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KLIK! and LESLEY THE PONY HAVE AN A+ WEEK

KLIK! INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION FESTIVAL at THE EYE in AMSTERDAM, 4 - 9 November 2014

KLIK! is always a perfect blend of excellent animation and fun, Fun, FUN, but when Lesley the Pony pranced into the Eye this year he brought a whole new meaning to fun!   The spirit of Lesley the Pony, created by Christian Larrave as his junior year project at the Rhode Island School of Design (USA), fit right in with this year’s festival theme of Gender Bending:  Girls, Boys, and Beyond.

 

KLIK! Amsterdam Animation Festival 2015 27 Oktober – 1 November!

KLIK! and LESLEY THE PONY HAVE AN A+ WEEK

KLIK! International Animation Festival in Amsterdam is always a perfect blend of excellent animation and fun, Fun, FUN, but when Lesley the Pony pranced into the Eye this year he brought a whole new meaning to fun!   The spirit of Lesley the Pony, created by Christian Larrave as his junior year project at the Rhode Island School of Design (USA), fit right in with this year’s festival theme of Gender Bending:  Girls, Boys, and Beyond.

Lesley, the happy pink pony, prances along on the way to Merryville to visit the Duke in time to a song that will stay in your head forever.  When he arrives and meets the Duke the genial conversation turns dark after a few minutes when the Duke tells Lesley that he and the Duchess are separating and that he has always fancied Lesley more than anyone in his kingdom.  After that confession a very confused Lesley gallops off emotionally unsure of what to do next.  What follows is a stream of violence as the pink pony unleashes chaos and a flow of blood.  The grinning elves and happy tulips are no more.  Lesley pranced on and on throughout the entire festival seeking answers.

For the third consecutive year KLIK! has returned to the beautiful Eye Theatre which is also home to the Film Institute of the Netherlands.  The festival kicked off with a laser projection on the main exterior façade of the Eye. Pieterjan Ruysch created his spectacular display especially for KLIK! depicting lots of cartoon icons in vivid colors from Gertie the Dinosaur and Betty Boop to Sponge Bob  and with the accompanying sound designed by Rutger Muller.

Laser imagery by Pieterjan Ruysch on the facade of the Eye

Returning inside to the screening room Master of Ceremony Roloff  de Jeu kicked off the evening with a first look at  the 2014 festival trailer. This year it was created by the renowned Dutch trio Job, Joris, and Marieke from Utrecht whose short A Single Life has been nominated for a 2015 Oscar.   Their  Nuke Me  trailer featured their unique dark and disturbing sense of humor, this time set in a military war room.

The festival awarded their 2nd World Domination Award during the opening night festivities.  The award honors an organization, studio, or individual that has helped Dutch animation take another big step toward world domination.  The 2014 winner, il Luster, was selected from an illustrious list of nominees by a jury of Dutch film professionals.  Il Luster (www.illuster.nl) has produced numerous short films including Hisko Hulsing’s multiple award winning Junkyard and the latest Paul Driessen animation Cat Meets Dog.

 Their newest project, the family film Trippel Trappel (Triple Trouble), is further proof that il Luster is a very worthy winner and will be a prominent player on putting  Dutch animation on the world map.  The feature film, about a playful ferret, a canary, and a know-it-all stick insect that set out to ask Saint Nicholas for presents, was shown as part of the KLIK! FOR KIDS programs.

The opening night audience was also the first of many times festival goers got to experience Lesley the Pony Has An A+ Day.  It was the perfect way to prance us all out of the screening room to the festival bar for the opening reception.

Mr KLIKbot enjoying the opening party with Nancy

For the past few years I have been invited to Amsterdam to be part of the KLIK! pre-selection committee.  I can attest to the fact that watching the over 1,500 films submitted and narrowing the field down to the 168 works shown in 5 programs was a very daunting job for all of the selection team.  It was a rewarding surprise for me to see how the final competition programs were put together.  The selection committee watches all of the films in random order and a film can look very different depending upon the other films in a program so I always look forward to watching the competition programs.

