The 2018 edition of Anima Brussels was an exceptional mixture of special events and competition screenings. First and foremost was the salute to Estonian animation in honor of the 100 year anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Estonia.
ESTONIA INVADES BRUSSELS
The 2018 edition of Anima Brussels was an exceptional mixture of special events and competition screenings. First and foremost was the salute to Estonian animation in honor of the 100 year anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Estonia. Six separate screenings were devoted to a retrospective of the countries quirky, creative animation.
The first three programs were divided into Estonian Dreams: Blue Love; Estonian Dreams: Black Tie, Tongue In Cheek; and Estonian Dreams: White Dreams in honor of the three colors of the Estonian flag: black, white, and blue. The six films in Blue Love looked at relationships Estonian style. Once in the Field of Boredom, Teele Strauss’ five minute story of a couple whose life together has come to an end is about boredom and yearning for something different. Teele projected her beautiful frame by frame animation onto a live forest background which gives the film an extremely textured feeling.
No one deals with relationships quite like Kasper Jancis. The Estonian animator’s films are always quirky, but underneath the humor there are very serious themes. Kasper’s Crocodile (2009) fit perfectly into the Blue Love program. Crocodile is the story of a former opera star who, through a cruel trick of fate, has ended up working in a children’s playroom at a shopping center. His job is entertaining the children in a crocodile costume. His life seems joyless and disgusting until he meets a femme fatale who lives with a live crocodile.
Kasper’s latest project is a complete departure from his previous films. Captain Morten and the Spider Queen is an 80 minute puppet animation film based on Kasper’s children’s book and theatre play, Adventure on Salamander, and is a film for the entire family. It centers on the adventures of 8 year old Morten who dreams of becoming a ship captain like his father.
Rino Uht, whose film The Master (Annecy Crystal 2015) has amazingly detailed sets, is the art director on Captain Morten and the Spider Queen. The film, a co-production between Nukufilm (Estonia), Telegael (Ireland), and Grid VFX (Belgium), is in post- production in Ireland and will have its premier soon. I saw some of the puppets when I was at Nukufilm a couple of years ago and they were beautifully crafted. I am looking forward to seeing the finished film.
Estonian Dreams: Black Tie, Toung in Cheek took on politics and its constraints, past and present whether during the occupation or independence. The films showed different forms of social control, ways to play with it, and laugh at it. Elbert Tuganov’s Soviet Era Park (1966) is quietly subversive. The cut out animation ridicules unreasonable and unwanted government decisions. People have walked through the local park for years creating a much traveled path. One day the local bureaucrats decide to redesign the park adding a new paved path, but everyone continues to use the old dirt path. In spite of the signs and barbed wire that the bureaucrats put up, the people still used the old path. Finally, in desperation, the bureaucrats pave a new path with lots of curves but it is still not used, people continue to use the familiar route. Park’s moral: No changes will ever alter the will of the people.
At the opposite end of social comment is Hardi Volmer’s 2003 Barbarid. The stop motion parody of the classic Snow White fairy tale takes place in Barbieland which is an absolutely wonderful world made up of plastic and Barbie dolls. But one day the Queen-Dolly of Barbieland asks her mirror “Who is the fairest of them all?” the mirror answers “You are the fairest in the world but Dennis-Dolly is even fairer”. The Queen is forced to make new friends with old abandoned dolls but no one can tell who the real queen is because all of the dolls look alike without their clothes. The delightfully absurd film is a strong statement about conformity in modern life.
The third program, Estonian Dreams: White Dreams, portrayed imagination, fantasy, dreams, and reality Estonian style. The eight films were a mixture of abstraction and realism beginning with The Master, Riho Unt’s powerful puppet adaptation of the 100 year old Tuglas classic Popi and Huhuu, which every Estonian student reads in high school. The film won the prestigious Jury Award at Annecy in 2015. I have written extensively about the film in my Annecy article for that year.
All three programs were curated by Priit Tender. Priit is an award winning animator as well as Artistic Director of the Animated Dreams Animation Festival which takes place in Tallinn every November.
Pritt Parn is not just a star of animation, he is an international star. Priit has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Animafest Zagreb in 2008 and the ASIFA Life Time Achievement Award in 2002 as well as winning numerous accolades at animation festivals for his films.
Parn’s films are full of black humor, playful surrealism, and an easily recognizable graphic style that is uniquely his own. His screening at Anima was split into parts. First, three films that Priit created on his own were screened. Hotel E 1992) portrays two residents in adjoining rooms at the Hotel E. One room is dark and gloomy, the other one colorful and full of wonderful things. Pritt say of the film, “This was made as the cold war came to its halt and serves as a warning to society”. The 30 minute 1895 and Karl & Marilyn (24’) were also shown.
