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KABOOM ANIMATION FESTIVAL - 5 – 14 April 2024 in Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Online

This year Kaboom’s theme was Welcome Home.


This year Kaboom’s theme was Welcome Home. A festival that takes place in Utrecht and then moves to Amsterdam could well have an identity crisis about where home actually is. Special exhibitions explored the topic of home. Home, A Sense of Belonging was curated by the festival’s former artistic director Yonne van Ulden in conjunction with The Illustration Embassy and the festival.

Exhibition curator Yvonne van Ulden and Nancy at the exhibition opening

For the exhibition, artists from different parts of the globe, working in various mediums, reflected on what is home. Our world has become so fast-paced and technological that it is often easy to lose touch with what home is. The exhibition was held at Westergasfabriek, a former gasworks that is now used as a cultural venue.

Along with the exhibition inside the gallery, there was an Augmented Reality Poster Exhibition on the exterior walls of surrounding buildings. You could view the posters by scanning a QR code and viewing the posters on your phone.

This Is So X2 Dutch exhibition is the work of South Korean-born Draw Soao (Soyeon Lee). When she moved from her native country to The Netherlands, she found Dutch culture to be a bit weird. She also discovered that there was a lack of good books or material in English to help her understand the Dutch people and culture better. Most books were designed for tourists with cliches such as windmills, cheese, and tulips.

This Is So 2X Dutch

It took her four years to really learn about the Dutch culture, mostly through local friends. As a result of her experience Draw has created This Is So 2X Dutch, an interactive experience where visitors could try on wooden shoes (called klompen) along with five other wood sculptures that included a jacuzzi boat, the Dutch police on horseback, dog toilets, and beer boxes. Since I live in the Flemish part of Belgium dog toilets and beer boxes seem perfectly normal to me but the exhibition was still great fun.

Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds

Along with the exhibitions, there were thematic screenings, feature-length films and short programs that took us from leaving home to find a better life to trying to get back home after being transported to a fantasy land. Of all of the festival theme programs, my favorite was Sirocco And The Kingdom Of The Winds. Director Benoit Chieux has created a magical world that proves that we all can get lost in a book. When 4-year-old Juliette and her 8-year-old sister Carmen are left with the next-door neighbor for the day, Carmen starts to read her favorite book Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds about a master of winds, Sirocco, to her little sister. Magically the girls find a portal to the world inside the book. In the journey the girls are transformed into cats. As the story unfolds Carmen is taken prisoner by the evil local mayor and forced to marry his repulsive son. Meanwhile Juliette is given as a pet to the legendary chanteuse Selma. She takes pity on the little cat girl and offers to help her save her sister. But will they be in time to stop the marriage and if they do how will the girls get back home?

Quasi at the Quackadero

The traditional 2D animation suites the story perfectly, reminding me of a cross between the films of Miyazaki and Sally Cruikshank’s classic Quasi at the Quackadero. The music by French composer Pablo Pico adds just the right charming note to the film. Children will love this movie but give yourself a treat and be transported back to your childhood and a time when life was simpler and you believed in magical fantasy lands.

The Eye  

In Amsterdam the festival moved  into The Eye, the beautiful Museum for Film and the ART of the Moving Image. For four days the museum becomes the center of animation in The Netherlands. The opening night film in Amsterdam on 11 April was Chicken For Linda. The delightful 75 minute French/Italian co-production was directed by Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach.

Chicken For Linda

When Linda is unfairly punished by her mother, Paulette, for a deed she did not do, her mother realizes her mistake and promises Linda that she can have anything that her heart desires. What Linda wants more than anything is chicken with peppers like her dead father used to make for her. Even though she can’t cook, Paulette is determined to fulfill her daughter’s request. Mother and daughter set out to find a chicken, not realizing that there is a general strike and every shop is closed. What ensues is a madcap adventure comedy with frantic chases and clumsy police interventions that will send you out of the theatre with a big smile on your face.

The look of the film is simplistic with splashes of big bright colors. The musical score by Clément Ducol is a perfect complement to the film. This is a story about the love between a mother and daughter and the special memories that have all been retained from childhood. Chicken For Linda was awarded the Best Feature Film Cristal at Annecy in 2023 as well as the Audience Award for Best Feature Film.

This year the festival’s country focus was on Poland. Three programs of Polish shorts ranged from the 1958 eleven-minute film House by Jan Lenica and Walerian Borowczyk to the present day There Are People in the Forest There Are People in the Forest by Szymon Ruczynski (2023).

