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5th VOID INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION FILM FESTIVAL 30 January to 08 February 2020 Copenhagen, Denmark

I arrived on Friday afternoon and flew home on Sunday so it was a whirlwind trip to Copenhagen.

     Although VOID is a 10-day long festival I was really there for only one day.  I was invited to be on the jury to select the winner of the Lejf Marcussen Award.  I arrived on Friday afternoon and flew home on Sunday so it was a whirlwind trip to Copenhagen.

     Lejf Marcussen was a pioneering Danish animator who worked at the Danish Broadcasting Company for many years, primarily producing non-verbal films.  He was the first European animator to be awarded the prestigious Norman McLaren Heritage Prize in 1990.  In 2008 he also received a Life Time Achievement Award at the Fredrikstad International Animation Festival in Norway. His films are best characterized by the use of animation and other optical aides in what is best described as a fusion of motion, imagery, and music.

     Lejf Marcussin was born in 1936 and passed away in 2013.  In 2019 the Danish Animation Society inaugurated a new award in his honor.   Our jury brief stated that the film we selected should “show the spirit of Lejf’s work, being personal, artistic, and showcasing an interplay between music and imagery”.

The Public Voice

     My favorite of his films is the 1988 The Public Voice which opens with a painting by the Belgian surrealist Paul Delvaux and zooms in on a detail of the painting.  The zoom continues into an imaginary space revealing complex images hidden into the smallest spot of each passing figure until the process reverses, revealing a completely different set of details.  This all takes place while a group of film critics are critiquing the pictures and doesn’t stop until one of the pictures refuses to listen to them and their comments.  What is amazing to me is that this intricate, complex film was created by hand without any computer effects.  The Public Voice received both a Special Distinction for Technique Serving the Imagination and the Press Award at the 1989 Annecy Animation Festival.

     My fellow jurors were a delightful group.  Annemette Karpen is a prominent member of the Danish animation community.  As well as founding a children’s animation festival, Annemette is a driving force behind Project ANIMA, a mobile animation workshop that visits schools teaching animation to children.

Jury Dinner - Ulysse LeFont, Nancy, Dan Ramsay, Sara Koppel, Juliette Marchand, Annemette Karpen,Martin Wiklund, and Festival Director Anne Weinberg

     Eva Katinka Bognar is a freelance animator, director, and illustrator living in Budapest.

     The last 2 members of our jury, Martin Wiklund and Ulysse LeFont, won the 2019 Lejf Marcussin Award with Danse Exquise.  This beautifully crafted, bizarre and hallucinatory film was commissioned by the Michelin two-starred French restaurant La Madelaine – Sous – Montreuil.  It is not like any other restaurant advertisement I have ever seen.  Granted it does center on things that can be eaten in a bizarre way.  It is also magically beautiful to watch, using computer-assisted 3D animation mixed with collage, painting, and 3D rendering. The 3-minute film was screened at the closing night ceremony.

Danse Exquise

     Our jury watched our films in the screening room of the impressive Charlottenborg Kunsthal Konggens.  It is the official exhibition gallery of the Royal Academy of Art, housing an impressive collection of contemporary art. We had 8 very different films to select our winner from:  Violent Equation by Antonis Doussias; Per Tutta La Vita, Roberto Catani, Italy; Finity Calling, Jasper Kuipers, The Netherlands; Orpheus, Priit Tender, Estonia; Knife Hanging From A Tree, Jihee Nam, South Korea; Digits of Pi, by Tom Bessoir, United States; There Were Four of Us, Cassie Shao, United States, and Half Asleep from Caibei Cai, United Kingdom.

     After much deliberation, we selected Knife Hanging from a Tree by Jihee Nam as the film that best fits the spirit of the Leif Marcussen Award.  The 3’21” film was inspired by a traditional Korean saying which translates as “sour grapes”.  That refers to an attitude that a person adopts toward someone because that person has something that the other person desires but can’t have.  The film is full of dark humor and sarcasm expressed through the contrast between the expressionless faces and the dynamic body movement.  Jihee Nam artfully uses bright colors and black and white line drawings to explore the concept of human relationships and manipulations.

Knife Hanging from a Tree

     Presenting the award the jury said that Knife Hanging from a Tree “is a unique film that surprised all of us with fresh visuals and original design.  It left us wanting to see more”.  Our decision was unanimous.

The Lejf Marcussen Jury - l to R Nancy, Annemette Karpen, Eva Katinka Bognor, Martin Wiklund, and Ulyssse Le Font

     After we had lunch at the charming Apollo Bar and Kontine located inside the museum, Annemette Karpen offered to take us on a walking tour of her city.  I had never been to Copenhagen before so it was quite a pleasure to see the city with someone who lives there.

