Annecy 2013: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Commercialism and Love the Festival
By Wednesday, with the opening of MIFA, the party mode really got into full swing. The Wednesday evening Swiss reception is always very popular and crowded. Swiss animators consistently turn out high quality animation as 5 films in various festival categories proves. Swiss master Georges Schwizgebel’s latest film Chemin Faisant (Along the Way) was in competition. The lovely painted on glass film is based on Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s quote “I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think, my mind only works with my legs”. The film is indeed a meditative stroll. The country is also nurturing the next generation of animators as the two works in the graduation Film Competition proved.
The big event of the evening was the MIFA Opening Party at La Plage. Some people who have a booth at MIFA never get to the main part of the festival so this party is always a good chance to see them. It is especially nice to take a few minutes to sit and relax in a lounge chair in the sand at the lake’s edge.
Thursday is always packed with parties and receptions. Nik and I began the morning at the Indian film reception. Both India and South Africa each had a feature film in the Competition. Although I think that South Africa has a ways to go before they are producing top quality, original animation without trying to imitate Pixar, they are at least making a start and hopefully it won’t be too long until they begin to tell their original stories using their own style of animation.
After the reception we toured MIFA. This year it seemed as if the business arm of the festival had more independent production companies represented along with the booths featuring technical advances. The crowd of visitors seemed larger than ever also.
In past years the Finnish party has featured a sauna which they erected at the lakeside but this year they opted for the first Finnish/Canadian volleyball tournament. Despite the lack of a sauna, the wonderful smoked fish, aquavit, and wine were plentiful. The Finnish/Canadian party took a break from their soiree for the Russian Film Commission reception and the Finns continued later that evening with an “Artic Nights” dance party.
I popped into the Irish Film Commission reception and learned that the Irish film industry is alive and well. The government had just announced that they would increase the available co-production funds making Ireland a very favourable location to look for film funding.
While I attended the Russian reception, Nik and members of the Annecy + band went to the Dutch party where they had been asked to play some music. After Nik and I met up again at the Russian party, we ended our evening at LaMajistic Brasserie at a reception hosted by AFCA (Association Francaise du Cinema d’Animation) where I had a chat with Theodore Ushev. With the completion of Gloria Victoria, which was in the competition screenings this year, he has finished his trilogy which he began with Tower Bawher in 2005 and continued with the 2009 Drux Flux. These two films deal with the rise and fall of technology using Russian constructivist imagery. Gloria Victoria is the logical ending of the trilogy where Utopian ideas and industry have crashed. Theodore told me that now he plans to take a break from animating to produce a project and I am sure he will be painting and keeping his hands in a vast array of other projects as well.
Despite all of the late night parties I made it a point to attend the 9 AM director’s chats each morning at the festival bar. I very seldom change my opinion of a film by listening to the director talk but I always learn a lot about why an animator made the film. I particularly enjoyed Festival Director Marcel Jean’s style of interviewing. He was well prepared with intelligent questions and allowed the animators to talk without interrupting them. A nice touch this year in the bar were director’s chairs with the names of renowned animators on the back so one day you could “be” Peter Lord and another morning Richard Williams. Bill Plympton could even be himself in the Bill Plympton chair.
After a week of rain on and off, Friday dawned sunny and dry which was good news for the DreamWorks picnic that always goes on rain or shine. Shelly Page, Head of International Outreach at DreamWorks Animation, is always the hostess with the mostess and her picnic is definitely the place to be. With plenty of food, drink, and a very relaxed atmosphere it’s a lovely break from my crazy festival schedule.
It’s hard to believe that Bill Plympton and I have been presenting Annecy + for 7 years. We started Annecy + to screen films that were rejected by the Annecy selection committee but that we thought were really good and deserve to be screened. Over the years our Friday evening screenings have outgrown several locations so this year we moved to the Café des Arts, a popular festival gathering site.