The Matita Festival Scrapbook

by Annick Teninge

The Matita International Animation Film Festival was held September 23 - 26, 1999. It was the second edition of this young animation festival located in the small town of Guardiagrele, near Chieti, on the Italian Adriatic Coast. When I discovered the Matita Festival last year, my first reaction was skepticism: Why was there yet another animation festival in Italy? But then I asked myself, "What is the real role of a festival?" Not every single one has to be an industry event, and compete for films and audience. In fact, one of the most praiseworthy goals of a festival is to make its public discover the art form it celebrates. In this respect, the Matita Festival was a success.

Professionals present at the event: (left to right) Kirk Bowers, Pixar Technical Director; Karyn Metlen, Pixar Animator; and Director Barry Purves. © Barry Purves.

Matita's Goal
Italy is home to quite a few animation festivals: Cartoombria (Perugia), Cartoons on the Bay (Positano), I Castelli Animati (Genzano), Future Film Festival (Bologna), Matita Film Festival (Guardiagrele), and Metamorfosi (Roma). However, each of them has its own focus. Future Film Festival is exclusively dedicated to new technologies. Cartoons on the Bay focuses on TV productions, whereas non-competitive Cartoombria sites in on computer animation, and Metamorfosi experimental animation. I Castelli Animati has a more global approach to animation, with an international competition and an Italian competition of short films. The Matita Festival has chosen a historical and educational angle.

The creation of the festival in 1997 was an initiative of Claudio Pazienza, a documentary filmmaker and artist who had a passion for animation, and Francesco Di Vincenzo, a journalist, who asked the local Provincial Administration of Chieti to support the event. Then, other local and regional institutions agreed to support the festival. The Matita Festival is geared toward the local public, as well as young people and students.

A scene from Trnka's masterpiece, The Hand.
© Kratky Film.

The Programming
For its second edition, the organizers received 159 shorts (up from 142 the previous year), from 27 countries, including remote Brazil, the Philippines, Hong Kong and India. In addition to various screenings and presentations, the festival offers a tribute to an animation master. Czech legend Jirí Trnka was this year, and Belgian pioneer Raoul Servais will probably be next year. They also pay tribute to a country. In this year's edition, "The Italian Cartoon Dream" program covered forty years of Italian animation, with films from veteran animators Bruno Bozetto, Giulio Gianini and Emanuele Luzatti, as well as younger, emerging artists such as Gianluigi Toccafondo. But certainly the most valued aspect of the festival programming is its yearly tribute to an animation school, called "Focus On." Kask School was in 1998, CFT Gobelins was featured this year, and CalArts will probably be in 2000. In addition to a presentation from the featured school, workshops for children are organized before and during the festival. An introductory course on animation was held in June, hosted by Belgian association Camera Enfants Admis. During the festival, another workshop was hosted by Zorobabel Atelier, another Belgian animation workshop. One of the long-term objectives of the festival organizers and local authorities is the creation of an animation school in the region.

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