After six days filled with highlights from the world of animation, the 28th Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film came to an end on the evening of May 9 with the grand ITFS awards ceremony. Though the entirety of the ITFS media library — including recordings of lectures and presentations — will be available to accredited users until May 16.
“We have professionalized our online festival. Initially planned as a hybrid event, the complete changeover to an online only ITFS21 may have been unfortunate at first glance. However, we have been able to hugely benefit from last year’s experience,” said Ulrich Wegenast, Artistic Managing Director of ITFS. “We succeeded in creating glamour at the galas and personal interaction through our ITFS VR Hub as well as numerous interactive lectures. Those formats created the possibility of excellent face-to-face discussions and chance encounters – in a much more pleasant atmosphere than created through video conferences! Regarding the program line-up, we are pleased to have been able to represent diversity not only in gender and sexuality, but also in ecological, social and, above all, aesthetic terms. This year, we also witnessed an incredible variety of animation techniques, which honestly didn’t make the task of our juries easier. Content-wise, the corona crisis has been reflected in animation production: ITFS has seen many grave animated films that deal with illness and care.”
The motto of this year’s virtual festival, Creating Diversity, was reflected across film and gaming and reflected on tracks such as Focus on France, Pandemic Animation and Women in Animation & Games. The ITFS VR Hub allowed visitors to mingle virtually in locations modeled on familiar Stuttgart venues, and even take in musical performances at the virtual club. Via OnlineFestival.ITFS.de, viewers could enjoy more than 400 short and feature films in the free online live stream. International animation celebrities and promising young filmmakers presented themselves and their work in numerous talks, lectures, master classes and workshops, including David Silverman (The Simpsons), Tomm Moore (Wolfwalkers), Shoko Hara (Just a Guy), Regina Pessoa (Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days) and Jalal Maghout (Have a nice dog!).
The short films have totalled more than 16,000 views so far, the feature films were watched more than 5,000 times. Almost 8,000 viewers watched the live stream between Tuesday and Saturday, and around 500 users logged onto the ITFS VR Hub during the festival. The workshops for children and young people inspired more than 200 participants. 1,400 accredited professionals attended the lectures available on ONLINE PRO. Over 160,000 page views were recorded on the festival website OnlineFestival.ITFS.de: 5,500 users from a total of 59 countries since May 3. The projected revenue was exceeded by 20% and almost doubled compared to the year before.
“For quite a long time, we have kept our hopes up for organising a hybrid festival, in line with last year’s announcements. Once again, we enjoyed the advantage of reaching people all around the world with the second online edition – visitors that would otherwise not have been able to attend the festival at all. And we were able to try out different ways of translating various parts of the program into new digital formats,” said Dieter Krauß, Commercial Managing Director of ITFS. “Thanks to the support of our fans from all over the world as well as our partners and supporters, we were able to master the challenge and put on a great festival. Nevertheless, we look forward to the upcoming edition of ITFS from May 3 to 8, 2022, allowing audiences and industry representatives alike to be able to meet in person.”
Winners of the ITFS film competition — including the Oscar-qualifying Grand Prix for short film, were announced in a ceremony reception held on the ITFS VR Hub, presented by State Secretary Petra Olschowski, Stuttgart’s Mayor Fabian Mayer and Carl Bergengruen, CEO of MFG Film Funding Baden-Württemberg, with musical accompaniment by Linda & Andrew. The Tricks for Kids Award (see below) and Trickstar Professional Awards. were announced in the preceding days.
Grand Prix – Grand Award for Animated Film, State of Baden-Württemberg and the City of Stuttgart (15,000€): Precieux / Precious | France | Director: Paul Mas, Producer: Perrine Capron, Marc Jousset | Je Suis Bien Content
Jury statement: “Tackling subjects familiar to all of us, that of being othered and misunderstood, of bullying and of friendship, Precious skilfully handles the sensitive narrative with subtlety and a gentleness of expression. The story presents complex layers of social forces in a seemingly simple narrative. The gentle pace, quiet atmosphere and minimalism of the Mise en Scène, not only gives a sense of isolation, but holds the attention of the viewer, pulling them closer to evoke a deeper sense of empathy. Through the story, there is gradual accumulation of pressure and tension borne by the protagonist as the masterfully constructed narrative presents her painful lessons, yet leaves the viewer to wonder whether the experience has changed her for the better or for the worse. Precious is a timeless animation that touched us all and kept us thinking.”
