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20th ANILOGUE INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION FESTIVAL 23 – 27 November 2022, Budapest, Hungary

Budapest is a beautiful city any time of the year; in late November with the Christmas markets in full swing and cold, crisp air, it was a magical setting for Anilogue International Animation Festival’s 20th Anniversary edition.

 Feature Films a-Plenty at Anilogue

     Budapest is a beautiful city any time of the year; in late November with the Christmas markets in full swing and cold, crisp air, it was a magical setting for Anilogue International Animation Festival’s 20th Anniversary edition.

     The festival featured short film competitions, children’s programs, and extra short animations where no film was longer than 2 minutes. This is a strong year for feature films. With 15 feature films to select from there was something for everyone.

     I finally had the opportunity to see Unicorn Wars, the latest film from Galician director and graphic novelist Alberto Vazquez. He is best known for Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, a feature film based on characters from his graphic novel Psychonauts. I am a big fan of Birdboy and expected Unicorn Wars to be just as good. I was not disappointed. The 91-minute film is an antiwar fable that tells the story of the ancestral war between the little bear army and the unicorns. The film ponders over the origin of good and evil.

Unicorn Wars

     The little bears’ army indoctrinates young recruits to wage war against the unicorns because they believe that the unicorns pose a threat to the bears’ security. Two brothers, Azulin and Gordi, along with a group of other inexperienced recruits, are sent out on a dangerous mission to save the Magic Forest. The two brothers couldn’t be more different. Azulin covets the blood of unicorns because he believes that drinking it will make you eternally beautiful, but his brother, Gordi prefers blueberries and hugs.

     As the rigors and humiliation of teddy bear boot camp turn into the psychedelic horrors of a combat tour of the Magic Forest, the brothers’ complicated history and increasingly strained relationship begins to determine the fate of the entire war. Unicorn Wars is a darkly beautiful animated antiwar/ horror film that is deeply disturbing and thought-provoking. Visit the website, and scroll down to the bottom of the screen to play the Unicorn Wars Video Game. It will give you a taste of the film.

     I am a longtime fan of Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. When I heard that director/composer Pierre Foldes was making a feature film, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, based on Murakami’s book of 24 short stories I was curious to see how Foldes would weave the stories together into a coherent whole.

     Somehow, he has managed to make it work. By putting together a lost cat, a giant toad, and a tsunami to help an unambitious salesman, his frustrated wife, and a schizophrenic accountant save Tokyo from an earthquake. They are able to find meaning in their lives.

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

     I was a bit worried about how Murakami’s stories would transfer to film, but fear not, the stories are safe in Foldes’ hands. He doesn’t try to provide explanations for the mysterious events in Blind Willow, Sleeping Women, but he does manage to capture Murakami’s existentialism, irony, and humor in this deliciously surreal film.

     Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman was screened out of competition. Following the film, there was a discussion between Pierre Foldes and Festival Director Tamas Liszka on the stage. Foldes was also a member of the Feature Film Jury along with Estonian animator Sander Joon and Hungarian director Torok Ference.

Pierre Foldes in conversation with festival director Tamas Liszka

     Japanese director Ayumu Watanabe’s 97-minute film Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko is at the other end of the spectrum from Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. Based on the 2014 novel written by Kanako Nishi, it is the story of a mother and daughter and their lives aboard a boat in a fishing village.

Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko

     Brash’s single mother Nikuko is well known in her village for her bold spirit, much to the embarrassment of Kikuko, her pensive, imaginative daughter. In contrast to her mother, Kikuko wants nothing more than to fit in as she navigates the everyday social dramas of middle school.

     Even with their differences, the mother and daughter have somehow found an odd balance in their lives. They both need each other’s support in ways that they do not recognize. Life in Osaka, a sleepy seaside town, is peaceful until a shocking revelation from the past threatens to uproot the pair’s tender relationship.

     Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko is a story about how family members can often bring out the best in each other without even noticing it. Watanabe’s previous film was the lovely 2019 Children of the   Sea. He has succeeded in creating another beautiful, heartwarming film that older children and their parents can both enjoy.

