Annecy 2013: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Commercialism and Love the Festival
ANNECY INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION FESTIVAL - 10 TO 15 JUNE 2013 - ANNECY, FRANCE
For several years I had been bothered about the direction that the Annecy International Animation Festival has been heading but this year I finally came to terms with the fact that the festival is now about money and feature length films. After thinking about it for a very long time I came to the conclusion that having one animation festival devoted to business is not a bad thing since feature films, television series, and commercials are an important part of the animation world. Besides it means that Annecy is doing the “industry job” very well, so that other festivals don’t have to do it and I can just accept Annecy for what it is.
If I had any doubts that Annecy has become all about money and feature films, Annecy 2013 painted a very clear picture of what the festival now considers important. With a total of 23 feature films, 9 in competition and 14 screened out of competition you could spend your entire festival watching nothing but feature length films. That is if you have time to watch much film at all with everything that is going on.
If you were at Annecy to do serious business then MIFA (International Animation Film Market) at the Hotel Imperial was the place to be. Over 460 exhibitors were there to showcase their films, television series and all sorts of technical equipment to the 2,400 MIFA delegates. 63 countries were represented and for the first time a production company from the tiny island nation of Malta had a booth to show off their stop motion preschool children’s television series Teddyland. Ruth Frendo of Pro.Motion Limited told me that Teddyland is the first stop motion animation as well as the first animated series produced on Malta.
For those of us who were there to see film, the opening night feature was Monsters University proceeded by Sashka Unseld’s Pixar short The Blue Umbrella which I wrote about at length in my Trickfilm/Stuttgart article. This year the traditional hub of the festival, The Bonlieu, is undergoing renovation to enlarge the back stage area so that the theatre will be able to host opera and ballet productions. This meant that the main screening room was moved to a temporary pre-fab building erected especially for the festival inside the walls of the Salle de Haras. Until a few years ago the Haras, constructed in 1806, was a stable and horse training center inside the walls of an old convent. The king kept his stallions there so that he would have horses to ride when he came to Annecy.
Unfortunately the Salle de Haras screening room had fewer seats than the Bonlieu so not everyone could be invited to opening night. There was a special press screening of Monsters University in the afternoon before the opening ceremony.
With fewer seats this year I can understand that it was impossible to give everyone a ticket to the opening night screening but what I cannot understand is why the Short Animation Competition directors were invited to the opening night screening but were not invited to the opening night party at La Plage following the opening. This is the first time in my memory that these directors have not received an invitation. La Plage has not shrunk and has always been able to accommodate everyone.
When Nik and I entered the party it was immediately evident that the event was for feature film directors, their entourages, and money people, with nary a short film director in sight. There was a party at La Plage for the short film directors the next night after the Pixar/Disney Renderman party but that is not the same as the opening fete. Animators work long solitary hours to create their films and have slim hopes for money or recognition unless they are extremely lucky. Animators also spend a great deal of their own money to come to Annecy not to mention the high cost of a place to stay for a week, so a ticket to the opening night party seems a small token of appreciation from a festival.
I was very pleased with the overall quality of the 5 short film competitions. I have watched the progress of Robbe Vervaeke’s beautifully painted on glass film Norman for the last couple of years. Robbe graduated from KASK in 2008 and his studio is close to my home. I have seen Norman at other somewhat less than perfect screenings where the sound has not been correct and the picture looked too dark and indistinct, but at Annecy, Robbe’s film, the story of a man obsessed by the smallest detail and strange habits sparkled on the screen and the soundtrack really stood out. Obviously the jury agreed with me because Norman won the award in the first time professional film category.
Any film by Dutch animator Rosto always needs several viewings to catch all of the subtle references and Lonely Bones, his latest film which combines live action with computer animation, is no exception. The film is the second of a planned trilogy of music films featuring the band Thee Wreckers and it continues where No Place Like Home left off. The film makes references to crucifixion, resurrection, and the souls of the dead and demons down below in strong visual images. I have watched the film a couple of more times here at home and each time I find new little touches that make me laugh. The multitalented Rosto, not only an animator but lead singer of Thee Wreckers, took home the SACEM Award for original music.
In an entirely different vein The Wound tells a poignant tale of a lonely, bitter little girl whose resentment and estrangement from the world around her are manifest in a monster that feeds on her anguish. As she grows elderly the monster grows from a small companion to a gigantic monster that finally completely dominates her life. Russian animator Anna Budanova’s use of space, muted images, and no dialogue set the perfect tone for her poignant film. Anna Budanova won a special jury award for The Wound.
On my first evening at Annecy I had drinks with Chris Landreth, 2004 Best Short Animation Oscar winner for Ryan. When I asked him what his new film was about he just smiled and said “we’ll talk after you see it”. I don’t want to ruin the delightful surprise that awaits viewers when they see Subconscious Password but I will say that it is one of the funniest animations that I have seen in a long time. I still laugh whenever I think of Chris’ take on a situation that is all too familiar to all of us.
Subconscious Password is a far cry from Landreth’s previous cerebral, psychoanalytical films. When I later asked him about his complete change of style and story he told me (and I paraphrase this) that he is “getting older” and instead of serious probing of the psyche he has lightened up.