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9th StopTrik International Film Festival of Stop Motion Animation October 3-6, 2019 Maribor,Slovenia, 8 to 10 November 2019 Lodz, Poland

StopTrik is a unique festival in that its founders Olga Bobrowska and Michael Bobrowski are both intensely politically and socially conscious...

Animation from a Feminist Perspective

     StopTrik is a unique festival in many ways.  Its founders Olga Bobrowska and Michael Bobrowski are both intensely politically and socially conscious so it is no surprise that the festival’s theme was Film from a Feminist Perspective this year.  The cover and interior pages of the catalogue featured pictures of nine strong, groundbreaking women: Milja Marin, Astrid Lindgren, Marie Curie, Marsha P. Johnson, Frida Kahlo, Angela Davis, Agnes Varda, Arundhati Roy, and Rosa Luxemburg.   

The festival, dedicated to stop motion animation of all styles, is unique in several ways.  Unlike most festivals, there is no international jury. The Grand Prix film is selected by audience vote.  There is a three-person student jury and invited members of the animation community are each asked to give a Special Award to one film.  Last but not least, the festival is held not just in two cities but in two different countries, Maribor, Slovenia and Lodz, Poland.  The festival takes its name from the Serbo-Croatian word for stop-motion film and video techniques- 

The festival got underway on opening night with three films by female filmmakers.  In NavelFable, Austrian avant-garde filmmaker Mara Mattuschka is the subject of her film. Bulgarian born Mara subjects herself to endless layers of tights stretched over her entire body.  She struggles so hard and in such a deformed manner from under the layers of nylon that the sheer struggle for survival becomes visible to the viewer.  The four-minute film is a terrifying, yet riveting experience.

In the second film, A Cat Is Always Female, Martina Mestrovic and Tanya Vujasinovic pay homage to their professor Marija Vjevic Galetovic, a noted Croatian sculpture.  Using video footage and animation of her feminine sculptures, the filmmakers tell Marija’s life story and personal philosophy.

THE NOBLE STUD

The final film on the program, The Noble Stud, was my favorite.  The Swedish duo Sofia Priftis and Linus Hartin use stop motion to tell the story of a young house maid’s transformation from victim to victor.  After suffering unwanted attentions from the aristocratic lord of the manor, the maid hatches a plan to get her revenge and help her lesbian best friend fulfil her impossible dream of having a child with her partner.  The film, told like a fairytale in a soap opera, is witty while dealing with class, power, and gender issues.

A very happy Thomas Renoldner accepting his second award of the evening for DON'T KNOW WHAT.

A wide variety of screenings, presentations, and workshops were held over the four days of the festival.  Along with three International Competitions, there was a Borderlands Competition for experimental and avant-garde films.  I had seen several films in the Borderlands Competition such as Thomas Renoldner’s remarkably witty Don’t Know What and Reinhold Bidner’s intriguing In Trance It, but there were several new surprises for me.  Fleeting Autumn was created by Czech Republic animator Vojtech Dolatil during his two-month artist residency in Japan.  Somewhere between stop motion poetry, animation, documentary, and an experiment, Vojtech transformed Haiku poetry based on 5-7-5 syllables into an audio-visual form using a 5-7-5 second shot structure.  Metal flowers that spring from the sides of a Japanese beer can to images of mountains and autumnal leaves, the vibrant images stayed in my head long after they had left the screen.

 FLEETING AUTUMN

The focal point of this year’s festival were the programs in the Feminist (Re) Vision screenings.  Franziska Bruckner, head of the Research Group Media Creation at the Saint Poelten University of Applied Sciences in Vienna curated Heroine’s Journey.  The films explored feminine perceptions and journeys through life.  Franziska is also one of the editors of Global Animation Theory: International Perspectives At Animafest Zagreb.  The book encompasses the academic writing of historical and current trends in animation from different perspectives.  In a separate presentation, Franziska introduced the book to a packed audience.

Franziska Bruckner introducing GLOBAL ANIMATION THEORY: INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES AT ANIMAFEST ZAGREB.

The Perfect Woman was created by Paola Bristot, Professor of Languages of Contemporary Art at the Academy of Fine Art in Bologna.  From the ageing prostitute in Spela Cadez’s Boles to Lucia Bulgheroni’s Inanimate about Katrine, who thinks she has a very normal, bland life until she discovers that she is really full of hope, angst, and disillusionment and finally accepts the fact, the nine films in this program showed us radically different views of how women see themselves.

The world's oldest grapevine

Maribor is a beautiful little town set at the foot of the wine region hills on the Drava River.  It is home to the oldest known continuous producing grapevine dating back to the 17th century.  The vine still produces 35 to 55 kilograms of grapes each year, which makes roughly 25 liters of red wine.  The vine grows in front of a two-story house which was once part of the old city wall and now houses a wine museum and tasting room.  This historic vine is in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Many of the screenings were held at the festival center located in the historic Vetrinjski Mansion.  Dating back to the 13th century,  it was the first bourgeois house built in the town.  In 2007 renovation on the mansion began and it is now a multi-functional space used for cultural events.  It was the festival headquarters as well as where the festival provided lunch for us all guests every day.