Kill It And Leave This Town

Unfortunately, Mariusz Wilczynski’s brilliant memory about growing up in 1970’s Lodz Poland,  Kill It and Leave This Town, was only screened in Utrecht. In the film, Mariusz describes Lodz as a “bleak industrial city where rain perpetually drapes the landscape in melancholy and lament”. The film is not only an excellent study of a certain time and place, but an homage to lost friends and loved ones, especially his close friend, the late guitarist Tadeusz (Tadeusz Nalepa) who passed away in 2007. The film features music by Nalepa and his band Breakout. Kill It And Leave This Town won the Polish Academy Award for Best Feature Film.

I was very curious to see The Peasants, Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s follow-up film to Loving Vincent. Based on the novel, The Peasants, by Polish writer Wtadystaw Reymont, it was written between 1904 and 1909. In 1924 Reymont received the Nobel Prize for Literature for his “great national epic The Peasants”.

The film is set in a late 19th-century Polish village that teems with gossip, scandal, and ongoing feuds. Village life is delicately held together by its communal pride in the land, adherence to tradition, and its deeply rooted patriarchy.

The Peasants

The story centers around Jagna, a young woman determined to forge her own path despite the religious mysticism and violent nature of the humans in her village. When she takes her destiny into her own hands, rejecting tradition and the established order, a torrent of anger and hatred is unleashed upon her.

I did not care for Loving Vincent. The fact that the film hypothesizes that his doctor killed Van Gogh is ridiculous to me and the painting throughout the film looked very inconsistent. The painted rotoscoping also put me off so I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy The Peasants, but I thoroughly enjoyed the film. It stayed true to the book and although I wish that as much effort had been expended on the background as there was on the rotoscoped actors I walked out of the theatre feeling like I had had a most enjoyable two hours.

The film was shot in live action and then the footage was hand-painted by about 70 painters working in Poland, Serbia, The Ukraine, and Lithuania. The artists used oil and canvas to duplicate 40,000 frames from the live-action shoot, with another 40,000 frames created from those oil paintings using Photoshop effects. I am always happy to see animators get work, but I think that The Peasants would have looked excellent as a live-action film.

A highlight of The Peasants for me was the rich musical score created by Polish composer Lukas Rostkowski, aka L.U.C. and performed by The Rebel Babel Film Orchestra. Following the screening of The Peasants, The Rebel Babel Film Orchestra, with Rostkowski , presented a concert of music from the film. The beautiful music was accompanied by visuals from the film, including pictures of the artists at work. The live concert, with the musicians dressed in Polish peasant costumes (with a hurdy-gurdy!) was a highlight of the festival for me.

With a body of work that includes over 130 films, ranging from music videos to commercials, short and feature-length hybrid animations, documentaries, installations, and participatory workshops, husband and wife Paul and Françoise De Nooijer and their son Menno have produced an astonishing opus of work.

Is Heaven Blue # 2

Each year at Kaboom I have the honor to give The Nancy Award to any film I want in competition. I was especially pleased to give the 2024 Nancy Award to Paul, Françoise, and Menno De Nooijer for their 17-minute film Is Heaven Blue #2. In presenting my award I said “My award goes to a film that is in the short film competition, but I am giving it not just for one film but to a body of work that spans 50 years. Along the way, the films have recorded the history of a family in artistic, playful, and engaging ways.”

“The film that I have selected is a tender farewell as mother, father, and son tie up loose ends and set the stage for an end to a long career in film. Paul De Nooijer is a pioneer in the field of creative photography and experimental film. His wife Françoise is his muse, model, and producer. Their son Menno has played a role in his parent’s films from an early age and has worked together with his parents as a director since 1989.”

Awards ceremony MC Roloff de Jeu, Menno de Nooijer, and Nancy

Sadly, Paul was too ill to be present at the special screening that Menno presented as a special event, but he did help to select the films.  The screening included analog treasures from the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s which The Eye digitized along with one 35 mm print.

Along with the opportunity to watch some treasures that are seldom screened, Menno told a lot of interesting stories. I particularly enjoyed hearing him talk about how he thought his home was perfectly normal and how boring it seemed to him to visit other children’s homes with a mother in the kitchen and the father sitting in a chair watching television.

Dutch animator Paul Driessen is a legend in his own time, so getting to watch him present his films, liberally sprinkled with entertaining stories was a great treat. Paul has always been fascinated by drawing the funny little figures that occupy his films.

Paul Driessen and Head Programmer Maarten van Gageldonk

His career started in 1965 with a ten-second Cetabever glue commercial. The commercial was too short so it was never shown on Dutch television, but it was accepted at Annecy which was a real eye-opener for him Paul said. His big break came when he was invited to go to London to work on Yellow Submarine in 1968.

