In the past year I have been invited to be on the jury of three different festivals in Warsaw and Krakow Poland resulting in my developing a deep appreciation of Polish festivals.
In the past year I have been invited to be on the jury of three different festivals in Warsaw and Krakow Poland resulting in my developing a deep appreciation of Polish festivals. Two of the festivals had both animation and live action film competitions and one was a puppet and animation festival. All of the animation competitions presented top quality films and the festivals were very well organized, so when I was invited to be on the jury of Etiuda & Anima I was very pleased and honored. Along with my fellow jurors – Anita Killi, Georges Schwizgebel, Andreas Hykade, and Andrzej Klimowski I watched 68 films in competition from 30 countries.
The most exciting new film that I saw was Nighthawk by Slovenian animator Spela Cadez. Spela is a master of puppet animation and her previous film Boles, based on the short story Her Lover by Maksim Gorky, won numerous awards. Nighthawk, made with cutouts and stop motion is a departure from her usual style. In her new film, a badger lies motionless on a rural road. When the police approach the body they realize that the animal is not dead but dead drunk. As they try to drag the body off of the road he wakes up and the film takes a very strange turn of events. The 8’ 50” film takes us on a drunken drive through the night in a very different kind of road movie. Spela has tackled the issue of drunk driving, an important issue that is often difficult to talk about in an original way. The sound track by Tomaz Grom and sound design by Johanna Wienert contribute greatly to the uncomfortable feeling that the film leaves you with. Our jury awarded the Silver Jabberwocky to Spela for Nighthawk and I am sure that this is not the last honor that this beautifully made film will receive.
Cold Coffee from French animators Stephanie Lansaque and Francois Leroy takes the viewer on quite a different descent into a personal hell. Set in Saigon, Viet Nam, Cold Coffee is the story of a young girl who is forced to quit school after her mother’s sudden death to take over the family’s street iced coffee stand. Facing this unexpected, radical change of life of loneliness and sorrow, she spirals downward. The 14’44” 2D animation portrays this descent into insanity in a way that both horrifies and mesmerizes the viewer. Cold Coffee received the Bronze Jabberwocky from the jury.
Phuong Mai Nguyen delves into the mind of a young boy, Hugo, whose world is turned upside down when his mother brings home a mysterious new boyfriend in My House. Hugo feels the intruder is taking over what he has always thought of as his sole territory when he find black feathers all over the house as the imposing “crow” settles in. The 11’ 45” animation beautifully explores the dynamics between a mother and son in a situation that many children find themselves in when a single parent begins a new relationship.
Each member of the jury could award one Honorable Mention. Georges Schwizgebel chose My Home for his award. The audience also selected this film for an Audience Award. You can see a list of all of the winning films at the end of the article.
Jury members were also asked to present a program of their work. I have been a fan of Anita Killi’s work ever since I saw her film The Hedge of Thorns in 2001. The powerful story of a close friendship between two children ripped apart when a war breaks out and their families are on opposite sides is even more relevant today than when Anita created it. At her jury presentation Old Animation Techniques – Into A Modern World, she talked in detail about the signature cutout and multiplane technique which she has used for 20 years. She also screened The Hedge of Thorns and Angry Man, her acclaimed film about the effects of spousal abuse on children in a family. In 2010 the film was the most awarded film of the year, garnering a Special Jury Prize, the Public Prize, and UNICEF Prize all at the Annecy International Animation Festival as well as top honors at many other festivals.
Anita also screened a short film titled Mom’s Hair made by her oldest daughter Maja Arnekliev. The 5’ pixilation was created over a period of many months. It begins when Anita and her daughters learned that she would be undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. It depicts the process of her hair falling out and finally growing back. As her daughters run their fingers through first her luxurious long hair then over her bald head you can feel their love and support through these beautiful, touching gestures. This is not just a film for aficionados; it will touch everyone who sees it. I hope that cancer organizations worldwide will take note and make sure that Mom’s Hair gets the wide viewings it deserves.
The main subject of Anita’s presentation was material about Christmas Survivors which is in currently in development and which she hopes will become a feature film. Snow and cold winter weather sets the frame for this Christmas story. Maja and her little brother arrive at the old family farm. That same evening an old nisse (gnome) also arrives there. His hidden presence challenges the beliefs and doubts of the different family members. The family begins to see the people close to them for who they really are, not who they expect them to be. Although Anita says that the film will be a heartwarming Christmas movie for the entire family, she said that the film will deal with also alcoholism, co-dependence, and the destructive effect an alcoholic parent has on a child. Even though the subject matter is very serious the one minute pilot that I saw is visually beautiful.
