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AniMafest Zagreb - 5-10 June 2017 - Zagreb, Croatia: A CELEBRATION OF INDEPENDENT ANIMATION

AniMafest is a true celebration of the best of independent animation and animators.  With 6 short film competitions, 9 feature films in competition, 4 programs of student films, 2 Croatian film screenings and many special programs, every day at AniMafest was very full.

AniMafest is a true celebration of the best of independent animation and animators.  Not only are the screening rooms excellent but every guest is invited to participate in everything, and there is no problem getting into screenings.  With 6 short film competitions, 9 feature films in competition, 4 programs of student films, 2 Croatian film screenings and many special programs, every day was very full.

This year the festival focused on the bond between comic books and animation.  Akira, Les Religions Sauvages, and Fritz the Cat, all classic comic book based feature films, were screened.  Ralph Bakshi’s Fritz the Cat, based on Robert Crumb’s 1960’s underground comics, is still as trippy and anti-establishment as it was when it was made over 40 years ago.  The film was the first animated film to be given an X rating for its sex, drugs, and political content.

Akira directed by Katsuhiro Otomo in 1988 is based on his manga comics and is considered the most famous anime of all times.  The apex of cyber-punk sci-fi, Akira is set in 2019, 31 years after the outbreak of WWIII.  In Neo-Tokyo all authority is waging a never ending struggle against the evil underground that virtually rules the shattered city.  The film has a bit of everything from a child with super powers to a crazed motorcycle gang and of course a gang member with psychic powers who is captured by the army and experimented on.  The film was instrumental in the upsurge of manga’s popularity outside of Japan.

I have known about the Marseille based cult collective Le Dernier Cri’s distribution of beautiful books for a long time.  The collective’s work is heavily influenced and inspired by a toxic mix of outsider and visionary art, underground comics, manga, and pornography.  Over the collective’s 20 year history it has attained cult status, addressing the issues of violence, religion, sexuality, the media, and hypocrisy.

I had never seen Les Religions Sauvages before and it was quite an experience.  The 120 minute animated film was created by 30 artists from 11 countries headed by Pakito Bolino, a founding member of the collective.  This made for an absurd mix of styles that felt like a visual trip to hell inspired by the devotional images from La Major Cathedral in Marseille.

Amid Amidi, publisher and editor of CartoonBrew and member of the Zagreb Short Film Competition jury, screened a program of Alternative Comics and Animation In the USA.  Amid described his program as “Some (of the films) have plenty of involvement from the original comic creator, while others are simply based on a comic artist’s artwork or ideas.  But one thing all of these selections do have in common is that they illustrate the growing convergence of alt-comics and animation in the US over the last few decades”.

 I especially enjoyed seeing the 1975 Sally Cruikshank classic Quasi at the Quackadero on the big screen as part of Amid’s program.  The strange, thoroughly wacky adventures of two ducks and a robot on a visit to an amusement park is as fresh and funny as the first time I saw it years ago.  The film was selected for preservation in 2009 by the United States National Film Registry as a culturally significant film which means  generations to come will be able to enjoy it.

 There was also a program of German, Austrian, and French comics based animation.  A showing of animated films by Croatian comic book artists rounded out the special presentation.

The competition programs were very strong, showcasing a wide variety of films.  I wasn’t sure that Estonian/Croatian animator Chintis Lundgren could top her hilarious short film Life With Herman H. Rott but her new 13 minute drawn on paper Manivald is even better.  Manivald the fox is 33 years old, over educated, unemployed, and generally uninspired.  He lives with his overbearing, retired mother and spends his days practicing the piano while his mother makes him coffee and washes his socks.  It’s an easy life, but not a good one.  Their unhealthy co-dependence is about to collapse when the washing machine breaks down and in comes Toomas, a sexy and adventurous wolf repairman to fix the washer . . . and them.  Underlying the delightfully absurdist humor Manivald addresses the all too common real life problem of educated young adults who are forced to live at  home with their parents for economic reasons.

