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Anima Mundi: The Audience is Key

Edmundo Barreiros relays the events of Brazil's Anima Mundi, possibly the world's most energetic and enthusiastic festival.

Imagine a festival with no empty seats... This is the most predominate characteristic of Anima Mundi, the only animation festival in Latin America. In its sixth edition, it couldn't be any other way. The audience participation was even better than in previous years. Plus, for the first time, all of the exhibits were also taken to São Paulo, the largest city in Brazil. The event's burgeoning success was noted by the growing international interest which was noticeable in the movie and video presentations. "This year we have more and better films, and the spontaneous participation has increased due to the growing prestige of the festival. With each festival more people are getting in touch with us, willing to participate," said Brazilian animator Marcos Magalhães, Cannes award winner and one of the directors of Anima Mundi. Everyone Participates More than 20,000 people passed through two of the most important cultural centers in downtown Rio de Janeiro, either to watch films and videos or to participate in one of the many on-going workshops, which introduce the public to basic animation techniques. "One of the best things in this festival is its setting. In the same space there are many art forms: animation, fine arts and theater. For me, who likes to bring other forms of art into animation, it sounds perfect," said New Zealand-born animator Erica Russel, one of 1998's guests of honor. The amount of people attending screenings is really one of the highlights of this festival. "It's enthusiastic," agreed American animator Marv Newland, another guest of honor at this year's Anima Mundi. Hours before the day's tickets start to be sold, long lines form at the doors of the two cultural centers. Most of the attending public are teenagers, who hang around the festival all day long, watching every film they can and joining in the open workshops.

New this year was the workshop for children ages two to eight. Photo courtesy of Anima Mundi.

A Bright Brazilian Future

The success of these workshops is so great that this year a special one, dedicated exclusively to children under eight, was created. The result was a fantastic, entertaining and educational experience that will be repeated next year. However, there were activities dedicated to a more specialized audience as well. Each year artists come to Brazil to share their experiences in special courses held for aspiring animators. This year's guest was Ray Aragon, who gave lectures on animation design. "Everybody is interested and participates. From what I've seen, there seems to be a great future for animation in Brazil," he said. The results of Anima Mundi's five previous years of exhibits and workshops have started to appear at this year's festival. Many Brazilian films and a special video exhibit of local artists' productions have shown that the quality of work, in commercial animation, by young independent artists, and by Brazilians employed at some of the world's most important animation studios, will soon arrive. "A couple of the Brazilian films in this special exhibit are very good," said Erica Russel, who is interested in discovering more about Brazilian animation and other aspects of the country's culture. The growth of local production was recognized with the creation of a special prize for films made in Brazil. The audience in Rio and São Paulo was responsible for choosing one single title to win this new award. The winner was the lyrical O Espantalho (Scarecrow), by Alê Abreu, a beautiful love story between a girl and a scarecrow.

The Best Brazilian Film award winner, O Espantalho (The Scarecrow), by Alê Abreu. Photo courtesy of Anima Mundi.

A Lot of Local Color

The local sights and quality of professionals at Anima Mundi had been experienced before by Georges Lacroix, France's 3D animation pioneer. This year marked his third trip to Brazil; each visit was to give lectures and workshops at festivals and large communications companies. His first visit to Anima Mundi in Rio left Lacroix with very good impressions of the event. "I know festivals from all over the world, but the ambiance of this one is great," he observed. The charms of Rio de Janeiro are also one of the event's special attractions. The festival takes place in the district called the Cultural Corridor, a group of streets downtown with well preserved architecture of the XVII to XIX centuries. Beaches, of course, are also a reason to make animators from all over the world accept an invitation to travel way down South to Anima Mundi--especially if the artist is a surfer, like Marv Newland. "I was going to bring down my longboard, but the organization has rented one for me and I will use it on my first free day to ride some waves at a beach called Prainha, an ecological reserve," he said in the Animated Chat after his lecture and presentation of his films, making for one of the best moments at the festival, and surely its funniest night. After two weeks of living and breathing animation, the public in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo had to say good-bye to the festival until August 1999. Before that though, they chose the winners of Anima Mundi 1998. In a move different from other festivals, the winners are not chosen by a jury, but rather by the audience. This democratic solution honored the U.S. short Geri's Game

by Jan Pinkava, and Una Nit, by Spaniard Jordi Moragues, as the best productions in film and computer graphics, both in Rio and São Paulo. The Best Film for Children prize, however, was different in the two cities. Rio chose German Es Wird Regen Geben (Looks Like Rain), by Benedikt Niemann, and São Paulo chose the Canadian Duel, by Pavel Koutsky. All four were masterpieces that have left strong impressions in the minds of Brazilian animation fans. These memories will last until next year, when the two cities will again, host Anima Mundi; an event that has become an important part in the cultural life of the two most important Brazilian cities.

Edmundo Barreiros.

Edmundo Barreiros is a journalist born and based in Rio de Janeiro. He writes about animation, comics and pop music for major newspapers and magazines in Brazil. He has been the text editor of the Anima Mundi catalogue since 1997. Most importantly, he looks much better in person than in the funny portraits he sends to Animation World Magazine.