Annecy 2010: Celebrating 50 Years
This year Annecy once again presented five programs in the short competition with a mixed bag of films (there were only four last year). A new film from the National Film Board of Canada by Theodore Ushev is always of interest to me. Lipsett's Diaries was not a disappointment and earned an award for Special Distinction. The film explores the fertile imagination and turbulent personal history of the experimental Canadian director Arthur Lipsett, who committed suicide at the age of 49. The script by Chris Robinson, excellent author and director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival, is a fictional recreation of Lipsett's non-existent diaries based on his notes and films. Theodore used paint on paper, drawing on every frame, using a computer for the in-betweens to create a dark look into the mind of an artist falling into madness and depression.
Theodore infused the film with very personal feelings, and he told me that he was inspired by Francis Bacon and Goya's later works known as his "Black Paintings." As with all of his films, I need to watch Lipsett's Diaries several times more to peel back the many layers of this very dense film.
The 25-minute clay-animated Esterhazy takes you in another dark direction with a twist of black humor. The film, based on a popular German children's book of the same name by Irene Dischet and Hans Mangus Enzenberger, tells the story of the wild rabbits that lived in the no man's land between the two walls separating East and West Berlin. This empty space was a perfect safe place for rabbits to live, with no predators and a lot of grass. Their reality suddenly changed with the fall of the wall.
The story revolves around Esterhazy, a young rabbit from the Esterhazy dynasty of Vienna. The family stock is declining because they prefer to eat chocolate rather than vegetables. The young Esterhazy is sent to Berlin to find a large, zaftig rabbit wife. The 35mm film received a distributor after a presentation at the Cannes Film Festival and I hope that it will be shown at festivals in the United States.
Geefwee Boedoe has worked as an animator and in story development at Pixar, Disney Feature Animation, ILM and DreamWorks. He also storyboarded, designed, and directed the animation on the title sequence for Monsters, Inc. Besides being very talented, Geefwee has a very offbeat sense of humor. Now a freelance animator, his Let's Pollute is a modern satire in the spirit of the 1950s and '60's educational films. When I asked him about his film, Boedoe said that we all hear so many don't pollute PSA's that people stop paying attention so he decided to tell us how it is our heritage to pollute and how it keeps our economy strong in hopes that people will notice his quirky message. He also instructs us on how we can all become better polluters for a more blighted tomorrow.
Once again this year, the Shorts and Breakfast chats hosted by Festival Artistic Director Serge Bromberg gave me a chance to hear directors talk about their films. I particularly enjoyed hearing Danish author and comic book artist, Joanna Rubin Dranger, talk about turning her book Miss Remarkable & Her Career into a film. Not an animator by training, her gallows humor and bold comic style translated perfectly to the screen. The 30-minute black-and-white animation was quite an undertaking for a first film and my three colleagues who sat on the International Federation of Film Critics Award Jury agreed, because they gave it the Fipresci Award.
Again this year Monica Tasciotti proved to be a very adept interviewer at the Features at Noon talk. She does her homework and knows how to draw out even the shyest director. I was fascinated to hear Liu Jian talk about the trials and tribulations of independent film makers in China. He spoke honestly and openly about the social and economic conditions in China today.
To honor the five decades of Annecy, a quintet of programs showcased festival award winners by decades. The Ones That Got Away paid belated tribute to films that won awards at other events but were overlooked at Annecy.
My favorite tribute screening was Don't Blink! Animation in 50 Very Short Films. With no film more than 3 minutes from 21 countries and a staggering list of great animators, it was all packed into one 70-minute laugh filled program. It really brought home what fantastic films can be created in a vast array of styles when a small amount of film is put in the right hands.
Old favorites such as Politically Incorrect and The Big Sleep almost got lost in the vast array of programs. This year the animation community lost three major names: Roy Disney, Belgian producer Pierre Levie and the great Chinese animator Te Wei. Although I have seen Te Wei's beautiful films before, the opportunity to see pristine prints of his delicate work with good sound on a big screen was time well-spent.