Chintis Lundgren and Drasko Ivezic

Manivald is co-written by Chintis and her Croatian partner Drasko Ivezic and co-produced by the National Film Board of Canada, Adriatic Animation, and Chintis Lundgreni Animatsioonistuudio.  The pair told me that they are currently developing a series called Manivald and the Absinthe Rabbits which will follow Manivald’s adventures after he moves out of the house.  Prior to the screening of their film Chintis and Drasko threw an absinthe party to get us all ready for the screening in the Croatian competition where it took home the top award for Best Croatian Film.

Hedgehog’s Home is totally different from Manivald but equally wonderful.  Eva Cvijanovic based her 10 minute film on a classic story by Branko Copic from the former Yugoslavia.  The stop motion fable is set in a lush forest where the hedgehog lives, created out of needle felt.  He is liked, respected, and envied by the other forest animals.  After a dinner at his friend the fox’s house the hedgehog declines the invitation to spend the night because he loves his home and wants to sleep in his own bed.  The hedgehog’s love of his home mystifies his host who sets off to follow the hedgehog and see what is so special about his house.  Along the way the cunning fox meets an angry wolf, a gluttonous bear, and a muddy boar.  The trio accompanies him in his quest to find out the secret of the hedgehog’s home.

A film about cultivating a place of one’s own no matter how humble or small, where one can feel safe and secure is particularly timely in a world full of immigrants and refugees who have been forced from their homes.  The story is also close to Eva’s heart because she was born in Sarajevo to a Croatian mother and a Bosnian father.  During the Balkan War the family were refugees in Croatia before immigrating to Canada in 1996. Hedgehog’s Home, a National Film Board of Canada/Bonobostudio co-production, received the MR. M Short Film Audience Award as well as a special mention from short film juror Marko Tadic.

The best short film that I have seen so far this year is Spela Cadez’s Nighthawk.  I have already written about Spela’s haunting film that mocks and condemns while celebrating our fatal attraction to alcohol.   Spela still manages to end the film with a joke.  Don’t miss an opportunity to see this exceptionally well animated and scripted film.  Obviously the judges agreed with me because they awarded Nighthawk the AniMafest Grand Prix.

Spela Cadiz with her Grand Prix award for Nighthawk

The Grand Prix for feature film went to Michael Dudok de Wit for his film The Red Turtle, which I have written about before.

Michael Dudok de Wit with his Best Feature award for The Red Turtle

When I saw Liu Jian’s neo-noir black comedy feature film Have A Nice Day listed in the program I was looking forward to seeing it because there are very few Chinese feature films made by independent animators.  Liu Jian’s previous film Piercing 1, the first contemporary Chinese independent film, really impressed me and I was not disappointed by Have A Nice Day.  The film is set in a small Southern China town where Xiao Zhang, a lowly driver, steals a bag with 1 million yuan in it from his boss.  He needs the money to finance a reversal of his fiancée’s botched plastic surgery.  The lure of easy money draws several people from diverse backgrounds with different motives into a bloody conflict.  The film’s inscrutable, laconic humor holds up a magnifying glass to life and social conditions in a country where freedom is equated with buying power.

Liu Jian did most of the work on the film himself, drawing and animating on a tablet.  Unlike Piercing 1 which was full of bold action, Liu Jian uses minor actions and subtle movements by his characters to evoke their emotions.  Have A Nice Day was the first ever Chinese animated feature film selected to screen in competition at the Berlin Film Festival where it was shown earlier this year, and it created a furor when, pressured by the Chinese government, the director was forced to withdraw it from competition at Annecy this year.

Since 1986 the Animafest Council has given a special Life Time Achievement Award to a “Special Master”.  The list of recipients is long and illustrious, ranging from Chuck Jones to Bob Godfrey to Caroline Leaf.  This year at the opening ceremony Margit (Buba) Antauer, Council President, presented the award to the great Croatian master of animation Borivoj Dovnikovic, better known as Bordo.  I cannot think of a more worthy recipient.  In the 1960’s Bordo became one of the most important names of the Zagreb School of Animation.  His profound interest in the fate of the little man is reflected in such films as Second Class Passenger, Exciting Love Story, and One Day Of Life.  Krek is dedicated to “all the corporals of the world” and their attempts to kill the soldier’s humanity, which does not always succeed.  My personal favorite of Bordo’s films is The Ceremony.  What appear to be 7 people trying to arrange themselves for a photograph proves that things are not always what them seem to be.  Bordo is also a noted comic book artist as well as an animator which makes his award even more appropriate given this year’s theme.  It is only fitting that Bordo can now add the Zagreb Lifetime Achievement Award to his long list of honors and awards.