Special Mention: Only a Child | Switzerland | Director: Simone Giampaolo, Producer: Gabriella de Gara | AMKA Films Productions
Jury statement: “Only a Child deserves the honor of receiving the Special Mention of the 28th Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film, because it is a collaborative project, celebrating the plethora of designs, styles and techniques that a century of animation has brought to the World. By adding animation to an important voice from the past, Only a Child reminds us all, that only by believing in and acting as one responsible global community, there is a way forward for humanity on earth. Some may comment that Only a Child is part of a campaign, but this campaign, this movement, that unites young people across countries, cultures and nationalities, is exactly what we need right now, to understand how humanity can succeed in the great game of evolution.”
Jury: Candice Gordon (Berlin), Anita Killi (Norway), Anna Mantzaris (Sweden), Monique Rénault (The Netherlands), Morten Thorning (Denmark)
Lotte Reiniger Promotion Award for Animated Film– Award for best graduation film (10,000€, sponsored by MFG Filmfunding Baden-Württemberg): Have a Nice Dog! | Germany, Syria | Director: Jalal Maghout, Producer: Karsten Matern | Filmuniversität Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF
Jury statement: “In Have a Nice Dog! we are dragged into a waking nightmare, a reality for many people in the world, but which is unimaginable to most. This is therefore an extremely valuable story, told in imaginative ways to express the horrors of war and the desperation of fleeing in an over-crowded rubber dinghy. This is an uncomfortable film to watch. The deformed characters, the woozy, morphing visions. The world appears to be made from fragile paper-mâché, cut-up and distorted. This is Guernica of a modern age, where dreams are Facebook posts and nightmares are at your door. This intelligent film is full of visual metaphors that intensify the viewer’s interest with every revisit. The aesthetic choices creatively express the confusion, compounding terror and the sense of hopelessness. The Jury found Have a Nice Dog! to be a highly impressive and important film.”
Special Mention: Jestem tutaj / I’m here | Poland | Director: Julia Orlik | The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School Lodz
Jury statement: “Our special mention goes to I’m here. The film has a clever film language that never let’s us look away from the main character. While life is moving around her she is always in the centre of our view, and with a minimalistic expression she, and the film, still expresses incredible emotional depth. The jury found this film very touching and empathetic. A film sensitive and intelligently told, cutting into our deepest fears and emotions about death and loss.”
Young Animation – Award for the best student film (2,500€, sponsored by the Landesanstalt für Kommunikation Baden-Württemberg and MFG Film Funding Baden-Württemberg): Have a Nice Dog! | Germany, Syria | Director: Jalal Maghout | Karsten Matern School: Filmuniversität Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF
Jury statement: “A disturbing exploration of a man’s deteriorating psychological state caused by the ravages of war. Boldly drawing a dotted line between war and the refugee crisis, the film follows the disintegration of the wall between reality and nightmare, leading to isolation and the search for escape that is forever elusive. Have a Nice Dog! is layered, atmospheric, visually and emotionally full of grit. It often toys with the right juxtaposition of dynamism and phantasmagorical imagery. However, its real mastery is in its coherence articulation of the consequence of war on the individual. The sound design is bold and its absorbing parallel narratives and scenic nuances will yield on repeat festival viewings.”
Special Mention: The Song of a Lost Boy | U.K. | Director: Daniel Quirke, Producer: Jamie MacDonald | NFTS – National Film and Television School Beaconsfield Film Studios
Jury statement: “A light-hearted, finely animated, somewhat ironic look at the sudden emergence of puberty in a young choirboy. Playing with the simple metaphor of the protagonist losing his voice, The Song of a Lost Boy is a well-crafted, sublime use of puppetry, light, movement and sound to illustrate themes of self-discovery and ‘finding your own voice.’ It does all this while heavily leaning on themes of the divine with post-futuristic apocalyptic tropes, and it works.”
