Review: The Annecy International Animation Festival 2012
I always approach Annecy with mixed feelings. On the one hand it is an opportunity to see so many dear old friends from all over the world, along with special programs that won’t screen at any other festival, but over the past few years it has become very commercial and shifted the emphasis away from short, independent animation to feature films. With over 7,000 people attending the festival it has become harder and harder for people to get tickets to screenings that they want to see, and if you don’t book a room very early you could end up staying miles from the festival. This year, in spite of many potential difficulties, I did enjoy myself.
The big news of the week wasn’t about film per se, but was Serge Bromberg’s closing night announcement that after 14 years as Festival Artistic Director he is passing the artistic baton to Marcel Jean. Serge wants to concentrate his efforts on his production company, Lobster Films which finds and restoring classic films such as his recent efforts in restoring missing footage to George Milies’ 1902 film A Trip to the Moon. He did say that he “would see us all next year because I already have my ticket to the 2013 festival”.
The new Artistic Director, Marcel Jean, is a Canadian producer, director, and author who is probably best known as the producer of the 2009 short Sleeping Betty. He has promised to “shake up a few habits and offer festival goers a host of surprises”. Marcel is a familiar face on the festival scene and I think he will do an excellent job.
For the past few years I have felt that the selections in the Short Film Competition have been lacking, with many of the best films relegated to Out Of Competition programs or even worse, rejected all together. This year the concept of an international selection jury was replaced by the three man team of Laurent Million, Yves Nougarede, and Sebastien Sperer from the Creative Content department of CITIA. I am pleased to say that they did a very good job and that the 5 programs of the Short Film Competition were by and large very strong.
I was very impressed by the great British puppet animator Barry Purves’ Tchakovsky, An Elegy. The beautifully crafted Tchaikovsky puppet was so life like that I almost forgot that I was watching an animated film. The attention paid to even the smallest detail of set design was a delight to the eyes. The film is based on Barry’s adaptation of Russian producer Irina Margolina’s Tchakovsky’s Letters and is one of a series of animations about composers produced by the multi-talented Margolina.
Another puppet animation that moved me was Danish director Johan Oettinger’s Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto. The story of an 8 year old Jewish boy living in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II is based on a true event. As hungry Smaek struggles to pull a carrot through a hole in the Ghetto wall, he is unaware of the two SS men on the other side following his every move. The tragic climax of the film is intensified by stark black and white and the absence of dialogue. Seven Minutes in the Warsaw Ghetto won a special mention from the short film jury.