Nancy and Bordo

The eminent animation historian and educator Maureen Furniss received the annual Award For Outstanding Contribution to Animation Studies at the opening night ceremony.  Maureen has earned her place in the animation world as one of the foremost animation scholars, with works such as Chuck Jones:  A Conversation which is a series of analytical interviews with the great master which she collected and edited.  Art In Motion: Animation Aesthetics encompasses main insights into the field of animation theory and aesthetics with a special emphasis on creativity in the United States.  The Animation Bible:  A Practical Guide To The Art Of Animating From Flipbooks to Flash focuses on Maureen’s practical knowledge of animation and in 2016 she published a history of world animation, A New History of Animation.  As well as founding the Animation Journal, a peer review scholarly journal about animation she was also President of The Society For Animation Studies (2006-2010).  While accomplishing all of this Maureen works as a professor of Experimental Animation at Cal Arts in Valencia, California.

Maureen Furness receiving her award for Outstanding Contribution to Animation Studies

Each year since 1985, ASIFA (Association Internationale du Film d’ Animation) has given an award to an individual or organization which has made a significant and innovative contribution towards the promotion and preservation of the art of animation.  ASIFA Board Members Sayoko Kinoshita, Vesna Dovnikovic, Johnchill Lee, and I took to the stage on opening night to present this year’s award to renowned French animator, producer, and director Jean-Francois Laguionie.

Jean-Francoise Laguionie with his award

Jean-Francois honed his animation skills alongside Paul Grimault, the director of The King and the Bird which still sets the tone for French animation today.  Laguionie’s 7 short animations and 5 features have won numerous awards including a Caesar for his 1978 short animation Rowing Across the Atlantic.  Throughout the years he has remained a faithful follower of the dream like animation initiated by Paul Grimault, where noble and often solitary characters live out their adventures in worlds full of beauty and poetry.  His beautiful film Louise in Winter which premiered at Annecy in 2016 and screened in competition at Zagreb this year is a perfect example of this style of storytelling.  The 2017 ASIFA Award was once again generously provided by renowned Belgian animator Raoul Servais.  It was a drawing from his most recent film Tank.

The final award presented at the opening ceremony was given by the Student Film Competition Selection Committee to the outstanding animation school.  This year the Film and Television School of Academy of Preforming Arts in Prague, Poland (FAMU) was honored for its comprehensive approach to cinema as a medium.  FAMU is the 5th oldest film school in the world, founded in 1946.  According to the selection committee what sets the school apart is “a comprehensive approach to cinema as a medium.  A holistic approach is perhaps the most important aspect to teaching students:  a film is not just a sequence of lovely images.”  Equal stress must be placed on a good script, sound design, choice of music and readable opening and end credits.  Student films from FAMU consistently display all of those traits as well as originality coupled with high production values.  The number of awards the students have garnered at festivals attests to the school being a worthy recipient of this award.

Along with the numerous screenings there were several exhibitions and side events.  For the 5th year the site specific animation competition brought together the Museum of Contemporary Art (MSU) and Animafest.  Eighteen artists from thirteen different countries created a wide variety of moving images which were screened on the media façade of the museum.

I was fascinated by The MSU Production Line created by Boris Hergesic from Croatia.  His installation examined the role of art in society, the part MSU plays in that process, and the role of art as a product.  Hergesic transformed his section  of the museum’s media façade into a factory where art is produced as if by assembly line.  On one side all of the diverse cultures, beliefs, emotions, and human values enter, get processed, dispersed and combined into various artistic products that come out the other end.

Kelly Bell’s work from the United States celebrated the golden age of advertising with Carnival Love Wall.  Bell used a simple, colorful geometric flashing and whirling of shapes in her homage to mid-century advertising signs and carnival attractions.

The jury selected The Drive to Work by Australian Paul Fletcher as the most effective site specific work.  Fletcher’s installation gradually evolves from initial flashes of light that give you the feeling of a busy highway with drivers on their way to work to a parallel world of microbes.

