ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.04 - JULY 2000

Serge Bromberg: Up Close With Annecy's Artiste

by Heather Kenyon

Serge Bromberg.

Heather Kenyon: First of all, let me say congratulations. I thought both the opening and closing ceremonies had an excellent energy to them, mainly due to your lively stage presence, jokes and piano playing. Was this a conscious effort to make the festival seem more approachable and friendly?

Serge Bromberg: This is my first complete year as Artistic Director of the Festival. You know that although it is "human friendly," the Annecy festival is also the first animation film festival in the world, with close to 6,000 persons attending. I know that this growth is necessary, but I most of all want it to remain what it was in the first place, a festival for good living, surprises, improvisation, personal involvement and discovery of other animator's experiences.

AWN's editor in chief Heather Kenyon speaks with Annecy's Serge Bromberg. AWN, Inc.

I usually play the piano on silent films, and I had already hosted the last two closing ceremonies. I thought that my presence on stage would be both a sign of personal involvement, and a good way of meeting people and "setting the mood."

But you should know that in Annecy this year, there has been surprises for everyone. For example, although he was part of a joke on stage, Richard Williams did not know that he would receive the "Grand Rabbit Award," especially made up for him. This goes also for me: as soon as the closing ceremony began, 30 protestors tried to make a political speech on stage. And they were not actors or 'toons !

HK: The language translators were also a first and very welcomed. Annecy has been criticized for not offering enough translation in the past. Why was this done this year and not sooner?

SB: At the end of last year, we had complaints about this problem. There would have been complaints even if I had tried to speak simultaneously in French and English — which is very hard! It then became a concern that these little devices always be on hand. In Annecy, the two important categories of attending people are the filmmakers and the public. The crew is here to do whatever possible to serve both, so simultaneous translation is just the right answer to a legitimate concern.

HK: Adding Giannalberto Bendazzi into the mix was wonderful as well. How did that come about?

SB: The film retrospective ["Jewels of a Century"] was co-organized with ASIFA. We had to choose "our man Flint." We all know about Giannalberto's book, which has been our Bible for a long time. I did not know him personally, but he turned out to be a wonderful man and animation film lover, and it was easy to all agree on his name to pick the right films.

Bendazzi's Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation is a must read for cartoon buffs.

HK: I keep a copy of his book [Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation] on my desk at all times and to find he is not only a meticulous historian but also a charming, lovely man! Well, he's become one of AWN's favorites. You have a very fascinating background as well -- film preservationist, historian, television host. Your curiosity regarding the medium makes you a perfect candidate to be Annecy's Artistic Director, but how did you join up with the festival in this capacity?

SB: Because I was presenting a show of rare films (silents, cartoons, miscellaneous shorts), I was approached by the team from the French public channel La Cinquième to produce and host a show called The Dinky Doodle Way, which also features cartoon characters that bother me all the time.

The show is still very successful, and two years ago, the director of Annecy needed someone to host the closing ceremony, so he asked me. The rest is "a chemical reaction, that's all," as Fred and Cyd would say. A few weeks after Jean-Luc Xiberras passed away in December 1998, Dominique Puthod and Tiziana Loschi asked me to join. I took some time to make up my mind -- I was afraid of not having enough time in the day — but I finally accepted.

HK: Will you be back?

SB: You ask this question as if I was an old rock star doing a farewell tour! Of course, I'll be back. I am only 39, and it is a little soon to retire.

HK: Well, it is a big responsibility. Maybe you didn't want it every year. I am glad you'll be back. What was most challenging for you in this role?

Bromberg with the festival's honorary president Roy Disney. Courtesy of Annecy. © Odile Jacquot/NBC.

SB: Annecy's reputation used to be the "Anti-Disney" festival. The challenging point was to say: the festival just turned forty, it is time to bury the hatchet, and turn Annecy toward being a more open animation festival, where everyone, and all techniques, can meet and interact.

I have been questioned, sometimes insulted, about my decision to invite Roy Disney to be the honorary president. The choice of some films presented, and finally the decision to not give an award to a feature film, have also been often misinterpreted.

But now that the festival is over, I think that we have managed to open all the doors, and have a fresh wind blow away the old stories about remaining faithful to Annecy's spirit. A cheap politician would say, "We are ready for the next millennium." I would rather say, "Give me a few days of rest, and I'm ready to work on next year's edition."

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Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to editor@awn.com.


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