Black Box – Ellas Mueven – She Moves spotlighted Latin American feminism in stop-motion animation.  The five short films selected by Bilbao’s AnimaKom festival director and animator, Pedro Rivero, played in a continuous loop at GT-22, home to a number of Maribor’s cultural organizations.  The short pieces were very moving and addressed a wide range of topics.  Andrea Gudino’s To Let the Body Grow is a testimony of people with different gender identities.  Pilar Garcia Fernandezsesma’s Margarita La Del Rio recalls moments in the life of a Honduran woman who immigrated to the United States to work and send money to her family back home.

Nik, Pedro Rivero, me, and Festival Director Olga Bobrowska.

Tricky Women is the first and remains the only animation festival dedicated to animation made by women and transgender filmmakers.  It has been held annually in Vienna in March since 2001.  The festival’s selection of nine films in the Tricky Women/Tricky Realities program represented a selection of films from their festival.  Most of the films were familiar to me but Rebellious Essence is a new discovery.  The five-minute film by Ana Cigon from Slovakia is about a cat who goes to the Ministry of Cat Affairs Office to obtain a passport.  Everything is going along fine until the cat clerks want to know the cat’s sex, but this kitty finds her own way to avenge the mean binary fascists.  This may seem like a funny film and Ana’s drawings are very humorous, but this is a perfect parable about an all too frequent problem for a transgender individual.

Workshops and presentations made up an important component of StopTrik.  The award-winning Serbian couple Ana Nedeljkovic and Nikola Majdak Jr, (Rabbitland, 2013 and Untravel, 2018) make intensely political films that are also extremely entertaining.  It was no surprise that their workshop, Animated Feminisms, was geared toward changing the world through short animation by telling personal stories.  Their group worked on a primarily cut out stop-motion film.

Ana Nedeljkovic (2nd left)and Nikola Majdak, Jr. (Rear) with their "Animated Feminisms" workshop.

Chinese Shadow Puppet master Zhou Zhou is head of the Animation Department at College of Art in Southwest Minzu University in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.  His work there includes heading the animation studio and shadow art research and development.  In Maribor, he conducted a Chinese Shadow Puppet Workshop for local children.  At the workshop, the children used traditional puppets from the Sichuan region to learn how to bring the puppets to life and tell stories with their hand and body movements.

 Zhou Zhou with students at his Shadow Puppet workshop

Zhou Zhou’s film presentation, Not Only Panda: Stop Motion Animation from Chendu, screened five films from the Fantastic Sky Studio and ended the program with films made by children who attended workshops at the studio of Fantastic Sky’s head Su Donghai.

In the 90 minute Introduction To Animated Films:Genres, Types, Techniques, Examples, Croatian animator Antonija Veljacic gave a brief overview of animation techniques and then the group watched films.  After each film, they discussed what they had seen and the techniques that were used to make the films.  They also received a basic introduction to computer animation and software.

No discussion of the feminist perspective would be complete without hearing the lesbian and queer feminist point of view.  Sisterhood and Unity: Lesbian and Queer  Feminist Activism in the Post-Yugoslav Space brought Maja Pan and Teja Oblak together for a discussion about experiences of lesbian and queer feminist activists in post-Yugoslavia, ways to build sisterhood, and the significance of film in creating queer-feminist memory archives.  The title of their discussion is derived from the 2018 book about activism in post-Yugoslavia.  Maja is a feminist philosopher and informal educator.  Teja participates in the collective of the Lesbian-Feminist University in Ljubljana.  She is also part of the feminist radio program Sektor Z on Radio Student.

The panel discussion Feminist State of Mind:  A Possibility brought four different viewpoints together to talk about art house animation and what role feminist’s practices play in artistic expression in the daily life of animators living in Central Eastern Europe.  Film Theoretician Anna Ida Orosz and film critic Doro Bartal from Hungary were joined on the panel by Croatian animator Antonija Veljacic and Rebecca Akoun, an Austrian animator, along with moderator Aleksandra Sokolovic.

They discussed such important topics as how do you express your individual sensitivity while populist, right-wing backlash spreads around the region?  They also tackled another question that every woman working in the film or gaming industry faces, how do you fight for a safe and equal working environment if your job depends upon a boss, a commission, or a project?  These are questions that are being asked repeatedly at symposiums that I attend throughout Europe.  So far no one seems to have concrete answers.

Along the same lines my presentation at the festival, Breaking the Celluloid Ceiling traced the history of women in the animation industry from Disney’s ink and paint “girls” down to the reality of today’s opportunities for women in the industry.

