Budapest is the perfect setting for the Anilogue International Festival which held its 15th edition from 29 November to 3 December.
Budapest is a beautiful city any time of the year, and in December it becomes a magical place with Christmas markets full of delightful sights and smells. That makes it the perfect setting for the Anilogue International Festival which held its 15th addition from 29 November to 3 December.
The festival’s opening night was held in the beautiful Urania Cinema. The Cinema, completed in the mid 1890’s incorporating Venetian Gothic and Moorish styles, is the perfect setting for an opening gala. After a welcome from festival director Tamas Liszka, the feature film Have A Nice Day was screened. I have written previously about Chinese director Jian Liu’s crime/thriller comedy about corruption and crime in modern day China so I won’t repeat myself, but if you haven’t seen Have A Nice Day yet, I highly recommend the film
What the film lacks in technical finesse is made up for with an entertaining plot and witty dialogue, plus there aren’t that many independent animated gangster films coming out of China, making this film worth seeing if for no other reason than that. Unlike his previous film, Piercing 1, which Jian Liu sold his home in China to make, this film had no financial support and was made for the most part on a tablet.
I was honored to be invited to be foreman of the Short Film Jury. Along with fellow jurors Katariina Lillqvist, Tamas Patrovits, and Javier Mrad, I watched and discussed the 30 films in competition. Our jury awarded the Grand Prix to Swedish animator Niki Lindroth von Bahr’s existential musical The Burden. The film is divided into 4 parts, each one taking place in a super market, residence hotel, call center, or a fast food restaurant located in a generic shopping center next to a freeway. The film employs a unique and bizarre approach to puppet animation while combining musical theatre with social issues. How can you not love a film that has a pair of tap dancing mice, a la Fred Astaire, performing an impromptu dance routine while cleaning a fast food restaurant? The Burden also won the Best Animated Short Film Award at the Emiles, The European Animation Awards in December.
Another of my favorite films in the short competition was 9 Ways to Draw A Person by young husband and wife team Sasha Svirsky and Nadezhda Svirskaya. Sasha who animates, and Nadezhda, his producer and director, are up and coming talents on the very fertile Moscow animation scene. Their latest 7 minute film, 9 Ways to Draw A Person, combines 9 very short stories about ways to depict a man. Utilizing different animation styles from hand drawn to collage, the film offers an unsystematic and spontaneous study of the wide range of possibilities, fantasies, and techniques in the world of animation.
Each jury member was allowed to award a Special Mention. Tamas Patrovits gave his award to 9 Ways to Draw A Person, saying simply “Because I like it”.
My Special Mention went to Manivald by Chintis Lundgren from Estonia. The film tells the story, with light hearted humor, of unhealthy codependence, the plight of 30-somethings forced to live at home for economic reasons, and the frustration of self-discovery. I have seen Manivald many times and it still makes me laugh at the strong character design and sardonic humor about a “foxy” young man finding himself. The film has won numerous awards and just screened in competition at Sundance this year.
Finnish animation was spotlighted at ANILOGUE this year. Fellow jury member Katariina Lillqvest was born in Finland and now splits her time between the Prague where her puppet studio is and Finland. As part of the salute to Finnish animation, Katariina presented a program of her films. She describes her stop-motion animations as “recollections of histories of my hometown, Tampere, Finland as well as the fates of children in war torn Sarajevo”. She is also deeply concerned with the position of the Roma community in a changing Europe and the fate of girls and women in various authoritative subcultures.
Katariina has never been one to shy away from controversy. Her 2008 film Butterfly of the Urals caused such a great outcry in Finland when it was shown on Finnish television that she received death threats for her depiction of Finland’s wartime military commander Marshall C. G. E. Mannerheim as a homosexual.
Her puppet film The Country Doctor, based on Franz Kafka’s work, and stories of refugee children from the former Yugoslavia was awarded the Berlinale Silver Bear in 1996. Katariina is currently working on a film about Vladimir Putin which has already caused controversy in Russia when that country’s new media picked up the story from a piece about the project in the Finnish media.
Along with 3 other programs of professional Finnish animation there was also a screening of works by students from Turku Arts Academy in Turku, Finland. The Arts Academy was selected as the Best Animation School of 2012 at the prestigious Zagreb International Animation Festival and its students continue to create exciting and original animations.
Turku Student Ami Lindholm’s 2006 Irresistible Smile was awarded Best Student Film at the Zagreb Festival and was a Carton d’Or finalist that same year. Ami used simple line drawings to show an airline hostess at work as she suffers through the demands of various sorts of travelers all the while keeping an eternal smile on her face.