A gallery exhibition of short animation by students at the Department of Animation and New Media at the Academy of Fine Arts gave me an opportunity to see what the next generation of Croatian animators is doing.  The impressive selection of films ranged from classic techniques and puppet animation to 3D computer animation and everything in between.  The Academy stresses that students must master the rules of classic 2D animation with paper and pencil before they move on to other types of animation.  The professors believe that without adequate preparation a student cannot master technically advances courses.  From the program that I saw the school is definitely fulfilling its mission and we can expect to see more excellent Croatian animation in years to come.

Puppet animator hard at work

Once again this year a group of puppet animators worked for one day in the lobby of the main theatre.  The group collaborated for 8 hours to create puppets and film a very short animation that was screened at the closing night ceremony.  It was fascinating to stop by every couple of hours and watch their progress. 

I first met Maarten Isaak De Heer at Anima Brussels in 2015 where I became fascinated with his tradigital 2D animation installations. His work  combines both traditional art and experimental exhibition techniques.  The Dutch animator who now lives in Berlin spent a year drawing, painting, and animating all of the components of his new huge image on display at the festival.  Much in the style of  classic painters like Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Hieronymus Bosch the huge canvass shows a horde of gnomes terrorizing all kinds of small harmless creatures.  What the viewer is looking at is a moving image that doesn’t use electricity but comes to life as the viewer moves in front of it.  The technique is called lenticular printing, which is well known for its use in 3D postcards.  Maarten says that his work “offers the possibility of quietly observing a moving image, filling the gap between animation and classical art”.  He is currently working on a hand drawn 360 degree panorama for VR.

I was honored to be invited to moderate the book chat, to talk with authors Maureen Furniss, Ben Mitchell, and Simon Bogojevic Narath.  As I have already written, Maureen is an accomplished author with several classic books on animation to her credit.  Her latest book A New History of Animation covers the history of animation worldwide.  It is very readable with numerous color illustrations and will be a valuable addition to the library of educators, animators, or an individual who wants to learn more about early animation, war time animation, and animation as an art form.  These are just a few of the topics covered in the book.

Maureen Furness, Ben Mitchell, Simon Bogojevic Narath and Nancy at the book chat

Ben Mitchell describes his aim in writing Independent Animation:  Developing, Producing, and Distributing Your Animated Film as a desire “to lay out some of the essential tenets, philosophies, and creative processes behind the animation community’s most prominent, prolific, and respected artists, so that other creatives and artists . . . can be motivated to put these into practical effect when it comes to their own projects”.  To this end there are long pieces focusing on how Adam Elliot, Signe Baumane, and Bill Plympton work, just to name three of the many noted animators interviewed by Ben for this book.   There are also numerous pictures to illustrate the points that the animators make.  I am a little over 50 pages into reading this 400 page book and I am finding it very informative and entertaining as well as being quite readable.

If you are a fan of graphic novels then Zagreb native Simon Bogojevic Narath’s Saturn’s Circle is a must edition to add to your library.  The 88 page hard cover book of black and white drawing follows the adventures and destinies of 2 lawyers, working for the Bank Corp as they cross paths with the Grandpa, the Grandma, and the Girl.  “In a clash between the polarities of the calculated and the innocent, in a sardonic dance of opposites, there emerges the questions meant for each and every one of us:  Who wins? Who learns more? Who becomes better?”

Running concurrent to the festival for 2 days was the 4th edition of Animafest Scanner.  Jointly sponsored by the festival, ASIFA Austria, and Hulahop Film and Art Production of Zagreb, the symposium is a forum for discourse and the interaction of theoretical and practical approaches to animation.  It endeavors to stimulate exchanges between film makers and scholars. 