     Inu-Oh, the latest feature film from Japanese director Masaaki Yuasa is an animated musical extravaganza as well as a feast for the eyes as 14th century Noh meets 1970s rock and roll. The title character, Inu-Oh, is born with bazaar physical deformities that horrify the adults around him. They cover his entire body so he wears clothes and a mask.

One day he meets Tomona, a blind player of the biwa (a Japanese short-necked, bowed string instrument).  As Tomono plays a song of tangled fate, Inu-Oh discovers his remarkable ability to dance. They become a performing duo and form a deep friendship. Using their creative gifts to survive on the margins of society their fame spreads.


     As Tomono plays, Inu-Oh leaps high into the air gyrating his hips in the best Elvis fashion and sings a story about being born different from other people. His eyes and mouth swapped places at birth and his supernaturally long right arm extends more than 3 times the length of his left.

     Separately they are considered freaks, together they are mesmerizing. As their music and dancing inspire the masses and infuriate the powerful 14th-century Japanese establishment, the duo uncovers the truth about themselves, breaking the curses they have been under.

     The film is based on Hideo Furukawa’s historical novel Tales of the Heike: Inu-Oh, set during a period of great unrest and warring clans in the 14th Century. On mixing rock and roll with Noh, Yuasa said that “Rock and Roll is sort of like the lower-class uprising, so that is why I wanted to use it”. I enjoyed Inu-O and recommend it for its unusual visuals and audio that enhance a compelling story.

     In case offbeat feature films are not your thing, along with the competition programs there were special screenings such as films from O!PLA 2022, a festival unique in that it screens the best of contemporary Polish animation. It also travels to over 100 cities throughout Poland bringing animation to people who would not ordinarily have an opportunity to see contemporary adult animation. The audience is the jury of the festival. O!PLA, which stands for Oh! Polish Animation, is an attempt to regain contact and build relationships between Polish animators and their audiences.

     Most of the films were screened at the Toldi Arthouse Cinema which is managed by festival director Tamas Liszka. It is a two-screening-room cinema with a lovely atmosphere and a large welcoming theatre café. For Animated Nights, a festival tradition, we moved to the historic Urania National Film Palace, which definitely lives up to its name.

Urania National Film Theatre

     Construction on the building was completed in the mid-1890s. The design of the theatre, created by Hungarian architect Henrik Schmahl, incorporates Venetian, Gothic and Eastern Moorish styles. In the Spring of 1901, the first Hungarian feature film was shot on the roof of the Urania. The film, Dance, was directed by photographer Béla Zitkovszky who was the theatre’s projectionist at the time. It featured 24 episodes from the history of dance. Unfortunately, the film has been lost, all that remains of it is a box with the title Dance on it which is on display in the theatre’s Main Hall.

     Animated Nights begins at 22:00 (10:00 PM) and goes until the wee hours of the morning. The film programs were divided into Humor (a lot of it dark), Sexuality, and Dark Hour. Films by renowned Estonian animator Priit Parn and students from his Estonian Academy of Art were presented in a two-part retrospective as part of Animated Nights.


     For late-night laughs, you couldn’t top the off-beat French television series Athleticus. Season one and two of director Nicolas DeVeaux’s series of 30 three-minute episodes features hippos competing in a judo match, gymnastic ostriches, basketball playing elephants . . . well, you get the idea - animated animals playing human sports in their own humorous fashion. There was no way you could sleep through this program designed for the 5-year-old inside of all of us. It was good silly fun. You could walk in and out of the screenings, the theatre bar was open until quite late. After it closed there was wine available in the lower lobby.

     One afternoon Festival Programmer Kreet Paljas and I attended a panel discussion at the French Institute on the Pest side of the city. Pest is the Eastern, mostly flat part of Budapest. It comprises about two-thirds of the city’s total area. Pest is separated from Buda, where the festival takes place, and Obuda, the Western parts of the city, by the Danube River.