Jury: Akin Akinsiku (London), Daniel Höpfner (Berlin), Daria Kashcheeva (Prague)
AniMovie – Award for the best animated feature film: Wolfwalkers | Ireland, Luxembourg, U.S.A. | Directors: Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart | Producers: Paul Young, Nora Twomey, Tomm Moore, Stéphan Roelants | Cartoon Saloon (global sales), Melusine Productions
Jury statement: “Wolfwalkers is the third in a series of animated films by Tomm Moore in which Irish-Celtic motifs from art and myth are translated into stylish animated films. For us, this film, which he directed with Ross Stewart, represents a new high point in this series because it now adds depth to the level, ornamental style without appearing conventional. Almost every shot could be a painting in itself. The cooler colors of the city and interiors contrast with the intoxicating colours of autumnal nature. And even the special perception of the world of wolves, who sense smells much more strongly than humans, is visualized in a surprising and convincing way and the feeling of walking on four legs through the dynamic camera movements. The score and the song about the wolves are the perfect accompaniment. With just a few strokes and excellent voice acting, four strong characters are depicted in a drama about life and death: the foreign English girl who wants to escape the preordained role as a servant, the funny, wild nature girl who needs help and friendship so much, the father, torn between duty to the Lord Protector Cromwell and concern for the disobedient daughter and Cromwell, who does what he believes is his job: to bring order and economic progress to Ireland, which also means to tame and subjugate nature, and, should it not be possible, to destroy it. All this is told in this film at an increasing pace leading up to a furious showdown which breathlessly carries away and emotionally touches the audience, children and adults alike. In the guise of a semi-historical fantasy film, a highly topical message is conveyed to us, namely that we must rethink our relationship to nature. That we must dare to allow wilderness — and also wildness — into our hearts. With the wolves, the filmmakers have chosen the perfect symbol for this message.”
Special Mention: Josep | France, Spain | Director: Aurel, Producer: Serge Lalou | Les Films d’Ici Méditerranée, Imagic TV | The Party Film Sales
Jury statement: “Josep by the director and illustrator Aurel sheds light on a largely unknown chapter from the time of European fascism: the fate of the Catalan illustrator Josep Bartoli, who, fleeing from Franco, is imprisoned in a French concentration camp where hunger, disease and violence reign. In a half-documentary, half-fictional narrative framework that spans its arc to the present day, the film portrays one of the former camp guards, who tells his grandson about his friendship with the painter on his deathbed. The film is appropriately complex in its design, both through the different layers of the narrative and in the artwork, which in the biographical flashbacks is largely based on the impressive drawings by Bartoli, which he made in the camp. The somber, often sketchy, still images of captivity are followed at the end by scenes in the bright, warm colors of Mexican exile. Josep surprises with many historical details, it shocks, moves and stimulates reflection, about European history, xenophobia, about courage in difficult times — and about the role of art.”
Jury: Reza Memari (Berlin/New York), Hideki Nagaishi (London), Irene Wellershoff (Mainz)
Trickstar Nature Award – Award for the best international animated short film that deals with the topics of climate protection, biodiversity, environment, and sustainability (7,500€, sponsored by Verband Region Stuttgart):. Migrants | France | Directors: Hugo Caby, Zoé Devise, Antoine Dupriez, Aubin Kubiak, Lucas Lermytte, Producer: Carlos De Carvalho
Jury statement: “Climate change is one of the biggest issues we’ll be facing in the coming decades. Melting glaciers and rising sea levels are just a few of the countless facets which come along with global warming. Times are changing and many of us won’t have the same environments and societies anymore as they used to know. In order to survive, people need to leave their beloved homelands, so it is the job of the privileged ones to help them to find their new places in our community. Once more the key is cohesion instead of supremacy to overcome this challenge, because we’re all on the same raft. That’s why the jury chooses Migrants as the winner of the Trickstar Nature Award 2021. This film convinced us not only how the story showed the many levels of this frightening topic. But also in which unique style the film was realized. The film is warming but simultaneously uncomfortable. He is touching but also contradictory. He is on point but leaves enough space too to build our own interpretation about this issue. In other words Migrants will stay in our minds and leave a lasting impression. That’s what good films do.”
Special Mention: Haboob | Iran | Director: Mahsa Samani, Producer: Mahsa Samani
Jury statement: “We decided to give a special mention to Haboo because we found it to be a very sensitive and touching film with a very clever use of the material it’s talking about as the medium of the film. The ending was especially putting the whole film together and shared a light on the phenomenon of the Haboob in south Iran.”