This year the 17 panels addressed such topics as comic books and animation, new media animation – VR and the web, the changing roles of festivals, and animation in the mind.  The keynote speaker, Maureen Furniss, presented a survey of the different types of festivals and how they impact and enrich both animators and the host community.  Olga and Michal Bobrowski used the Anibar Festival in Kosovo to illustrate Grass Roots Animation Festivals As A Tool For Social Change.   In 2005 Vullnet Sanaja  and Rron Bajri, two young animation enthusiasts from Peja, Kosovo created “Film Studio” in a garage.  5 years later, shortly after Vullnet’s 18th birthday, they organized the 1st Anibar Animation Festival in 2010 with virtually no budget. Over the next few years the festival has grown into an important community event.  The organizers have also managed to re-open the local movie theatre which had been closed for several decades.  Anibar is truly a festival for the community combining artistic animation with a focus on local problems such as nationalism, religious fundamentalism, minority and women’s rights, and ecology.  They have also mobilized a large group of volunteers mostly under the age of 18 and hold year round workshops in the community on a myriad of topics ranging from creating ecological animation to writing workshops.

Artistic Director Daniel Suljic is one of the best programmers currently heading a festival.  He and his staff also understand that as well as watching film, animators want to get together to party and talk.  Every evening there was a disco, animator’s jam session or karaoke party at one of the local bars.  Daniel is also an accomplished musician who plays guitar with several bands and one evening he played DJ, spinning great tunes for dancing.

Artistic Director (and DJ) Daniel Suljic

  The big social event of the week was the annual picnic.  All of the festival guests assembled very early in the morning for an hour long bus ride up into the hills outside of the city.  We were greeted at the entrance to the rustic outdoor restaurant with glasses of delicious traditional liquors.  Hay bales dotted the long lawn where we could sit and chat while enjoying the lovely view with a glass of wine or beer.  You could also take a hay ride around the area.  The lunch was delicious with whole lambs that had roasted over the open spit, as well as boar, and fish.  There were also an amazing number of side dishes and lots more wine and beer.  Two local musicians serenaded us while we dined at long tables set out under an open sided dining area.  Before long it was time to head back to the city, but no one went away hungry.

The festival picnic

Big thank you’s go to Artistic Director Daniel Suljic and Producer Paola Orlic for putting on such a fantastic festival and inviting me to be part of it.  I owe a debt of gratitude to Dalibor Jakus and Silvestar Mileta in the press office for always having quick answers to my questions which made my job so much easier.  Another big thank you goes to Margareta Sarkanji and the entire staff at the hospitality desk for always having a friendly smile and a solution to every problem.  

Festival Producer Paola Orlic and Festival Council President Margit (Buba) Antauer

Festival catalogues are usually not something worth mentioning, but the 340 page Animafest book format catalogue is in a class by itself and worthy of a place on any bookshelf.  All films have beautiful color stills and many films receive a full page of text and full credits along with a large color photo.  The 32 page section on comics and animation begins with an introductory essay as well as shorter ones on Alternative Comics and Animation in the US and German, Austrian, and French comic book and animation culture.  You can also read about the rich history of Animated Films by Croatian Comic Book Artists.  More than just a catalogue this is an invaluable reference guide. 

 I cannot imagine what Daniel and Paola can possibly do next year to top the 2017 edition but I am looking forward to returning next year to see what new surprises they have in store for all of us.

Festival awards ready to be presented

You can read more about the festival at:  www.animafest.hr            

  

Grand Competition – Short Film jury, consisting of Michaela Pavlátová, Rosto, Amid Amidi, Nobuaki Doi and Marko Tadić decided to give the Grand Prix - Short Film to Nighthawk by Špela Čadež, produced byFinta Film, Radio-Television of Slovenia and Bonobostudio.

This seemingly simple but surprisingly complex film adds a new layer to a traditional animation technique of multiplane cut-out. It uses parallel storytelling to switch between different perceptions to effectively create an extremely engaging tragedy of a man/animal. 

The same jury awarded The Golden Zagreb Award for creativity and innovative artistic achievement to Jonathan Vinel for his film Martin Cries (France, AKA Productions).

The violent fantasy of videogame culture finds new meaning — and beauty — in this wistful tale of a teenager who is ghosted by his best friends. Vinel takes the dissonant qualities of videogames and cinema, and integrates them in a wholly unique and organic manner. His mastery of digital filmmaking tools is more important than the tired debate of: "Is machinima animation?" To us, creativity and innovation means the ability to transcend simplistic labels and categories, and embracing whatever tools necessary to uncover new perspectives and meaning through animation – said the jury.