     We began with a stroll along the beautiful harbor.  It is a blend of traditional Danish architecture, which looks very close to Dutch architecture, with modern buildings that seem to blend into their surrounding successfully.  Our first destination was Christianborg Palace.  The impressive old palace houses the Prime Minister’s Office, the Supreme Court, and is the seat of the Danish parliament.  We were in time to watch the changing of the guard.

The Little Mermaid

     No trip to Copenhagen would be complete without a visit to The Little Mermaid, the bronze statue created by Edvard Erikson perched on a rock by the water’s edge on Langelinie Promenade.  It was a gift to the people of Copenhagen from Carlsberg brewery founder Carl Jacobsen in 1913 as part of the city’s initiative to decorate parks and public spaces with classical and historic figures.

     Our last stop was Rosemborg Castle Gardens to pay our respects to Hans Christian Anderson.  The statue of the creator of The Little Mermaid was erected in 1875 in honor of his 70th birthday.  The lovely garden surrounds the Rosemborg Castle which was built in 1606 as a royal summer palace.  The city has grown up around the spacious palace which is now a museum containing the Royal Art Collection, Crown Jewels, and the Throne Chair of Denmark. Thanks to Annemette we got to see some lovely sights in the beautiful city of Copenhagen.         

      Along with the awards given at the closing night ceremony (a complete list at the end of this article), Graduation Film Jury member Sara Koppel’s film EMBRACES and the touch of skin” was also shown.  The 3’ drawn-on-paper film is an animated poem about the need for human contact.  The film provides insights into Sara’s environment where all of her creative ideas come from.

EMBRACES and the touch of skin

     Sara has been a mainstay of the Danish animation community since 1984 when she got her start in the industry as a 14-year-old punk.  In a career that has spanned 30+ years, she has created numerous award-winning short films.  They include 1st Day and Next Night, Seriously Deadly Silence, and Her Clitoral Awareness to name just three.  She creates her films using pen and paper.

     The ceremony concluded with a live animation performance by VR artist Carl Krull.  The Danish artist is known for his seismic approach to sculptural drawing and painting.  As well as working in VR and digital mediums he also draws on paper with ink and is a printmaker.

         For his closing night performance, Krull drew in virtual reality, a process that he describes as “a different way to express yourself”.   He feels that VR drawing is somewhere between drawing and sculpting.  He finds it fascinating that as he moves around he is drawing under the surface of the sculpture he is creating.

Carl Krull doing his VR painting

    The festival program looked very strong.  I was especially sorry to miss the Sally Cruikshank retrospective.  Unfortunately outside of the films for our competition and the closing night ceremony the only screening that I was able to watch was the Suzan Pitt retrospective which was shown right before the closing ceremony.  Of the 5 films in the program, I was particularly delighted to see Joy Street.  For some reason, Joy Street doesn’t seem to be shown as often as Asparagus or El Doctor but this film is my personal favorite of her work.  This story of a woman’s journey from suicidal despair to finding personal renewal with the assistance of a cartoon mouse (no not Mickey!)on an ashtray is compelling to watch.  In an interview Pitt gave several years ago about the film, she said “Years earlier, in the throes of deep depression I found solace in the rainforests of Mexico and Guatemala”.  The hallucinogenic paintings she created while she was there inspired the scenes in the film where the figure on the ashtray comes to life as a giant-sized mouse and carries the woman down her fire escape and into a park that turns into a rain forest.  The film is completely hand-painted and the rainforest scenes with beautiful foliage, flowers and animals are beautiful. If you have not seen this film I urge you to check it out.

Joystreet

     Along with Joy Street, Asparagus, and El Doctor, two other films were on the program.  Suzan’s 3 minute commercial for the New American Film Series at the Whitney Museum in New York City was used to help raise funds for the second season of the series when the museum refused to fund it.  They later reneged and funded the film program.  Also shown was one of her earliest films, the 1971 Crocuses which utilizes drawings and cut-outs to portray the story of a couple’s family life.

Festival Manager Claudia Cazzato

     I want to thank VOID for inviting me to participate in the festival.  A very big thank you goes out to Festival Manager Claudia Cazzato for arranging the logistics of my travel and stay in Copenhagen and especially for making sure that I was taken to the airport for my return flight when that little detail had been overlooked by the festival.

     The exact dates for the 2021 edition of VOID have not been set yet but you can find more information about this year’s edition at:        www.voidfilmfestival.com

WINNING FILMS:

Leif Marcussen Jury:  Annemette Karpen, Eva Katinka Bognar, Martin Wiklund, Ulysse LeFont, and Nancy Denney-Phelps

     Knife Hanging from a tree – Jihee Nam, Korea

Graducation Film Jury:  Dan Ramsay, Juliette Marchand, and Sara Koppel

     Daughter - Daria Kashcheeva, Czech Republic

     Special Mention – Blieschow – Christoph Sarow, Denmark

Audience Award

     Memorable, Bruno Collet, France

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