TrikShow gave the audience the opportunity to hear and ask questions of four of the professionals attending the festival.  Tanja Vujasinovic from Croatia, Austrian researcher Franziska Bruckner, Xu Yan-jun of China, and composer Nik Phelps of Belgium discussed various aspects of their work.  Olga and Michael also conducted interviews with the filmmakers after each competition screening.

Spela Cadez's puppets for ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK.

Vetrinjsk Maison also has a lovely exhibition space which housed a special exhibit of Slovenian Animated Films from 2006 to 2017, Focus:  Women Animators.  The show contained puppets from Spela Cadez’s 2017 animated trailer for Orange Is the New Black television show, as well as other original artwork from her films.  Amongst the twenty-one animators participating in the exhibition, Katarina Nikolov was represented by her work for King Matjaz.  Her 2017 film about a curious little girl’s adventures as she tries to discover her neighbor’s big secret is delightful.  It was lovely to see some of the original drawings from the film.  Screens and monitors with headphones were set up around the gallery for viewing of some films that were represented in the exhibition.

Katarina Nikolov's art work for KING MATJAZ.

Festival Director Olga Bobrowska, Russian producer Nadezhda Svirskaya, and I appeared on Youreup Radio, Maribor’s 24-hour internet radio station.  We talked about the festival in general but primarily we discussed feminism and animation with our moderator, local film journalist Ziga Brdnik.  It was extremely interesting to compare the differences between animation production in Russia and the United States as well as hearing Olga’s viewpoint about Eastern Europe.  Short animation in the United States is not considered a serious art form and there is no funding for it, unlike in Russia and Europe.  Individual countries have funding support for short films.  There are also numerous opportunities to receive extra support services and funding from various pitching events.

One night there was a roasted chestnut and music video party in the Vetinjsk courtyard.  With someone always manning the chestnut roaster there were all the hot chestnuts we could eat and as much beer as we could drink, it didn’t matter that we were outside in the cold.  The music videos, projected on the outdoor screen, were by or about women.  They were curated by award-winning Polish stop-motion music video artist Katarzyna Kijek.  On the other nights after the last screening, there was a DJ, a concert, or performance.

 Live music and videos in the Vetrinkski Maison courtyard.

At the closing night ceremony, the audience award for the International Stop-Motion Competition Grand Prix was announced.  It went to Enough by Anna Mantzaris from the United Kingdom.  For their Borderlands Competition Grand Prix, the audience selected Thomas Renoldner’s Don’t Know What.

The Student Jury Award in the International Competition went to The Diver by Iulia Voitova from France.  In the Borderlands competition, they also selected Don’t Know What.  The list of individual awards from guest professionals is at the end of this article. 

 Iulia Voitova discussing her techniques for THE DIVER.

StopTrik has a lovely after-party tradition for closing night.  Instead of the usual loud music that everyone has to shout over, they have Music for a Good Trip.  DJ Dunja Bovan from Croatia played excellent laid back music that was perfect for dancing or talking.  An excellent tradition that I wish some other festivals would adopt.

Olga and Michael have boundless energy.  One month after the festival in Maribor, StopTrik moves to Lodz, Poland to do it all over again.  Although they do not take all of the programs to Lodz, they present the International Competition as well as Borderlands.  They also present a selection of other special screenings as well as a separate Student Jury from the University of Lodz.  The audience also selects the Grand Prix winners there.

I can’t thank Olga and Michael enough for inviting me to be part of StopTrik Festival.  I had a wonderful time, saw great programs, and hung out with some good friends, old and new.  Kudos go to the staff members and volunteers who were so cheerful and helpful.  They even went out and got me some cough medicine that worked so well I could enjoy the screenings.  You can get more information on the festival website:  stoptrik.com

The dates for 2020 have not been announced yet so keep checking the website if you want to submit a film.

     After saying goodbye to Maribor, Nik and I travelled straight to Lodz, Poland where we are the pitching coaches for ANIMARKT that begin the next day.  That adventure will be my next article.  


Winners & Laureates of 9th StopTrik IFF 2019

The crowds of guests, artists, curators, panellists, professionals, volunteers, fans, viewers, team members and all living creatures of StopTrik's 9th edition are dancing at traditional ending party with DJ Muzika za dobar đir at Dvorana Gustaf.

We have experienced yet another inspiring edition with the beautiful crowd of imaginative people meeting, talking, sharing ideas etc, and we look forward to seeing which great works will emerge from this and which we will of course present next year! ;)

We are honoured to present the 9th StopTrik IFF laureates, chosen by our Grand Prix juror - the Maribor audience, our Maribor Student jury and our guests - animation professionals!


*Maribor Audience Grand Prix* International Stop Motion Competition

 

Enough
Anna Mantzaris, 2017, UK, 2'20''

Moments of lost self-control.