She also showed photos of her dairy farm in Norway where she lives and has her studio, Trollfilm . She is now planning to build a larger more modern studio at the farm dedicated to cutout and multiplane techniques. At the end of the program the audience was invited to the edge of the stage to see the cutout characters from her films up close. You can see a picture of where Anita lives and works and find out more about Christmas Survivors at www.trollfilm.no
Each year the festival presents a Special Golden Dinosaur to a person who is important both as an animator and an educator. This year Andreas Hykade was the honored recipient. Andreas is well-known for his unique, creative films such as the 2010 Love and Theft which blends together animation and music perfectly as stylized drawings of well-known figures ranging from Ryan Larkin to Hitler morph and twist in time to Heiko Maile’s intense score. His trilogy We Lives in Grass (1995), Ring of Fire (2000), and The Runt (2006) deal with his childhood in the Bavarian countryside. Andreas animated the long running German children TV series Tom & The Slice of Bread with Strawberry Jam & Honey as well as numerous commercials and music videos. As part of the Self-Portraits of Animation Author’s series he also presented a program of his films and discussed his approach to the creative process.
For a number of years Hykade has taught at institutions such as Harvard and Kunsthochschule University in Kassel, Germany. In 2015 he was appointed director of the Animated Film Institute at the Filmakademie Baden-Wurttemberg and also Conference Chairman of the prestigious FMX Conference on Animation, Effects, Games, and Transmedia which runs concurrently with the Trickfilm Festival in Stuttgart yearly. The presentation ceremony was followed by a screening of student films from the Filmakademie Baden-Wurttemberg.
The winner of the previous year’s Grand Prix - Golden Jabberwocky is invited to be the President of the next year’s jury. Last year the renowned Swiss animator Georges Schwizgebel was honored for his film Erlking so this year he was our jury foreman. For his Self Portrait presentation Georges screened 10 of his 19 films. His films are very rhythmic and he discussed how he works in cycles to the rhythm and tempo of the music. Georges recent musical scores have been performed by his son Louis who is a noted concert pianist.
Fellow juror Andrzej Klimowski designed the poster for this year’s festival. He is a well-known designer of film posters as well as a book cover designer. He has created posters for such famous films as Cabaret, Taxi Driver, and Jim Jarmush’s Mystery Train. Andrzej also has worked on several graphic novels including the recently published Stardust Nation which he created with his wife Deborah Levy.
Signe Baumane is a human dynamo, has one of the best senses of humor, and is one of the hardest working people in the animation world. She is also a one woman evangelist singing the praises of the New York City animation community. Signe was born in Latvia and now lives and works in New York. At Etiuda & Anima she presented 3 lectures about “the inner workings of the minds of New York and New Yorkers . . . as seen by the independent New York animators.” The program featured films from the two Avoid Eye Contact DVD’s which are a compilation of films by New York City animators, who put out and sold the DVD’s themselves.
Signe visited Etiuda & Anima last year to screen her first feature film Rocks In My Pocket as part of the Self-Portrait series. Her presentations have such warmth that she immediately connects with the audience and her session was one of the most successful evenings in the festival’s history.
This year Signe was invited back to screen Rocks In My Pocket again and engage in conversation with the audience. She spoke about her personal experiences relating to depression which the film is based on. She also delved into problems with making a film, especially animation, the difficulty of being a woman director, and the differences between male and female careers in the film business.
Signe is currently at work on a new feature film, titled My Love Affair With Marriage. She describes the project as “a fiery young woman with a wild imagination journeys through many marriages, some real, some imaginary, while confronting pressures and her own biology”. You can follow her preproduction progress at: http://www.facebook.com/MyLoveAffairWithMarriage
Etiuda & Anima is a joint live action and animation festival but there aren’t many people who qualify in both categories. Multiple award winning Polish animator Piotr Dumala has stepped behind the camera for a second time to make Ederly, an 87 minute live action feature film. Unlike his animated films such as Kafka, Crime and Punishment (a 30 minute adaptation of Dostoevsky’s novel), and especially his 2014 Hipopotamy which is an extremely disturbing film about man’s inhumanity to man, Ederly is a very surreal and humorous live action film.
Dumala says that Ederly was inspired by a childhood dream with a dose of magic realism from Latin American literature. Ederly is a city existing beyond time on the border between reality and dream and it is populated by a cast of characters who leave a wide margin of interpretation to the audience. I found the film very Felliniesque . It’s funny and thoroughly enjoyable, but don’t go expecting to see anything resembling Piotr’s animation.
