A Report from the I Castelli Animati,
the International Festival of Animation
in Genzano, Italy

by Andy Klein

The fourth annual edition of I Castelli Animati was held from September 29 to October 3 in the village of Genzano, about thirty miles outside of Rome. The festival is not a massive, all-encompassing event like Annecy. Rather than trying to compete with larger festivals, the organizers have wisely chosen a strategy tailored to take advantage of the locale's particular charms and virtues.

(Right to left) Translator Navid Carucci, animator Joanna Quinn, and the festival's artistic director Luca Raffaelli. Courtesy of I Castelli Animati.

A Perfectly Lovely Town
The town is located not far from the Appian Way. Getting to Genzano from Rome can be tricky these days: the entire nation -- monuments, museums, and roadways -- seems to be covered in tarpaulins and scaffolding. In anticipation of the millennial tourist surge, everything is undergoing reconstruction and restoration. (And everyone seems to realize by now that, with only a few months remaining, nothing will be finished in time.) So, during the four days of the festival, my connection to Rome had already been replaced by a detour.

Genzano, while far from rural, is just isolated enough that it is relatively untouched by all the work. As someone whose only knowledge of Italy was through watching hundreds of movies, I arrived with an idealized expectation of what an Italian village would look like -- an expectation that the town fulfilled down to the detail. Genzano centers on a beautiful little town square, where children play, mothers wheel their babies around, and old men sit, trading stories and ogling young women. Brick streets -- very narrow by American standards -- run upward from the square, taking you past cafes and shuttered, four-story apartment buildings.

The main drag is Corso Antonio Gramsci -- another sign that Italy is another world. (How many American roads are named after socialists?) At the square, Via Belardi forks off Gramsci and leads uphill to the Cinema Modernissimo, where all the screenings took place.

Festival artistic director Luca Raffaelli and animator Candy Kugel. Courtesy of I Castelli Animati.

The showings began at 10 am and ran `til about an hour past midnight, with breaks for lunch and dinner. The scheduling is designed to allow the enterprising animation buff to catch everything. (It should be noted that all activities in Genzano seem to be put on hold for lunch, a meal that is afforded great respect.)

"We wanted to keep things focused," says Luca Raffaelli, the festival's artistic director and full-time emcee. "Keeping everything in one screening place is the best thing for a small festival. It creates a friendly situation, with the audience interacting with the staff and the guests."

The Atmosphere
The festival was initially the dream of organizational director Piero Fortini and has expanded faster than anyone envisioned. The first year, the only international guest was Jimmy Murakami; this year, those attending and presenting films included Marv Newland (Canada), Oscar Grillo (Argentina), Joanna Quinn (UK), Candy Kugel (US), Ferenc Cako (Hungary) and Rin Taro (Japan).

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