To round out the Finnish programs the Pink Twins, brothers Juha and Vesa Vehvilainen, gave a video/music performance. The Helsinki based duo began combing improvised digital soundscapes with video screenings in 1997. The remixed music content is based on studio recordings of the brother’s electronic music. They also appeared at the Annecy Animation Festival in 2017 as part of the Off Limits program.
Kimmo Sillanmikko, animation producer and director of the Turku Animation Festival, was on the Feature Film Competition Jury along with international animation talent consultant Shelly Page; director, producer, and funder of Folimage Studio Jacques-Remy Girerd, and Vassilis Konstandopoulos, Greek film distributor.
Jacques-Remy Girerd introduced a retrospective of his impressive body of work as director and producer. Unfortunately neither Raining Cats and Frogs (2003) or A Cat In Paris (2010), my two favorite Girerd films were shown, but his 2013 feature film Aunt Hilda! was presented not only in the cinema but also at the French Institute on another day.
Shelly Page presented her program Eye Candy Show, which showcased a selection of her favorite new student and professional short films from the best new international talents.
Sara Diamond gave a special presentation about Google Spotlight Stories where she is a producer. Sara explained that Google Spotlight Stories “creates short animations for a VR environment. You can watch them on the app, moving the picture around in the window while it plays. The viewer can observe details and follow the events as they wish. You can watch them on your phone, moving it effortlessly, like a tiny window to another world. Or you can watch them in full VR, wearing a head set and truly entering that other world”.
One of Google Spotlight’s films, Pearl, is the first virtual reality project to be nominated for an Oscar as well as winning an Emmy for Innovation in Interacting Programing. Spotlight has launched two new projects, Sonaria and Son of Jaguar. Sonaria is the company’s first story to be driven and inspired by sound design. Son of Jaguar is the longest project that the company has done.
Fellow juror Javier Mrad from Argentina presented a program of 21st century animation from his country. A program of current animation created in Greece was introduced by Vassilis Konstandopoulos.
A special program featured highlights from the noted Fantoche Animation Festival in Baden, Switzerland. Film historian Veronika Zykova screened video works featured in the Other Visions Award section of PAF – Festival of Film Animation held in Olomouc, Czech Republic.
There were special children’s screenings. The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales directed by Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert, was originally created as three half hour television specials. They have been seamlessly linked together to make a feature film. The story is adapted from Renner’s graphic novels about a fox who mothers a family of chicks, a rabbit who plays stork, and a duck who wants to be Santa Claus. The film is extremely funny and entertaining; however underneath all of the hilarious gags the film paints a sensitive and touching portrait of what it means to be a family and the anxieties of family life. The musical score by Canadian composer Robert Marcel Lepage is the perfect accompaniment to the beautifully animated 79 minute film.
Buda is located on the Western bank of the Danube River and Pest is on the opposite bank. They did not become one city until 1872 and still retain different characters. The festival is located on the Pest side but one afternoon fellow juror Tamas Patrovits invited Russian animator Alexey Alexeev, Nik and I to visit BABter on the Buda side of the river. Organized by Tamas, BABter is the first nonacademic creative space in Hungry completely devoted to animation. From basic drawing skills to digital arts BABter offers classes for all ages and skill levels.
Participants can learn basic 2D and 3D animation techniques that can ultimately lead them to produce a short animated film. Master classes have been given by such renowned international professionals as Estonian Ulo Pikkov, who presented a stop motion class, and Canadian Steven Woloshen, who taught his unique Scratchopia technique of making cameraless films at the creative space. Ongoing classes include a drawing academy, animated work place, creative drawing techniques, and pixilation techniques.
BABter’s Animation Fun Zone is the first permanent children’s workshop in Hungary. On the afternoon I visited the facility there was a very active group of young people at work on several stop motion projects. There were also numerous rooms for classes and projects, both for children and for adults. The building itself is very large and Tamas uses an electric scooter to get from one end of the long hallway to the other. The walls are covered with Tamas’ vast collection of original old film posters. Everyone from Federico Fellini to John Wayne grace the walls. The building was originally a post office and plans are underway to further expand BABter to the upstairs so even more classes can be offered.
As if running a full time animation creative space is not enough, in 2012 Tamas and Anna Ida Orosz founded PRIMANIA: The World Festival of First Animations. Tamas said that the goal of the festival is to provide a platform for talented young animators to introduce their first films to the public as well as to add animation to the cultural life of Buda.
Along with screenings, the festival holds workshops, forums, and concerts. A unique feature of the festival is that there is a special prize for Sound Design.
