X8bA). Also, we are continuing our collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art in Zagreb where we are going to show a selection of site-specific animated works.
What is the recent state of animation production in Croatia?
Šuljić: The production of shorts is vivid in Croatia, that hasn’t changed, and overall quality is very ok. As for features, there is one new feature in production and two or three in preparation stages. Zagreb-based animation studio Diedra is currently producing the feature film Cricket & Antoinette, by director Darko Bakliža. The film is co-produced with Germany. The story is inspired by the famous La Fontaine fable about a cricket and an ant. This film could be a catalyst for the Croatian animation industry, and could be a propeller to raise the overall standards when we speak about ‘commercial’ animation.