Animation World Magazine, Issue 3.3, June 1998

ASIFA And Festivals: A Changing Relationship

by Michel Ocelot

asifa logo

Editor's Note: It is no secret that the declaration by the International Animated Film Festival at Annecy to go annual sent shockwaves through the world animation community. Besides everyone's query about which festivals to attend this crowded summer, this announcement brought up questions regarding the relationship between ASIFA and festivals. On that note, we invited ASIFA International president Michel Ocelot to write on the subject.

This article will be republished in the next ASIFA International newsletter. For further information about ASIFA International and the discussion revolving around Annecy, as well as a list of current ASIFA patronized and approved festivals, visit their web site accessible through
AWN's Animation Village.

I am often asked, "What is ASIFA Patronage for festivals all about?" Well, here are some answers.

Raison D'Etre
ASIFA Patronage and the Rules and Regulations attached to it, are meant to have films and film makers respected, and to help festivals which seem to be the more positive ones.

Respect Of Films And Film Makers
The rules on respect of films and creators, independence and internationalism were first worked out within the framework of the Annecy festival, the first festival, which was born at the same time as ASIFA. These rules are now well recognized, and used, totally or partially, by all the animation festivals that we know, whether or not they have official ties with ASIFA. It is currently only a matter of being watchful that this is not eroded by big business and market forces...

However there is more to say about aiding the festivals.

Help to Festivals, Ministries And City Halls
ASIFA Patronage has a precise and fundamental use: these festivals partially depend on public money. To obtain this funding, they need to show proof of their quality and of being recognized by the profession, internationally if possible. Not all civil servants in ministries may know about ASIFA, but the full title, International Animated Film Association, or a brief presentation, speaks for itself. ASIFA Patronage gave a sense of authority to festivals which needed it and assisted them in making themselves heard. When the reputation of a festival grows, this patronage may not appear as vital as in the initial years. Still, some festivals keep the idea of the renewed official ASIFA Patronage as a base in their strategy. (Patronage has to be obtained anew for each installment). Withholding of the patronage has indeed occurred for some regrettable breaches against filmmakers. This rare measure has brought forth a betterment after some wavering, or the disappearance, of certain festivals.

The Hidden Part Of The Iceberg: More Letters
Official patronage is the visible part of ASIFA's intervention, which ASIFA has come to realize is not that visible after all, as this distinction was not publicized enough. Often letters are written, on the request of festivals, by the President or the General Secretary to personalities or institutions to obtain particular aid or solve new crises.

After each festival, the ASIFA Board of Directors sends the festival staff an evaluation of the recent festival, detailing qualities and defects, compliments and criticisms, and wishes for the next edition. This critical overseeing has brought forth ambivalent feelings in festival directors but ASIFA is not a union. Festivals are not its employers, but there is sometimes this feeling between them. Some directors may feel like breaking away from the ASIFA watch and recommendations, whereas, conversely, the ASIFA report is usually well used when it is laudative. I believe this "supervision" brought a discipline which did not harm these festivals.

Individuals Who Help
On par with this critical observation, ASIFA has always been there to help on the spot whether it is supplying information, working at the event, supplying forgotten helping hands or big retrospectives, from everyday needs to a rescue from a grave situation. There was no catalog made of this. Each individual volunteered one's help without having it noted and published. Maybe a catalogue should have been done, as things are easily forgotten.

Good Sentiments
Another provision in favor of selected festivals was promoting good relations between them. Regulations, linking festivals among themselves and with the ASIFA Board of Directors, stated that festival directors invited each other to their manifestations, that these festivals took place every two years, alternatively, so as to not inconvenience the others, and that they would be at least four months apart, when taking place in the same year and continent (unless the two festivals agreed otherwise). As for ASIFA, it pledged not to grant patronage to more than two international competitive festivals, per year, on the same continent.

What Now?
It is worth pointing out that ASIFA has also been helping manifestations, with no official links with the association but which look worthwhile, with official or unofficial letters and/or assistance. Appeals for ASIFA Patronage have come in throughout the years and some are presently being examined.

Restrictions dictated by the ASIFA patronized festival regulations prevented ASIFA from supporting some estimable manifestations. Last year ASIFA went around this difficulty by reinstalling an old distinction, "ASIFA Approval." The excellent Espinho festival in Portugal was the first to be granted this distinction.

20 Years Old
These ASIFA patronized festival regulations are now around 20 years old, and have had a few amendments made along the way. They are now being remolded, taking into account the enormous changes in the animation scene. The two year frequency does not fit the present tendency, due to the huge increase in animation production.

To Be Continued...
ASIFA will go on proposing guidelines on how it believes a good festival is set up, defending the art of animation. It is currently defining new proceedings to foster quality, independence, and usefulness of festivals.

When these proceedings have reached a more developed conclusion, we will do our best to let the animation community know.

Michel Ocelot is president of the International Animated Film Association (ASIFA).

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