You can learn more about the festival at: primanima.eu
Pest is a party town and Szimpla Kert was the perfect place for the opening night party. Szimpla Kert, the first Ruin bar in the city, is located in the old Jewish quarter of Pest where there are still many bombed out buildings, hence “Ruin bars”. The numerous Ruin bars pop up between the walls of empty houses and businesses that are half open air and half inside. Szimpla has a large open court yard, a half of a top floor with eclectic furniture and art work, and numerous bars. There is even an old stripped down Trabant (a Soviet era car) that serves as a table. Opening night, a Japanese silent movie was being shown on a full sized screen in one area of the large building.
Szimpla Kert is so large that on Sunday mornings it turns into a Farmers Market with 30 to 40 venders selling locally grown produce and hand made products. 1,500 to 2,000 people turn up at the market which has been operating for 4 years.
Szimpla is open until 4 AM, but does not serve food after midnight, so we were really happy to discover El Rapido Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Shop which is also open until 4 AM. The restaurant makes very good burritos, cascades, and other Mexican dishes using authentic ingredients. The basement bar is decorated with a marvelous collection of old toys, advertising signs, and animation characters.
Budapest is famous for its Turkish baths. One night the festival treated their guests to a visit to the Rudas Spa. The thermal bath was built in 1550 during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. The Bath has the traditional Ottoman Empire octagonal pool covered by a Turkish dome as well as numerous modern thermal pools, ranging from very, very hot to cold. There is also a roof top pool that offers a panoramic view of the city. Although there was no snow to go roll in after the baths it was a thoroughly memorable evening of soaking in hot water.
The programing at ANILOGUE was excellent and the Hotel Gerloczy where we stayed was a lovely French style pension full of old world charm.
Festival director Tamas Liszka and his wife, program director Kreet Paljas were wonderful hosts but there were some communication difficulties between the guest coordinator and jury members. The jury screenings were primarily held at the main theatre which was within easy walking distance from the hotel. One jury session was held at a theatre about a half hour taxi ride away from the main theatre. After the competition screening three of us wanted to go back to the Urania theatre for another screening so we asked our jury tender to call a cab for us. She kept telling us that a cab would be there soon. After waiting for 2 ½ hours for a taxi, our jury tender said that “there were no available taxis” and told us to take the tram back to the theatre. None of us really wanted to take public transport because it was the end of our first day there, we were rather tired, and we didn’t know the tram system. Our jury tender did not offer to go with us because she was busy having fun with a group of her friends. We finally hailed a cab ourselves, which we would have been happy to do in the first place if she hadn’t kept telling us that a cab was on the way.
Usually when you are on a jury you are provided with sheets with the name of the film, director’s name, and space for writing comments. Festivals usually give jury members a pen and some even go so far as to provide a small light for writing comments in the dark. Unfortunately none of this was provided for us. Luckily I came prepared with paper and pens, but not all of our jury did.
Worst of all, our final jury discussion to decide the winning film was scheduled as a lunch meeting, but one of our jury members could only be at the meeting for one hour because he had an afternoon masterclass. He had to set things up so that limited our time for discussion. That was definite bad planning.
Little details like these may not seem important to the average film goer but when you are on a jury you are there to do a very serious job and the little things such as jury sheets and adequate communication can make the difference between a really enjoyable festival and one that becomes stressful. I don’t expect to be taken total care of at a festival but when it comes to matters of the jury arrangements they should be well thought out.
Running a festival is never easy, and considering how understaffed and overworked Kreet and Tamas seemed to be, they did a wonderful job. Their hospitality was generous and lovely. The projection quality in the theatres was excellent and the social events that they planned were marvelous. I cannot thank them enough for inviting me to be a part of the festival and I will be happy to return any time that I am invited.
The next edition of ANILOGUE will held from November 28th to December 2nd. You can learn more about the festival and how to submit your film to the 2018 edition at: http://anilogue.com
A list of all of the winning films is below the jury pictures (sorry about the duplicate pictures but I couldn't get rid of the second one).
Short Film Competition Jury:
Katariina Lillqvist - Finland; Tamas Patrovits - Hungary; Javier Mrad - Argentina; Nancy Denney-Phelps - Belgium
Grand Prix Crystal for Best Short Film – The Burden – Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Sweden
Special Mention of Katariina Lillqvist – Nothing Happens – Michelle Kranot & Uri Karnot, Denmark
Special Mention of Tamas Patrovits – 9 Ways To Draw A Person – Sasha Svirsky, Russia
Special Mention of Javier Mrad – Volcano Island – Anna Katalin Lovrity, Hungary
Feature Film Competition Jury: Shelly Page, Great Britian; Jacques-Remy Girerd, France; Kimmo Sillanmikko,
France; Vassilis Konstandopoulos, Greece
Best Feature Film – Big Fish & Begonia –Xuan Liang & Chun Zhang, China
Special Mention – In This Corner of the World – Sunao Katabuchi, Japan