*Maribor Audience Grand Prix* The Borderlands Competition

 

DONT KNOW WHAT
Thomas Renoldner, 2019, AUT, 8'7''

When art and entertainment clash. --- A slapstick avantgarde film.


*Maribor Student Jury Award* International Stop Motion Competition

 

The Diver/ La plongeuse
Iulia Voitova (La Poudriere), 2018, FRA, 4'9'

A professional diver undergoes an intense training regime punctuated by relentless blasts on her trainer's whistle. Utterly exhausted, she refuses to dive again and decides to visit a masseur.


*Maribor Student Jury Award* Borderlands Competition

 

DONT KNOW WHAT 
Thomas Renoldner, 2019, AUT, 8'7''

When art and entertainment clash.


*Special mention from Olga Bobrowska (Festival Director)*

'An overwhelming visual pleasure may come from perfectly dynamic, brilliantly ironic and disturbingly truthful work of collage.'

 

Erodium Thunk
Winston Hacking, 2018, CAN, 2'50''

The film was made specifically for a group show in Vienna (curated by Clint Enns and Madi Piller) titled From A to Z, that reflects on Micheal Snow’s 1956 animated film of the same name, and his multiplicity of approaches which fluidly transition between media and form.


*Special mention from Michał Bobrowski (Programme Director)*

 

Freeze Frame 
Soetkin Verstegen, 2019, BEL/GER, 5'

Freeze frame: the most absurd technique since the invention of the moving image. Through an elaborate process of duplicating the same image over and over again, it creates the illusion of stillness. In this stop motion film, identical figures perform the hopeless task of preserving blocks of ice, like archivists. The repetitive movements reanimate the animals captured inside.


*Special mention from Maciej Misztal (Lublin Film Festival)*

 

Memorable
Bruno Collet (Vivement Lundi !), 2019, FRA, 12'2''

Recently, Louis, painter, and his wife Michelle are experiencing strange events. Their world seems to be mutating. Slowly, furniture, objects, people lose their realism. They are destructuring, sometimes disintegrating…


*Special mention from Nancy Denney-Phelps*

'My award goes to a film that made me laugh and want to cry at the same time for it's touching portrayal of loneliness and longing.'

 

Portrait of Suzanne/ Portrait en pied de Suzanne
Izabela Plucińska (Fundacja Las Sztuki), 2019, POL/FRA, 15'

In a small hotel in France, there is a man who tries to stop his hunger for love by eating excessively. Unexpectedly, his left foot transforms into his lost lover, Susanne. Still, this is just the beginning of a surreal story, made of plasticine, about loneliness, jealousy and love.


*Special mention from Daniel Šuljić (Animafest Zagreb World Festival of Animated Film)*

 

The Opposites Game 
Lisa LaBracio, Anna Samo (TED-Ed), 2019, USA, 4'45''

A classroom erupts into a war of words as students grapple with a seemingly simple prompt: what is the opposite of a gun?


*Special mention from Primanima Festival*

The curators of Primanima Festival, Dóra Bartal and Annaida Orosz give their special mention to a film in which form, technique, and content is in a perfect and harmonious match and gives our tired bodies a much-needed stretching.

 

The Diver/ La plongeuse
Iulia Voitova (La Poudriere), 2018, FRA, 4'9'

A professional diver undergoes an intense training regime punctuated by relentless blasts on her trainer's whistle. Utterly exhausted, she refuses to dive again and decides to visit a masseur.


*Special mention from Pedro Rivero (Animakom Bilbao)*

 

Sister/ 妹妹/ Meimei
Siqi Song, 2018, CN/USA, 8'4''

A man remembers his childhood memories of growing up with an annoying little sister in 1990s China. How would his life have been if things had gone differently?


*Special mention from Franziska Bruckner (St. Poelten University of Applied Sciences)*

'The Diver shows a strong and successful woman that gets a little bit of support just in the right moment. The story is told for a unique perspective and with the unique animation technique.'

 

The Diver/ La plongeuse
Iulia Voitova (La Poudriere), 2018, FRA, 4'9'

A professional diver undergoes an intense training regime punctuated by relentless blasts on her trainer's whistle. Utterly exhausted, she refuses to dive again and decides to visit a masseur.


*Special mention from Waltraud Grausgruber (TrickyWomen/ Tricky Realities Festival)*

'I love this film for its sensual combination of abstract animation with daily life routine. The power of this work lies in the brilliant synthesis of its innovative stop-motion-technic, excellent sound and outstanding visual language.'

 

Marbles
Natalia Spychała, 2019, POL, 5'22''

Hypnotizing pendulum sets a particular mechanism in motion. A figure appearing fragmentarily, space and a variety of objects form a rhythmic system of mutual dependence. What is the cause and what is the effect?

randomness