Janet Hetherington takes a look at why graphic novels are leaping from comic shops and bookstore shelves to big screens across North America and beyond.
In its 13th year, Anima Mundi is the largest annual animation festival in South America. Its so big, in fact, that it happens in two shifts 10 days in coastal Rio de Janeiro (8-17 July), and then the crew packs everything up for inland São Paulo for another week (20-24 July). The festival, as a whole, is well established and well regarded throughout the region, with most screenings sold out in advance. (Even when meeting Brazilians abroad, they often seem to know about Anima Mundi, nodding appreciatively.) Its said that some 94,000 people attended this year!
For our part, we only spent our time in Rio, so we cant report on the sprawling, endless city of São Paulo. But Rio is its own reward, its own kind of place. It is a city of multicolored contrasts, of natural beauty juxtaposed with abiding poverty. Tucked into the dramatically verdant landscape, and spitting distance from the heavily touristed beachfront, are the favelas (shanty towns), made popular in the violent live-action film City of God (2002). Especially at night, it is understood that one navigates the streets with caution.
Still, for anyone who comes to Brazil, it is an immediately enchanting experience. At this time of year, in the southern hemisphere, it is winter. The locals may complain of the cold water, but for those from more northerly latitudes, the season was downright delightful. More remarkable, however, was the pedestrian life of Rio, the sense of community among strangers. It was not uncommon for us to ask directions, and the people, even if they did not speak English, went out of their way to help. (It really is amazing what folks can communicate with a kind of primitive, universal sign language.)
This is, in a nutshell, the carioca custom. In many major cities, people are sequestered in their own little world. Brazil is an inverse of western acculturation. The carioca are considered the natives of Rio, but it is more a frame of mind than place. People seem light in spirit, happy, receptive and friendly. Never before have I seen such confidence in peoples eyes men, women and children. The people of Brazil are a gorgeous amalgam of black, white and golden. They are completely comfortable in their own bodies, freely displaying all of their god-given beauty.
A few of the visiting animators expressed their profound enjoyment for the city how it feels alive and genuine how they will miss being there how they wished to stay in Rio, if only a livelihood in animation could be possible for them.
Since its inception, the festival has encouraged much interest in animation and, as a result, more and more people are finding expression in the medium. Eventually, as if by some law of gravity, the festival may be an impetus for studios taking root, sustaining themselves on commercial work and building a foundation for larger independent projects. The process seems as inevitable as day follows night.
By the end of the week, many of us had caught the animator bug in more than one way. (We were plum-tuckered tired with some kind of weird Amazon flu, or so it seemed.) The childrens workshops were a real treat, seeing the enthusiasm of fledgling animators as they brought life to drawings on film, cutout pictures, stop-motion puppets, sand and their own pixilation. (Kids were waiting in line to participate in the workshops.) Another highlight of the week was Sara Barbas, an animator from Aardman who demonstrated the techniques and models for working on the studios forthcoming feature, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
The grand venue for Anima Mundi, with several small cinemas to its credit, was the Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil in downtown Rio. A relatively short walk or taxi ride away, or by underground metro, was also the Cinelandia park plaza with its Odeon theater (where it seemed there was better projection and film quality). This latter location also happened to be where the volunteer party was hosted on Friday night, with people pawing each other, swigging libations and sucking face.
While we certainly couldnt watch all of the films presented, there was plenty else to keep us engaged. Samba dancing, for one. Or checking out the touristy sites such as Corcovado. There is a 100-foot statue of Jesus, circa 1930s, lording over the city and from which visitors have an angels perspective, in all directions, of Rio and its neighboring forest. (I guess, from high enough perch, everything looks peaceful.)
Back down on earth, festivalgoers could partake of papo animados (animated chats) with special speakers Georges Schwizgebel, Igor Kovalyov, Chris Landreth, Ron Diamond, and Brazilian artist Rui de Oliveira. (Just for the record, Diamond is the co-founder of AWN.)
When all was said and done, separate Audience Awards were handed out in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo for best short film, best feature film, best short film for children, best Brazilian animation, best first work and other categories. Professional Jury Awards were given for best animation, best script, best soundtrack and best design. And one Directors Award was presented for special achievement in animation cinema.
In both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the award for best feature film went to Alosha Popovich i Tugarin Zmey, by Konstantin Bronzit (Russia, 2004). In São Paulo, the best short film was awarded to Gopher Broke by Jeff Fowler of Blur Studios (USA, 2004). In Rio, the best short film went to Juan Pablo Zaramella and Silvina Cornillon for Viaje A Marte (Argentina, 2004). The Directors Award for special achievement went to the CGI film Overtime, by Oury Atlan, Thibaut Berland and Damien Ferrié (France, 2004).
But enough words! For every 1,000 words, a picture would serve just as nicely (only more so). Therefore, for your viewing pleasure, here are a handful of snapshots to glimpse of the weeks events...
For in-depth info on this years festival, its invited speakers and competition winners, check out the official Anima Mundi website (www.animamundi.com.br).
Greg Singer is an animation welfare advocate, eating in Los Angeles.
Shani Gur is an animator, illustrator and photographer originally from Russia and now living in Jerusalem.
Thanks again to the festival organizers, staff and volunteers for their wonderful generosity and support.
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