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Anima Mundi 2005: The Carioca Custom

Janet Hetherington takes a look at why graphic novels are leaping from comic shops and bookstore shelves to big screens across North America and beyond.

Anima Mundi 2005. Festival catalog cover artwork and opening video animated by Joanna Quinn. Image courtesy of Anima Mundi.

Anima Mundi 2005. Festival catalog cover artwork and opening video animated by Joanna Quinn. Image courtesy of Anima Mundi.

In its 13th year, Anima Mundi is the largest annual animation festival in South America. Its so big, in fact, that it happens in two shifts 10 days in coastal Rio de Janeiro (8-17 July), and then the crew packs everything up for inland São Paulo for another week (20-24 July). The festival, as a whole, is well established and well regarded throughout the region, with most screenings sold out in advance. (Even when meeting Brazilians abroad, they often seem to know about Anima Mundi, nodding appreciatively.) Its said that some 94,000 people attended this year!

For our part, we only spent our time in Rio, so we cant report on the sprawling, endless city of São Paulo. But Rio is its own reward, its own kind of place. It is a city of multicolored contrasts, of natural beauty juxtaposed with abiding poverty. Tucked into the dramatically verdant landscape, and spitting distance from the heavily touristed beachfront, are the favelas (shanty towns), made popular in the violent live-action film City of God (2002). Especially at night, it is understood that one navigates the streets with caution.

Still, for anyone who comes to Brazil, it is an immediately enchanting experience. At this time of year, in the southern hemisphere, it is winter. The locals may complain of the cold water, but for those from more northerly latitudes, the season was downright delightful. More remarkable, however, was the pedestrian life of Rio, the sense of community among strangers. It was not uncommon for us to ask directions, and the people, even if they did not speak English, went out of their way to help. (It really is amazing what folks can communicate with a kind of primitive, universal sign language.)

This is, in a nutshell, the carioca custom. In many major cities, people are sequestered in their own little world. Brazil is an inverse of western acculturation. The carioca are considered the natives of Rio, but it is more a frame of mind than place. People seem light in spirit, happy, receptive and friendly. Never before have I seen such confidence in peoples eyes men, women and children. The people of Brazil are a gorgeous amalgam of black, white and golden. They are completely comfortable in their own bodies, freely displaying all of their god-given beauty.

A few of the visiting animators expressed their profound enjoyment for the city how it feels alive and genuine how they will miss being there how they wished to stay in Rio, if only a livelihood in animation could be possible for them.

Since its inception, the festival has encouraged much interest in animation and, as a result, more and more people are finding expression in the medium. Eventually, as if by some law of gravity, the festival may be an impetus for studios taking root, sustaining themselves on commercial work and building a foundation for larger independent projects. The process seems as inevitable as day follows night.

By the end of the week, many of us had caught the animator bug in more than one way. (We were plum-tuckered tired with some kind of weird Amazon flu, or so it seemed.) The childrens workshops were a real treat, seeing the enthusiasm of fledgling animators as they brought life to drawings on film, cutout pictures, stop-motion puppets, sand and their own pixilation. (Kids were waiting in line to participate in the workshops.) Another highlight of the week was Sara Barbas, an animator from Aardman who demonstrated the techniques and models for working on the studios forthcoming feature, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

The grand venue for Anima Mundi, with several small cinemas to its credit, was the Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil in downtown Rio. A relatively short walk or taxi ride away, or by underground metro, was also the Cinelandia park plaza with its Odeon theater (where it seemed there was better projection and film quality). This latter location also happened to be where the volunteer party was hosted on Friday night, with people pawing each other, swigging libations and sucking face.

A new day  the view from our hotel in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo courtesy of Greg Singer.

A new day the view from our hotel in Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo courtesy of Greg Singer.

While we certainly couldnt watch all of the films presented, there was plenty else to keep us engaged. Samba dancing, for one. Or checking out the touristy sites such as Corcovado. There is a 100-foot statue of Jesus, circa 1930s, lording over the city and from which visitors have an angels perspective, in all directions, of Rio and its neighboring forest. (I guess, from high enough perch, everything looks peaceful.)

Back down on earth, festivalgoers could partake of papo animados (animated chats) with special speakers Georges Schwizgebel, Igor Kovalyov, Chris Landreth, Ron Diamond, and Brazilian artist Rui de Oliveira. (Just for the record, Diamond is the co-founder of AWN.)