In the second part of the program Priit was joined on stage by his wife Olga to introduce the three films that they have made together. Their first film together is the 44 minute Life Without Gabriela Ferri. The plot gets pretty complicated but basically a married couple are continually interrupted by their young son while trying to make love. Meanwhile the lives of a thief, neighbors who perform secret rites, sisters who provide virtual love, and a young woman attempting to repair broken relationships all around her are intertwined with the life of the married couple in this 2008 film.
The pair’s 2010 film, Divers In the Rain, is not only my favorite of the films that the couple have made together but is also the most successful Estonian animated film of all times, winning over 18 awards at international animation festivals including the Grand Prix at Anima Brussels in 2010. In the film a man works as a diver on the day shift while his lover works as a mobile dentist at night. Sharing a cup of coffee and a kiss is their only interaction. He struggles with his work and she has trouble sleeping. The constant rainfall echoes their desecrating relationship. The 24 minute film is in black and white with very little dialogue which heightens the sad, dark feeling of despair the couple is sinking into. The film is a mirror of far too many modern relationships.
Rounding out the Estonian tribute was a program of films from the Estonian Academy of Arts. Established in 2006, the school’s teaching techniques are based on both theory and practical work. The school has produced such rising stars of the animation world as Anu-Laura Tuttelberg who graduated in 2013. Her graduation film Flymill has been screened at more than 100 festivals around the world and has won numerous awards.
As well as being an animator Anu-Laura has designed and constructed sets for several stop-motion films including Ulo Pikkov’s Empty Space and Kasper’s feature Morten and the Spider Queen. At Anima Brussels she was a member of the National Jury.
Nukufilm in Tallinn is the largest puppet animation studio in Northern Europe, dating back to 1957. The studio is located in a massive building which was originally an old mint factory that became a sock factory during the Soviet era. Over the course of its 60 year history the studio has produced over 200 different stop motion films and has an impressive roster of renowned animators including Hardi Volmer, Kasper Jancis, Mati Kutt, Rio Heidmets, Riho Unt, and Ulo Pikkov to name just a few.
To honor the studio’s 60th Anniversary Anima Brussels mounted an exhibition of the remarkable sets from some of Nukufilm’s puppet films. It was amazing to see the attention to detail of Riho Unt’s set for The Master. I was thrilled to see the three bears in their Paris set for Brothers Bearheart, my all-time favorite animated film directed by Riho Unt. The Estonian Embassy in Brussels hosted a cocktail party to celebrate the opening of the exhibition.
Peter Lord is always an entertaining speaker. Each time that I hear him give a Master Class he has new, interesting, and witty things to say. Regaling the audience with stories about the early days when Peter and David Sproxton created their first plasticine character named Aardman, to the formation of their studio named after their early character to their most recent release, Early Man, Peter’s 1 ½ hour talk flew by. With photos and a great deal of spontaneous humor Peter took the audience inside the workings of Aardman and the production of Early Man.
Later in the week I watched Early Man and while I would not put it up there with Chicken Run or Shaun the Sheep, it is good fun for the entire family with great British humor that can’t help but make you laugh. The new pre historic caveman comedy directed by the extremely talented Nick Park stars Caveman Dug and his sidekick Hognob. The pair must unite the tribe to thwart Lord North’s plan to take over their land and transform it into a giant mine thereby issuing in the Bronze Age. The film is well worth seeing more than once because the first time I was laughing at the story but the next time I will be watching the technical expertise of the puppets and sets.
Peter told me that Aardman is already hard at work on another Shaun the Sheep feature film.
One of the most entertaining films that I saw at the festival was the premiere of Cowboys & Indians, The Films of Patar & Aubier. The 61 minute documentary directed by Fabrice du Welz traces the wonderful wacky world of animators Vincent Patar and Stephane Aubier from La Cambre, the Belgian School of Visual Arts, where the pair first met and became inseparable friends and co-conspirators in their unique world of stop motion animation. They are best known for bringing plastic toy figurines to life in their adventure fantasy A Town Called Panic. The feature length film, which grew out of their popular television series, features the puppetoon plastic characters horse, cowboy, and indian, who share a house going about daily life in jerky stop motion while the characters scream-talk at a rapid, loud volume. A Town Called Panic was made over 260 days with 1,500 plastic toy figures. In 2009 it became the first stop motion film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Empire Magazine called A Town Called Panic “Toy Story on absinth” which is a very apt description.
