Each year the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, held at Annecy, France in June, plays host to two Junior Juries. Ranging in age from 10 to 15 years old, four young people traveled from Vold, Norway to France with Gunnar Strom from the Vold University College/Vold Animation Workshop to spend the week watching films with the adult audience.
The 2005 Norwegian group was comprised of Tale Burgess Øyehaug and Ragnhild Dybdal Øie, who judged short films, and Asne Burgess Øyehaug and Ashild Dybdal Øie, who viewed graduation films, two pairs of sisters who have worked with the Vold Animation Workshop as part of their studies at the Amas Primary School. For the past 15 years, the Vold Animation Workshop has arranged workshops around Volda on an irregular basis, and all four girls have attended the one week work shop that Strom conducts annually. Following in the footsteps of the first Junior Jury from Russia and France in 2000, they were joined by an equal number of French students from the AAA (l’Atelier de Cinema d’Annecy et de la Haute-Savoie). Representing the AAA were Thibault Allombert and Louise Garcia in the short film category and Vincent Blanc-Tailleur and Quentin Deronzier in the graduation film category. Channel J and AAA sponsor the attendance of the Junior Jury at Annecy. Ingeborg Dybdal Øie, older sister of Ragnhild and Ashild, traveled from London where she studies to act as translator. The older jurors were able to use English as their working languages, but the younger members did not feel that they could fully express themselves in a foreign language according to Ingeborg and so she acted as the interpreter. She was amazed that it took the younger jury over two hours of intense debating to reach their decision, while the older jury reached their decision relatively quickly. The final Junior Jury decisions must be unanimous, so after many votes and vetoes, a unanimous decision was finally reached. In the end the young jurors realized that compromises had to be made so that everyone would agree on one film and after they finally reached a decision all four students felt that they had learned a great deal about listening to one another and putting their own strong opinions aside to come to a consensus.
Since its inception in 2000, the junior members have taken their responsibility very seriously. Anyone who attended the 10:30 AM short film competition screening couldn’t help but notice the four young audience members paying strict attention to the animation and taking copious notes. The young students watched films that were often very challenging and adult themed. If American adults asked children to watch many of these films, they would practically be thrown in jail.
The older jurors selected 9 by Shane Acker of the United States for their award. 9 is about confronting terror in a surreal world, and the young jurors were delighted to learn at the award ceremony that the adult jurors had also selected 9 for a Prix Special du Jury (Special Jury Award).
Canadian animator Anita Lebeau was awarded the Junior Jury award from the short program jury for her film “LOUISE”, a very sensitive animation which was inspired by her 96-year young and fiercely independent grandmother.
While in Annecy the Norwegian students lived with their French counterparts and families. At first they expressed apprehension about living in a foreign country with families that they had never met, but all four youngsters found the experience so positive that they all asked if they could come back to Annecy and be part of the 2006 jury. With so many memories - all of the attention paid by the media (the students were interviewed a score of times and filmed by many international TV crews) coupled with the excitement of appearing on stage to present their awards at the closing ceremony, Tale Burgess Oyehaug still said that her fondest memory was living with the French family.
“I think they have had a special experience because they were taken very seriously and I’m sure they have grown a lot during this week at Annecy. They will have these memories for life”, Strøm said.
The ASIFA Board, which met at Annecy, has proposed the creation of a 26 minute film animated by children from all over the world as a special 2006 project. Renowned Canadian composer Normand Roger will compose a sound track and each group of young people will pick a section and animate to the music. Gunnar Strøm is one of the project co-coordinators.
Anyone familiar with ASIFA International knows Gunnar, if not in person, at least by reputation. He was elected to the ASIFA International Board in 1988, was Secretary General from 1991 to 1994 and Vice-President from 1997 to 2000. Gunnar founded ASIFA Nordic and the Nordic-Baltic Animation Festival and has served on juries and programmed for film festivals world-wide. Strom, a very talented animator in his own right, truly enjoys working with young people so he is a very logical choice to co-ordinate the film project. He is a member of the Socialist Party and is the Vice Mayor of Volda.
European and Asian ASIFA chapters actively introduce animation to young people of all ages, and supporting young animators with hands on classes and film-making is merely part of the diverse program. Educating future audiences with sophisticated and discerning tastes also plays a large part of this excellent ASIFA International program.
In the United States, where so many people do not think of animation as a serious art form, but rather as something to put on the TV Saturday morning to baby-sit the kids, it is a shame that many of our ASIFA chapters are not more actively engaged in educating young people. Of course there are some individual exceptions, but in the future I hope more American animators will take an active role in working with young people – after all, these are our future animators and audiences.