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The Holland Animation Film Festival: A Vast Array of Programming

Menno de Nooijer traveled to the Holland Animation Film Festival for a week of fabulous screenings and catch up time with old friends.

My Third Visit to the Festival

What I like about animation festivals is when each festival has its own identity. The Holland Animation Film Festival in Utrecht has its own identity. In the competition, the focus is on commercials and student films. About eight years ago, when I was a student, I had two films shown at Utrecht. At the time I didn't realize that it was a competition. When they were announcing the prize winner for my category, I was not in the audience. Apparently, I had won and people were looking around for me because I was expected to go on stage. I was very shocked and surprised that I had won. Not for one second had I thought about the possibility of winning. This year I had two works showing at the film festival, an 85-minute feature film Exit, I made with my father, and a one-minute trailer for the Filmfestival Zeeland 1997.

George Griffin and Paul Driessen at the festival's opening night. Photo courtesy of HAFF.

The festival ran November 18-22, and when I was asked to write, I decided to go and see as many different programs as possible in order to give an idea of what one can expect if attending in the future. Commercials and Shorts It must be quite difficult for a jury to decide who has made the best commercial. Most commercials last only 30 seconds. You can figure out yourself how many fit in a 50 or 60 minute festival program. For the audience it is also hard work to pay attention to every individual piece. The good thing about going to a festival though is you are able to see many different styles and solutions to problems. As an animator you must get your message across in 30 seconds. It is your goal to try and make people want to buy something or think in a certain way. I was impressed by some of the educational "commercials" for UNICEF and MTV. For me, as a filmmaker who also makes commercials, it is very interesting to watch these programs. I try to look at each commercial from my point of view. How would I have done this? Would I have liked to work on this? In general, I am interested in the making of any commercial. If I look at my own work, I see that the more difficult the subject of a film is, the more creative I have to be, and the more I have to think.

Gerrit van Dijk, Priit Pärn and Gerben Schermer. Photo courtesy of HAFF.

It was also good to see that computer animation is developing. I saw some interesting computer animated shorts. In my own work I use the computer as a tool and not as a medium. So far I have not felt the need to make a computer animated film. Of course, that could change next week, all depending on what happens! The Jury Program's Highlights Another interesting collection was the Jury Program. Michael Dudok De Wit's film, The Monk and the Fish, was not new for me, but his commercial work looks very different and is also very good. Paul Bush's film, The Rumour of True Things, was a complete surprise for me. I knew at least three of his "scratch" films and was expecting a similar technique or approach. In all aspects this film was different. I am looking forward to his new films!

Fantastic Features!

The genius of Otto Alder's film, The Spirit of Genius, is Fedor Khitruk, the subject of the film. This is another good example of a name I had forgotten. I realized upon seeing Khitruk in the film that I had met him. However, I had not seen much of his work so I was happy to see this film. It made me respect him. He is very important to Russian animation history in many ways. Something that I really liked is that he seems to be a very nice person.

Fedor Khitruk, the subject of Otto Alder's excellent documentary, The Spirit of Genius. Photo courtesy of Otto Alder.

One night, at 10 o'clock, I went to see the 4th program of the day. The title? Drawn from Memory, a 56-minute film by Paul Fierlinger. Remembering names is not easy for me and I don't know if I've seen his work before, but despite the fact that it was late at night (for me), I had no problem staying awake to watch this film. It was a very beautiful story, with some beautiful transitions from one scene to the next. This one film also showed many different styles. Although the story is not an overly easy, happy one, there were several sections that made me smile. I don't think Paul Fierlinger was at the festival, but I must say there are always many filmmakers and people involved with animation from all over the world in Utrecht. For me that means I meet friends I haven't seen for a long time. I find this an important reason to go to festivals. Utrecht is one of the festivals you should visit if you want to meet up with colleagues. In my opinion, animators are not generally very social people in every day life, but this changes at festivals. At festivals they talk about what they have to do and what they have to go through to make a film. All of a sudden you meet people that understand what you do and why you do it. In all, the festival programs gave the audience a good opportunity to see a lot of different aspects of the use of animation -- features, commercials, independent, art, educational, and student films. Plus, seeing almost all the seats occupied by people interested in animation, is, of course, important for both the festival and animators. Menno de Nooijer is an animation director from Middleburg, The Netherlands. He occasionally collaborates on projects with filmmaker Paul de Nooijer, his father.