Throughout his career, Paul has kept a “split personality”, living and working both in The Netherlands and at the National Film Board of Canada.  Among his numerous prizes and awards is an Annie. In 2000 he was nominated for an Oscar for 3 Misses and has received The Dutch Directors Guild Oeuvre  Award.

3 Misses is quintessentially Driessen. In the film, three damsels in different time periods are in mortal danger. A man sees a woman fall off of the roof of a neighboring apartment building and tries to save her. A cowboy hears the screams of a woman tied to the railroad tracks and the seven dwarfs who are reading the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs sense that an evil witch is passing by them with a poison apple. This spoof on fairy tales throws plenty of obstacles in our would-be hero’s paths and makes for a very funny film.

Following his screening, Paul adjourned to the Kaboom Café where he signed copies of his hot-off-the-press autobiography My Life In Cartoons published by At Bay Press in Winnipeg. I have just finished reading the book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. He is just as entertaining a writer as he is an animator. I highly recommend the book and will write a full review soon.

Paul Driessen at his book signing

The two-day Kaboom Industry Days were held in Utrecht on the 9th and 10th of April. The first day was devoted to young talent. Students and up-and-coming new names on the Dutch animation scene had an opportunity to learn about different professions in the animation industry. This year's lineup included character designer Saverio Wielkens, storyboard artist Janneke van der Biggelaar, and the extremely talented director of the award-winning Mind My Mind Floor Adams. Floor is the director and producer at Curious Wolf.

Recent graduates of Dutch film schools got their chance to shine at the Best Showreels screening.  They also had one-on-one meetings with studios and the busy day ended with the Debutante’s Ball where the winner of The Best Showreel competition, Cheyenne Goudswaard, was crowned and awarded a Toon Boom license for use on future projects. Garai Vorm received a Special Mention and a Kaboom Industry Days pass for the 2025 edition.

The second Industry Day was devoted to Dutch Animation Professionals. The day began with a panel discussion on co-production possibilities for the Benelux Region made up of Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Janneke van de Kerkhof from Submarine with headquarters in Amsterdam, London, and Los Angeles was joined on the panel by David  Mouraire of Dog House Films in Luxembourg, and Eric Goosens from Brussels-based Walking The Dog. The moderator was Patrick Chin, board member of the Dutch Academy of Film.

Along with the opportunity to network at one-on-one meetings, there was a closed-session meeting (in Dutch) where the national animation community met to discuss current issues of particular interest to the Dutch Animation Community.

Kaboom Awards

A big thank you goes to Festival Directors Aneta Ozorek and Annabet Langkamp and Maarten van Gageldonk, Head of Programing for their warm hospitality. Also, I am very grateful to all of the staff and volunteers for all of their help and many little kindnesses. I am already looking forward to the 2025 edition of the festival - 21-30 March 2025.

You can learn more about Kaboom at:


The Juries:

International Competition Jury: Anastasiya Verlinska, Ukraine; Tomm Moore, Ireland, and Paul Driessen, The Netherlands and Canada

Documentary And Dutch Jury: Léo Soesanto, France; Mark Taynton, United Kingdom, and Gina Kamentsky, United States

VR Jury: Avinash Changa, The Netherlands; Emilia Sanchez Chiquetti, Argentina/Brazil; and Gabey Tjon a Tham

Nancy Award: Nancy Denney-Phelps                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         


Best Short – Beautiful Men, Nicolas Keppens, Belgium, France, The Netherlands

Best Student Short – Fox  Tossing, Zéno Mira, Hungary

Best Documentary – Ardent Other, Alice Brygo, France

Best Dutch Short – The Miracle, Nienke Deutz

Best Dutch Student – Melk, Niek de Leeuw

Best VR – Flow, Adriaan Lokman, The Netherlands

Jamie Bolio Award – Our Love Is Immortal, Ender Yildizhan, Turkey

Audience Award For Best Short – Vivarium, Daan Lucas, The Netherlands

Audience Award For Best Experimental Short – Our Pain, Shunsaku Hayashi, Japan

Audience Award For Best  Commissioned Short – All the Best, Pablo Roldan, Argentina

Audience Award For Best Children’s Film – Go Away, Alfred!, Célia Tisserant, Arnaud Demuynck,    


Audience Award For Best Feature Film – Chicken For Linda, Chiara Malta, Sebastien Laudenbach,


Nancy Award – Is Heaven Blue # 2, Paul de Nooijer, Menno de Nooijer, The Netherlands/Norway