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Cheer and Loathing in Animation: Episode XXXII - Paradise is Not So Bad

Every Friday, Chris Robinson unleashes improvised and hastily scribbled cheer or loathing on the animation community to be digested, swallowed or... expelled. Today: some cheer for Animafest Cyprus' unwavering devotion to indie art.

'Cheer and Loathing in Animation' illustrations by Theodore Ushev

I’m hesitant to shout praises for Animafest Cyprus. For 16 years, the festival – under the careful eyes and gentle soul of co-founder and director, Yiorgos Tsangaris - has been steadily building an animation culture in Cyprus while gaining a reputation as a must event for international animators. I say ‘hesitant’ because right now, the festival is intimate. They welcome around a dozen or so international guests and treat each one of them equally and generously. As the festival goes on, these strangers transform into family. Meals, drinks, swims, opinions, and laughs are shared. New wonders are discovered. If the festival becomes too popular, I fear they’d be unable to maintain this very casual (so casual that they can change the day of their closing night – as they did this year – without any beads of sweat) and intimate setting. I want success for the festival, but I also selfishly want it to stay as it is so as not to become spoiled.

Yes… it’s easy to talk of paradise when you’re in it, when you have the amazing fucking fortune - like I do -  to be able to travel to various international festivals.  I’ve been fortunate to attend the Animafest Cyprus twice in the past few years (this year, I’m actually just on vacation this time and not technically a part of the festival).  Animafest Cyprus serves up a genuine celebration of independent art creation. This is a place where you leave your business cards at home. There’s a chill and respectful vibe. Now… it’s tough to start a festival anywhere, but even more so when you’re on an Island and when your priority is introducing audiences not to Pixar or Disney or other commercial work but to Yamamura, Pärn, Dumala, Ushev and other indie artists. It’s a slow and frustrating process building an audience and a culture for this type of animation art but you can see and feel it happening in Cyprus. And I can’t imagine a more beautiful spot as Cyprus is strewn with beautiful landscapes, unconventional spaces, forgotten structures. During my times here, I’ve attending screenings in ancient ruins, swimming pools, abandoned buildings and seasides, along with assorted outdoor urban landmarks. Tsangaris has an amazing ability to transform any space into a cinema. Unlike pretty much every animation festival experience (except perhaps the Krok festival, which happens on a boat, the venues seem to shift daily. No experience is the same. One day, you’re in the countryside or the old city of Paphos, the next you’re in these amazing outdoor venues in the capital city of Nicosia. The screenings are almost all outdoors, starting only when the strong sun naps.

Tsangaris places a strong emphasis on personal animation. There’s a political undertone, but only in the sense that the personal is political. Tsangaris wishes to encourage, support and promote the small voices, those artists who speak freely and openly. And right now in this time of intense global uncertainty (not to overlook the tenuous situation in Cyprus with Turkish soldiers and buffer zones all silently yet skulking at the end of many streets in the Cyprus capital, Nicosia) maybe the best way to speak out against intolerance and greed and power hungry wingnuts is to keep making liberated art, to keep projecting your voice, to keep speaking until you’re heard.

Beyond that, where else do you get to watch a competition screening from a pool overlooking the sea as the blistering, beautiful sun slowly and gently bids adieu for the day? 

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A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.