     The panel was comprised of French producer Oliver Catherin; Morten Thorning, General Director of The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark; French producer Christophe Jankovic; and Balazs Kerék from Digic Studio in Budapest. The moderator was Professor Daniel Deak, an expert on international taxation and EU law.

     The group discussed similarities and differences in animation production in the different European countries and how to survive as an animator in the film market. The well-attended discussion had a wealth of advice for any filmmaker looking for co-production opportunities. The program was organized by the Hungarian National Film Institute as part of its Fast Forward Program. The Institute organizes year-round lectures and workshops on various topics such as scriptwriting, pitching, film rights, and international co-productions.

Little Vampire

 The French Institute and Anilogue have a long history of cooperation and sharing programs. The Institute screened two Anilogue programs of short films for children. They also screened the delightful feature film Little Vampire, directed by Joann Sfar. It is an adaption of his own cult comic book about a never aging 10-year-old vampire boy who longs for a friend his own age.

Sander Joon at the director’s chat

     The Toldi Arthouse Cinema Café was the setting for the daily director’s chats. I had the pleasure of moderating the Meet the Filmmakers Talks. It was the perfect opportunity to learn more about what motivated the directors to create their films which are often based on family stories such as Estonian animator Sander Joon’s Sierra.  Joon’s 15-minute film is about the surreal world of car racing, his father, and Joon’s childhood. Love is another familiar inspiration for animators. In   Hungarian animator Vivien Harshegyi’s Above the Clouds, the main character starts to feel deeper emotions for a guy, but she is afraid of falling in love again because of her terrible experience with her first love.

Olga Bobrowska talking about her new book

     Noted China animation scholar Olga Bobrowska presented her latest book Chinese Animated Film and Ideology, 1940s–1970s: Fighting Puppets at the festival café. The book examines animated propaganda produced in mainline China from the 1940s to the 1970s. In the book Olga analyses 4 puppet films, The Emperor’s Dream (1947), Wanderings of Sanmao (1958), Rooster Crows at Midnight (1964), and The Little 8th Route Army (1973). The book is available from Routledge Press or on the Taylor and Francis eBooks site.

The Rooster Crows at Midnight

     Anilogue has some foreign guests, but the festival’s main emphasis is on bringing animation to the local community. Judging from the number of full seats in the screening rooms the festival is doing an excellent job of reaching out to the people of Budapest.

     After lockdown, it was wonderful to be back in the Cinema in Budapest again. A big thank-you to Kreet Paljas and Tamas Liszka for inviting me to be part of Anilogue. Also, a big well done to them, their staff, and their volunteers.

 Festival programmer Kreet Paljas and festival director Tomas Liszka with Nancy and Nik

     The 21st edition of Anilogue will take place from 29 November to 3 December 2023 partly in the Toldi Arthouse Cinema and partly in the Urania National Theatre.

     You can learn more about the festival and how to submit your film at:


Best Short Film: Steakhouse, Spela Cadez – Slovenia

Jury’s Special Award by Daniel Suljic: Garrano, Vasco Sa, David Doutel – Portugal

Jury’s Special Award by Olga Bobrowska: The Seine’s Tears, Yanis Belaid, Eliott Benard, Alice

     Letailleur, Nicolas Mayeur, Hardrien Pinot, Philippine Singer, and Lisa Vicente – France

Jury’s Special Award by Luca Toth: Goodbye Jérome!, Gabrielle Selnet, Adam Sillard, and

     Chloé Farr – France

Short Film Audience Award: Ice Merchants, Joao Gonzales – Portugal

Best Short Film For Children: Pig, Jorn Leeuwerink – The Netherlands

Jury’s Special Award by Yann Jouette: Lights, Adél Palotas – Hungary

Jury’s Special Award by Elekes Dora: Franzy’s Soup Kitchen, Ana Chubinidze – France

Children’s Film Audience Award: Lights, Adél Palotas – Hungary

Extra Short Film Audience Award: Big Pig, Ulysee Ley – France

Best Feature Film: Nayola, Jose Miguel Ribeiro - Portugal