Jury: Caroline Attia (Paris), Kay Hoffmann (Stuttgart), Pascal Shelbli (Zürich)
Fantastic Award – Award for the best animation talent (1,000€, sponsored by the FANtastic jury): Cha | U.K. | Director: Gagandeep Kalirai, Producer: James Bowsher | NFTS – National Film and Television School Beaconsfield Film Studios
Jury statement: “Sometimes a smell is enough to reactivate memories. Like in our winning film Cha by Gagandeep Kalirai, where a cardamom capsule evokes the Sikh massacre in Delhi in 1984. The unagitated yet haunting narrative style convinced us just as much as the elegant lines, the flowing transitions, the interweaving of then and now, animations and photos and, last but not least, the conciliatory ending. At a time when conflicts between different groups of people are fought out with all vehemence, this personal memoir is a reminder to finally overcome these rifts.”
Special Mention: Mon ami qui brille dans la nuit / My Friend who Shines in the Night | France | Directors: Grégoire De Bernouis, Jawed Boudaoud, Simon Cadilhac, Hélène Ledevin, Producer: Moïra Marguin | GOBELINS, l’école de l’image
Jury statement: “Our Special Mention goes to Mon ami qui brille dans la nuit by Grégoire De Bernouis, Jawed Boudaoud, Simon Cadilhac and Hélène Ledevin. We liked the literally friendly shine of the main characters, the helpfulness across the borders of being and the combination of animation and real film.”
Jury: Folke Damminger, Jürgen Frick, Sebastian Heck, Dorothea Kaufmann, Michaela Rehm, Karen Schmitt, Sven Schoengarth, Sabine Willmann
New World Classic Animation Award – Award for the best use/implementation of music in an animated short film (2,500€, sponsored by Instant Music Licensing). Flower Duet | U.K. | Director: Haemin Ko
Jury statement: “Flower Duet by Haemin Ko has realised the mood of the given song very aesthetically. Film composer Yin Lu also managed to perfectly integrate the main theme of Leo Delibes Song ‘Flower Duet’ into the soundtrack. We are pleased to present the ‘New World Classic Animation Award’ to Haemin Ko, as image and sound create a beautiful symbiosis and perfectly underline the drama of the ephemeral.”
Special Mention: Abadabude | Germany | Director: Kim-Quy Nguyen
Jury statement: “As a counterpoint, we would like to give a ‘Special Mention’ to the short film Abudabude by Kim Ngyuen. Naïve animation meets classical music, as well as not quite adult content. This entertains and provokes in equal parts. Amoeba copulations in Tchaikovsy’s ‘Nutcracker’ rhythm, including the inevitable climax … definitely worth a mention.”
Jury: Michael Fakesch (Rosenheim), Elisabeth Jacobi (Vienna), Zeljko Lopicic (Stuttgart), Daniela Schübel (Stuttgart)
Tricks for Kids Award – best animated short film for children (cash prize of 4,000€, sponsored by Studio 100 Media): Roberto | Spain| Director/Producer: Carmen Córdoba González
Synopsis: 15 years have passed and Roberto is still in love with his neighbor, but she prefers to hide ashamed of her body. With his art and an old clothesline as the only ways of communication, Roberto has a plan to push his beloved to face her monsters at once.
Jury statement (six children between 11 and 13 years, three girls and three boys): “The theme of Roberto was very convincing. Although the film has no dialogue, many emotions are conveyed. We understood many feelings through the appropriate music. The twist at the end was very surprising. The message we got was: ‘Every person is beautiful just the way they are.'”
Special Mention 1: Reven og Nissen / The Tomten and the Fox | Norway, Sweden, Denmark | Directors: Yaprak Morali, Are Austness, Producers: Ove Heiborg, Thomas Gustafsson, Johan Palmberg
Synopsis: A hungry fox hunts for food on a cold winter night. He sneaks into a small farm to steal a snack when he is caught by the Tomten who guards the farm.
Jury statement: “The film has a beautiful atmosphere. The characters and the scenery are very lovingly designed. We liked the message of the film: Don’t always think about yourself, but also care about others!”
Special Mention 2: Les Chaussures de Louis / Louis’ Shoes | France| Directors: Théo Jamin, Kayu Leung, Marion Philippe, Jean-Géraud Blanc | MOPA – L’Ècole du Film d’Animation et de l’image de Synthèse
Synopsis: Louis, an eight-and-a-half-years-old autistic kid arrives in his new school and he is about to introduce himself.
Jury statement: “The film is very lovingly designed. Sharing the mind of an autistic person with the audience is also a very beautiful idea. It can help to understand autistic people better. In addition, the topic is conveyed very well through the images.”