From left to right: Festival directors Léa Zagury, Marcos Magalhães, Cesar Coelho and Aida Queiroz. Photo courtesy of Anima Mundi.

From left to right: Festival directors Léa Zagury, Marcos Magalhães, Cesar Coelho and Aida Queiroz. Photo courtesy of Anima Mundi.

When all was said and done, separate Audience Awards were handed out in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo for best short film, best feature film, best short film for children, best Brazilian animation, best first work and other categories. Professional Jury Awards were given for best animation, best script, best soundtrack and best design. And one Directors Award was presented for special achievement in animation cinema.

In both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the award for best feature film went to Alosha Popovich i Tugarin Zmey, by Konstantin Bronzit (Russia, 2004). In São Paulo, the best short film was awarded to Gopher Broke by Jeff Fowler of Blur Studios (USA, 2004). In Rio, the best short film went to Juan Pablo Zaramella and Silvina Cornillon for Viaje A Marte (Argentina, 2004). The Directors Award for special achievement went to the CGI film Overtime, by Oury Atlan, Thibaut Berland and Damien Ferrié (France, 2004).

But enough words! For every 1,000 words, a picture would serve just as nicely (only more so). Therefore, for your viewing pleasure, here are a handful of snapshots to glimpse of the weeks events...


The main festival venue in downtown Rio de Janeiro at the Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil. Photos courtesy of Shani Gur.


Brazilian artist Rui de Oliveira spoke at one of the festivals papo animados (animated chats), and Aardman animator Sara Barbas showed us how to make Wallace say Hola. Photos courtesy of Anima Mundi and Juan Pablo Zaramella.


Clockwise from top left: La Tête Dans Les Étoiles by Sylvain Vincendeau of Folimage (France, 2005) showed us how wonderful life could be outside the city if only for a time. Alosha Popovich i Tugarin Zmey by Konstantin Bronzit (Russia, 2004) won the award for best feature film in both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. A Bucks Worth by Tatia Rosenthal (USA, 2005) won awards for best first work in both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and the film is now in development as a stop-motion feature called $9.99 through an Australia-Israel co-production. O Boto by Humberto Avelar (Brazil, 2004) tells the charming legend of an Amazon River dolphin turned local lover. Photos courtesy of Anima Mundi and Tatia Rosenthal.


Viaje A Marte/Journey to Mars (Argentina, 2004) won the Audience Award for best short film in Rio de Janeiro. Creators Juan Pablo Zaramella and Silvina Cornillon mentioned that the film is based on a childhood story of their screenwriter, who remembers asking to go to California as a young boy. His grandfather would casually announce, Okay, lets go! and then they would jump in their truck and pretend to fly off there. For Viaje A Marte, Juan Pablo and Silvina used their living room as a production area, but their apartment is increasingly small for the kinds of large-scale projects they are now working to create. Photos courtesy of Silvina Cornillon.


A full house was common for the film screenings. Afterwards, Spanish-Finnish animator and musician Sami Abaijon (left) begins his raucous night out on the town. Photos courtesy of Shani Gur.


The childrens animation workshops were very popular, as they learned how to animate with plasticine, pen on paper, cutouts, pixilation, sand, drawing on film and zoetropes. Photos courtesy of Shani Gur.


From left to right: Rio de Janeiro from a distance, with the huge Christ the Redeemer statue perched atop Corcovado mountain. Rest assured, there was little monkey business in the citys botanical gardens. Photos courtesy of Shani Gur and Jason Gottlieb.


Visiting animators and special speakers at Anima Mundi 2005. From left to right: Chris Landreth, Heléne Beau, Norbert Lafabrie, Georges Schwizgebel, Igor Kovalyov, Max Ciaccio, festival director Léa Zagury, Jason Gottlieb, Sami Abaijon, Silvina Cornillon, Ron Diamond, Juan Pablo Zaramella and Shani Gur. Photo courtesy of Shani Gur.

For in-depth info on this years festival, its invited speakers and competition winners, check out the official Anima Mundi website (

Greg Singer is an animation welfare advocate, eating in Los Angeles.

Shani Gur is an animator, illustrator and photographer originally from Russia and now living in Jerusalem.

Thanks again to the festival organizers, staff and volunteers for their wonderful generosity and support.