Zlatko Grgić Award for the best first film made outside of an educational institution was awarded to Swedish-Estonian film Amalimbo (Fasad, Fork Film Animation Studio, Film Väst) by Juan Pablo Libossart.

This short story takes us on a beautifully crafted emotional journey through a symbolic, undefined but eerily familiar world of wonder to which we escape when we struggle our demons and where, after all, we find our inner peace - noted the jury's explanation.

Each of the jury members also presented one special mention awardMichaela Pavlátová gave the award to the Finnish film Sore Eyes For Infinity, by Elli Vuorinen praising it as a surprising, fresh film with beautiful animation and visuals which bring us to eternity.

Rosto was particularly impressed with the Spanish film Orogenesis by the French director Boris Labbé because it ploughs through time and space with relentless thrusts, forcing massive mountains to split, tear and stretch in such an uncanny way it made my stomach turn. The soundtrack, which was equally convincing yet alienating, is such an integral part of the whole experience that it was impossible to escape. I could only sit back and enjoy this immersive trip – said Rosto.

Amid Amidi singled out the Canadian film Change by Jonathan Ostrem because it is a constantly surprising and engaging piece of experimental cg that took the viewer on an otherworldly journey and continually disorients and reorients a viewer's sense of time and space.

Nobuaki Doi, on the other hand, selected the German film Ugly by Nikita Diakur.

There are still unexplored fields of artistic expression of CGI. This film is a perfect example of it. The dynamic but inertia movement rebuilds everything and allows us dream of a world where everything is much better than here – said Doi.

Lastly, Marko Tadić presented his special mention award to Eva Cvijanović for Canadian-Croatian Hedgehog's Home, produced by National Film Board of Canada and Bonobostudio.

Many lives have been molded by this short and symbolic story that brought joy to many kids of all ages. I am a living proof that even after hearing it six trillion times in one car ride to the seaside it does not ever get boring – said Tadić.

By the decision of Grand Competition - Feature Film jury consisting of Natalia Lukinykh, Ben Mitchell and Simon Bogojević Narath, Grand Prix – Feature Film went to Red Turtle (France, Belgium Japan), by Michaël Dudok de Wit, produced by seven companies led by Ghibli and Wild Bunch studios. Jury explained their decision:

While the decision to award one film out of many works of astonishingly high-quality is inevitably a difficult one, the film that we feel most deserving of the Grand Prize reached us all for the same reasons. Driven by absolutely masterful animation executed by a team of artists with a staggering attention to detail and character performance, this film boasts a joyful interplay between its visuals and a divine orchestral score. As a celebration of both the unforgiving brutality of nature, as well as its life-affirming beauty that lingers with the audience for long after, we're delighted to award the feature film Grand Prix to Michael Dudok de Wit, The Red turtle.

The same jury also awarded their special mention award to Louise by the Shore (France, Canada) by Jean-François Laguionie and The Girl Without Hands (France) by Sébastien Laudenbach with the following words:

Our special mentions go to two films that do a wonderful job exploring loftier themes of humanity, self-reflection and self-preservation. While disparate in style, the distinct visual identities of each film are matched by thoughtful and engaging storytelling with strong, charming female leads at their core.

Student Film Competition and Croatian Film Competition jury consisting of Alberto Vázquez, Jana Jakoubek and Sandra Malenica decided to give Dušan Vukotić Award for the best student film to Polish film Pussy by Renata Gąsiorowska, made at National Film School in Lodz.

Feminism has gone one level up. Actually feminism in this film is at it's right point - totally open, free, spontaneous, above all and in front of us in the most literal way. Talking about sexuality is still taboo, especially womens' sexuality. That's why this film is fresh, fun, sensitive and real. It is also fluent in storyline, simple in drawing, great in sound and animation. It is reminder that female 'body parts' also have the life of their own. At least in films. The jury awards the Dušan Vukotić award for best student film to the courageous and beautiful - Pussy by Renata Gąsiorowska – said the explanation.