Du Welz’s documentary shows the diversity of Patar and Aubier’s talent as he takes us to script consultations and the planning of the feature film Ernest & Celestine which the pair co directed with Benjamin Renner. The lovely film based on a series of children’s books of the same name by the Belgian author and illustrator Gabrielle Vincent was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 86th Academy Awards.
Through interviews with many people who have worked and played with the duo and footage shot of Patar and Aubier at work, Welz takes us on a magical journey into the lives of the eclectic duo who the director describes as “A couple of deeply Dada, punky, sincere fierce yet trendy heroes”.
At the other end of the animation spectrum Michael Dudok De Wit gave a Master Class and Michel Occlot, the man who gave us such delightful films as the Kirikou series, Azus & Asmar, and Tales of the Night, introduced his latest heroine, Dilili, the star of Dilili in Paris. Set in Belle Époque Paris, Dilili, a young mixed race girl searches for clues to the identity of the mysterious kidnapper of Parisian girls. Michel used hundreds of his own Paris photographs as background references to take us into the darker side of the city where Dilili meets a wide variety of characters, including villains, on her quest. The feature film will be released in France on 10 October 2018.
Belgian cartoonist, animator, and film director born Jean-Paul Walravens, is known to the world as Picha. He is best recognized for his four hilariously raunchy x-rated animated films. Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle is a thinly veiled parody of the Tarzan stories. Picha’s second foray into animation, The Missing Link, is a cave man spoof starting in the year 196303 B. C. The French version of the film was screened at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival.
Picha said that his third film, The Big Bang, is the “culmination of a trilogy . . . a little more tied to the news of the day, only more expressive. The Big Band is a film about all wars, including personal wars you find in the family”.
His fourth film, Snow White: The Sequal is my personal favorite. It follows Snow White and Prince Charming after their marriage when the Good Fairy decides that she wants Prince Charming for herself. The film asks such pressing questions as: How will poor Prince Charming deal with Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella when he is already married to the most beautiful woman in the kingdom? How will Snow White survive the scandalous attention of her dear little friends, the seven dwarves? For the answer to these and many other pressing questions you have to watch Picha’s fairy tale parody Snow White: The Sequal. Be warned that this is not a fairy tale for children.
At Anima Picha was interviewed by French producer Marc Jousset. During the conversation Picha talked about his career as a comic book artist, rubbing shoulders with the team from Hara-Kiri and National Lampoon and, of course, his sexually charged pro-anarchy adult films with his characteristic wit and flare. Tarzoon, Shame of the Jungle, The Big Bang, and Snow White: The Sequel were screened at the festival.
Futuranima, devoted to conferences and presentations for professional animators, has become an important part of Anima Brussels. Among the 16 different programs that made up Futuranima were Master Classes such as the Making of the Breadwinner presented by Reza Riahi, Artistic Director at Cartoon Saloon, and ex-Pixar animator Carlo Vogele whose personal projects include Una Furtiva Lagrima about a fish’s last trip from the fish market to the frying pan. The sound track for the film is the original recording of Enrico Caruso’s 1904 recording of the film title’s name sake.
Carlo talked about how to get on in the word of independent animation, carving out a career for yourself, while accepting commissions from big studios.
Other sessions included such topics as Looking For A Job? where attendees heard representatives from Belgian animation studios talked about their current projects and what they are looking for in an employee. Comic books are a major industry in Belgium and many animated films have been adapted from comic books. At Meet Comic Book Publishers, attendees listened to publishers pitch commix ideas that they think have the potential to be adapted into animation.
Anima Brussels is held during Carnival Week when schools are out of session for the holiday so there are plenty of young people attending the festival. There were specially tailored workshops for all ages and interests. For the younger set from five to twelve years of age Zorobabel, the Brussels atelier collective, offered opportunities to experiment with a variety of different animation techniques from stop motion to pixilation under the guidance of William Henne, Zorobabel Production Co-Coordinator.
This year the new addition to the children’s workshop was Alexander Noyer and his portable pin screen. The French computer scientist, electronics technician, and self-taught short film animator has created a portable pin screen inspired by the technique originally invented by Alexandre Alexeiffe and Claire Parker. Whenever I visited Noyer’s workshop young people were busy discovering a technique that was totally new to them. You can watch a short video of work created by the young animators in all of the techniques the workshop offered at: vimeo.com/zorobabel/anima2018
Japanese born Maya Yonesho conducted a weeklong Daumenreise workshop for teenagers. Maya’s international Daumenreise (daun = thumb, reise = trip in German) workshop project grew out of her independent film Wierner Wuast (2006, 4’ 48”), a mix of drawings and photos of Vienna made into a metamorphoses of many emblems of the city such as Sacher Torte, Schonbrunn Castle, and Mozart drawn on small pieces of paper and filmed in the streets of Vienna with the animated drawings shown on the city background.