During the festival there were evening musical performances at the theatre. One evening my husband, composer/musician Nik Phelps, preformed his original compositions live to films with the Stanislaw Słowiński Quintet. The Quintet plays regularly in Poland as well as performing at many international festivals and competitions. With Nik conducting and playing sax and clarinet, the group performed Nik’s alternate scores to films by such well-known animators as Nina Paley, Ivan Maximov, Bill Plympton, and Marcin Gizycki. The packed audience gave them a standing ovation at the end of the performance.
For late night entertainment there were nightly parties at clubs located in a refurbished old cigarette factory. With several new clubs and restaurants the factory has become a new hip location. One evening I was surprised to find my old friend Brett Thompson from New York drawing on a large piece of paper affixed to the wall of the club. Brett is more than a muralist. He loves to bring any blank surface to life with his art work and has covered such original surfaces as a shower curtain for animator John Dilworth and a bathroom sink counter at a club. Brett also brings his unique drawings to life in his animation.
One afternoon Marcin Gizycki, animator and artistic director of the Animator Animation Festival in Poznan, Poland, invited a group of us to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. Nik and I went along with Filip Kozlowski, Programer and Competition Co-ordinator at the Animator Festival, Matgorzata Sady, animator curator and film historian and Andrzij Klimowski. The occasion for the visit was a special exhibition of the works of Jaroslaw Kozlowski, Filip’s father. Jaroslaw is considered to be one of the most outstanding contemporary Polish artists. His retrospective is titled Sensations of Reality and Conceptual Practices 1965 – 1980, and featured drawings, sketches, photographs, paintings, installations, and assemblages that express the artist’s personal experiences, placed in a political and historic context. Filip told me that his father was very political and used his art to challenge the Soviet Union’s control over Poland. This was actually the first time that he had seen some of the pieces which his father kept stored in his workroom behind their home.
Another afternoon renowned Polish animator Jerzy Kucia took several of us to the Restaurant Ariel in the Jewish quarter. The restaurant serves delicious traditional Jewish cuisine and also houses the first private Jewish art gallery in Krakow, which adorns the walls of the restaurant. On a previous visit to Krakow, Jerzy had taken me on a tour of the ghetto area which is full of rich history. It is a place that should not be missed on any visit to Krakow and it was doubly rich to have Jerzy, who knows the area well, as a guide.
I have always appreciated Polish animation and after my repeated visits I have also developed a strong affection for the people and culture. I owe a big thank you to Festival Organization Director Katarzyna Surmacz for inviting me to participate in the festival, Agnieszka Zajac, Accompanying Events Coordinator, did a wonderful job of keeping me informed about all of the parties and extra events, and I appreciate all of the hard work Kuba Szatko, Jury Assistant, did to make sure that the jury showed up at the right place at the right time. A very special thank you goes to my friend Konrad Glabek who took a group of us on a great Bukowski Bar Crawl and who always shows me new and amazing things when I am in Krakow.
You can learn more about Etiuda & Anima at: www.etiudaandanima.com
RESULTS OF THE ANIMA COMPETITION:
The Jury: Georges Schwizgebel (Chairman), Andreas Hykade, Andrzej Kilmowski, Anita Killi, Nancy Denney-Phelps
Grand Prix of the Festival – The Golden Jabberwocky and PLN 15,000: Before Love, Igor Kovalyov – Russia
The Silver Jabberwocky: Nighthawk, Spela Cadez – Slovenia/Croatia
The Bronze Jabberwocky: Cold Coffee, Stephanie Lansaque and Francois Leroy – France
Special Golden Jabberwocky and 2000 PLN for the best school film: Foreign Body, Marta Magnuska – Poland
Nancy Denney-Phelps: Tick Tack, Ulo Pikkov – Estonia
Anita Killi: Au Revoir Balthazar, Rafael Sommerhalder – Switzerland
Andrzej Klimowski: Impossible Figures And Other Stories II, Marta Pajek – Poland
Georges Schwizgebel: My House, Mai Nguyen - France
Andreas Hykade: Composition, Mitja Mancek – Slovenia
The Great Underestimated – A Special Award Given By Boguslaw Zmudzinski, Artistic Director of Etiuda & Anima:
Suma and Corner, Lucija Mrzljak – Estonia
Student Jury: Anna Kubinka, Martyna Holda, and Marzena
Student Jury Award: Penelope, Heta Jaalinoja – Estonia
Audience Award (Joint Award) – My House, Phuong Mai Nguyen – France and Fears, Nata Metlukh - Canada