The same jury also decided to award special mention to films Summer's Puke is Winter's Delight (Japan, Tama Art University) by Sawako Kabuki and My Father's Room (South Korea, K'ARTS) by Nari Jang

Short animated film Summer's Puke is Winter's Delight takes you on an irritating journey of excitement, visual and audio stimulation which ends - in the toilet. Over and over again. Eating disorder as a topic of the consumer society is presented to us with disco fever in a unique way. The addiction of getting rid of what’s inside is being shown in a flood of images. The viewer consumes morphine transformations, while the colors contrast and go with the taboo topic at the same time. Sound and images harmonize perfectly and succeed to mark  the point that the repulsive moment of spitting the guts out becomes a repetitive image, a pattern.

For its personal symbolism, its delicate and minimalist graphic line, full of metaphors and graphic resources and a good balance between history, narration and technique, we want to give a special mention to My Father's Room by Nari Jang.

Best Croatian Film of this year's Animafest is Manivald by Chintis Lundgren, made by Estonian-Croatian-Canadian co-production (Chintis Lundgreni Animatsioonistuudio / Adriatic Animation / NFB), while the special mention went to Božidar Trkulja for The Last Quest, produced by Zagreb film, and Michaela Müller, who received Special Mention for Best Minority Stake Croatian Film for Airport (Switzerland / Croatia, Schick Productions, Kinorama).

The prize for best Croatian film with absolute unanimity goes to Manivald by Chintis Lundgren because of its personal and unique style, an entertaining narrative and above all, for talking about family conflicts with a funny sense of humor without falling into drama.

We were overwhelmed with The Last Quest’s set design. The film makers went the extra mile and did not leave out any details - surprising ones full of awkward humor.  A handful of typical – fantasy hero characters – more or less retired get together in this Stop motion movie for a mission to fight their enemies. We wanted to capture frame by frame in order not to miss out on anything. This film took us back to childhood - and made us laugh which as adults we embraced as a great gift.

Airport by Michaela Müller is a film that brings you right in the middle of the action. A film that shows an intimate but also general experience. A film that we can get lost in as we can get lost in real life, it is chaotic, narrowing, in advance determined by the rules. Strong in metaphor, with a great contrast of colors, fluidity of motion, transitions and transformation. It’s a film that is like a dream of the actual place it talks about.

Vesna Meštrić, Leila Topić and Daniel Šuljić were the ones to decide on the award for the best site-specific animation, Animation goes MSU! that went to Paul Fletcher for The Drive to Work (Australia).

It's a hallucinatory blend of abstract animation and figurative scenes that completely capture the observer’s visual system. The film gradually evolves from the initial flashes of light, that allude to the fast highway drive on the way to work, to the fascinating, non-narrative tale about the possible hectic co-existence of amorphous pulsating creatures and everyday images transformed by cinematic techniques. The result is a highly suggestive and rhythmically astonishing three-channel animation that completely revives the media facade of MSU – said the explanation.

The jury also decided to award special mention to The Climate (Croatia) by the art collective M_1300 consisting of Marita Stanić and Maja Blažek. The jury wanted to honor the collective's inclination to inventiveness, experiment, multidisciplinarity and the transformation of the mundane into a work of art.

Winners of the Films for Children Competition were selected by the jury consisting of Gita Validžić Rožman, Tin Gregorić, Vid Valkaj, Matea Bračko and Jan Kožić, and the award for the Best film for children was unanimously awarded to the film Leave a print (United Kingdom), by Christine Susanne Nerland:

a film that handles a very difficult and inevitable theme in an unique way. It gives comfort and relief after the death of someone close, who, as is shown in the film, turns into the light that surrounds us. We were particulary impressed by the previously unseen view of the gradual fading or disappearance of the beloved person.

The jury also gave special mention to the Norwegian film Odd is an Egg, by Kristin Ulseth:

because of its original approach to the theme of diversity, the use of various animation techniques and the introduction of director details that emphasize the states and relationships between the characters.

Lastly, Mr. M - Short Film audience award went to Eva Cvijanović for her film Hedgehog's Home, while the Mr. M - Feature Film audience award will travel to Claude Barras in Switzerland for his film My Life as a Courgette (Switzerland / France).

28th World Festival of Animated Film – Animafest Zagreb will be held from 4th to 9th June 2018