Wierner Wuast’s success gave Maya the idea to initiate a traveling workshop which has become an international project. During the Anima workshop the participant’s used drawings of local specialties such as friets (French fries, which were actually invented in Belgium) and waffles animated onto backgrounds that they shot around the city for their film which was screened at the end of the festival.
Even with all of the screenings, master classes, and workshops at the festival there was still plenty of time for fun. Several films had receptions after their screenings and the biggest party was the traditional Animated Nite. Beginning at 21h30 Saturday night and lasting into the wee hours of the morning, the festival presented three programs of zany, wacky, and fun short films to a packed audience, many of whom came in their pajamas for the best pajamas contest. The winner received a lovely backpack courtesy of Cartoon Network. Between each screening there was a long break so that everyone could get to the festival bars while a live band entertained us.
This year Brussels animator Yann Bonnin organized the Animatoon Band made up of animators who play an instrument or sing. Along with members of the band, who actually did find time to rehearse in the months before the festival, the band was joined by Maya Yonesho and William Henne who reprised a song that they had performed at a KROK carnival.
In her real life presenter Stephanie Coerten is an actress but once a year at ANIMA she takes to the stage to entertain us as she interviews animators, introduces film programs, and reigns supreme at Animated Nights. Festival Coordinator Doris Cleven and her marvelous staff can be very proud of ANIMA Brussels 2018. I want to give a special thank you to Karin Vandenrydt for her special help in making my ten days at the festival run so smoothly and to all of the young volunteers who were always there to help in any way. The 2019 edition of ANIMA Brussels will be held from 1- 10 March. You can get more information at:
International Jury: Janey Perlman, Canada; Pierre-Luc Granjon, France; Jose Miguel Ribeiro, Portugal
Grand Prix For Best International Short Film, 2500 Euro provided by Brussels-Capital Region:
Min Bord (The Burden), Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Sweden
Special Jury Award:
Weekends, Trevor Jimenez, United States
Kotu Kiz (Wicked Girl), Ayce Kartal, France/Turkey
Best Student Short Film (Award of softwear license TVPaint Animation 11 Standard Edition):
Rauber & Gendarm (Cops & Robbers), Florian Maubach, Germany
Petit Astre, Etienne Baillieu, France
Pombo Loves You, Steve Warne, United Kingdom
Best Short Film For Children given by the Youth Jury (acquisition of broadcasting rights on Ouftivi:
Le Boite, Eliott Belrose, Carole Favier, Loicia Lagillier, Alois Mathe, Juliette Perrey, and Joran Rivet, France
Lowe (Le Lion), Julia Ocker, Germany
Best Animated Feature, Provided by FEDEX ( 2.500 euro voucher):
Tehran Taboo, Ali Soozandeh, Germany
Best Short Film:
The Green Bird, Pierre Perveyrie, Maximillien Bougeois, Marine Goalard, Irirna N’guyen-Duc, and Quentin
Best Short for Children:
Ameise (Ant), Julia Ocker, Germany
Animation Night Audience Award for Best Short Film:
Voyagers, Gauthier Ammeux, Valentine Baillon, Benjamin Chaumeny, Alexandre Dumez, Lea Finucci, and
Marina Rogers, France
BETV Best Animated Feature (Acquisition of Broadcasting Rights):
Tehran Taboo, Ali Soozandeh, Germany
Creative Relations Award (2.500 euros provided by the Korean Cultural Center):
My Mama is Bossies, Naomi van Niekerk, South Africa
Press Award For Best Short Film:
Hedgehogs Home, Eva Cvijanovic, Croatia/Canada
National Competition Jury: Jen Hall, Great Britian; Anu-Laura Tuttelberg, Estonia; and Chris Ullens, Belgium
Best Bellgian Short Film ( 2.500 euro provided by Samba):
Wildebeest, Nicolas Keppens and Matthias Phlips, Belgium
Grand Prix of the Federation Walloine-Brexelles (2500 euro provided by the Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles:
Simbiosis Carnal, Rocio Alvarez, Belgium
Author’s Award (2.500 euros provided by SACD:
Wildebeest Nicolas Keppens and Matthias Phlips, Belgium
BETV Award (Acquisition of Broadcasting Rights):
A chacun sa malediction, Lorene Yavo, Belgium
RTBF – La Trois Award (Acquisition of Broadcasting Rights):
Le Marcheur, Frederic Hainaut, Belgium
CINERGIE Award ( Electronic Press Kit):
Simbiosis Carnal, Rocio Alvarez, Belgium