  Bear Story fit right into a competition program full of dysfunctional families, murders and other happy stories.   Chilean animator Gabriel Osorio’s poignant story of an elderly bear that goes out on the street everyday with his homemade marionette theatre seems very innocent at first.  As his street audience watches his story unfold they realize that it is the old bears sad tale of being brutally kidnapped and taken away from his loving wife, child and happy home to a life behind bars in a cage where he is forced to preform humiliating tricks in a circus.  The moving film is a haunting tale of past memories and a lonely, bleak future.  Usually audience awards go to very funny films but KLIK! audiences are known for selection serious works with strong animation.  Last year’s audience award went to Hisko Hulsing’s powerful Junkyard and this year their choice was Bear Story.

Students Shorts included the Academy Award nominated The Bigger Picture.  The first time I saw it during the KLIK! selection process I thought that it had been listed as a student film by mistake because it is so well written and executed.  It wasn’t until I saw the credits at the end that I realized it really was a graduation film.  I have written about The Bigger Picture in depth in previous articles.

With everyone waiting for the Shaun the Sheep feature film from Aardman I hope that Dutch animator Jorn Leeuwerink’s The Sheep Shop doesn’t get lost in all that wool.  The film is about Granny Sheep who runs a normal looking shop selling wool products.  But all is not as cozy at it appears in the shop.  Hidden away in the basement is a dark secret, a sweat shop where sheep are forced to knit sweaters.  The sheep’s break for freedom is humorous but underneath the humor is the very human story of the horrors of real people who are being forced to toil in sweat shops around the world.

Karolien Raeymaekers created Oma (Grandmother) as her Master Film at KASK in Belgium.  Her moving and powerful film explores the relationship between a young girl and her dying grandmother.  The film was loosely inspired by the death of Karolien’s grandmother.  The powerful visual metaphors that express the young girl’s fear and confusion over a situation that she cannot control or completely understand are very effective when juxtapositioned against the beautiful countryside with fields of wild flowers.   She achieved this effect by using black silhouettes of the two central characters while the backgrounds of the serene countryside were achieved with acrylics and crayons.

Each year KLIK! has a theme and this year the festival set out to explore love in its many ways, shapes, and strange forms.  Programs ranged from It’s A Gender Thing exploring the ongoing struggle to accept your inner identity to Happy To Be A Cliche which revealed that the gender spectrum has expanded so far that we can now embrace those manly men and dressed up gossipy women in the beauty shops.

Tunde Vollenbroek, Irene Hemelaar and Yvonne Van Ulden play with their gender appropriate toys

After you felt all warm and fuzzy soaking up the beauty of love in all of its different forms you could loosen up at the midnight Terribly Inappropriate and Uncomfortable Gender Fucking Animation.  The program was guaranteed to have something to disturb and disgust everyone if you could stop laughing at the farting chicks, endless dicks, pubic bushes, and menstrual lollipops long enough to be grossed out.

 No program exploring women’s sexuality would be complete without a film by Monique Renault, one of the true pioneers of portraying women’s sexual feelings in animation.  Her 1983 film Long Live the Sexual Revolution led off the Ladies Night Out screening.  Nor would a program about female emotions in animation would be complete without the contemporary animation world’s Holy Trinity of STRONG WOMEN:  Joanna Quinn, Michaela Pavlatova, and Signe Baumane.  Michaela from the Czech Republic and Monique who lives in Amsterdam were special guests at the festival.  Following the Ladies Night Out screening the duo took to the front of the stage for a lively Q and A session.

Michaela was honoured with a retrospective of her award winning films.  She delighted the audience with stories about her career peppered with her comments in her off-beat humor.

Just when you thought that there was nothing more to be said about gender and relationships along came the 70 minute Queer Dick: The Movie.  The outrageous comedy  has everything, a queer duck who is questioning his relationship with his boyfriend Openly Gator, a preacher who kidnaps the duck and hold him hostage in a devious “straightening scene” and the seductive retired starlet Lola who tries to lure Queer Duck to the alter.  With animation by Xeth Fienberg and a script by Mike Reiss who is a frequent Simpson’s screenwriter the film is outrageously charming and funny.

Four gender related seminars further explored such probing questions as what exactly is the relationship between Bert and Ernie, Ren and Stimpy, and The Teletubbies?  Does it really matter?  Gay Pride Amsterdam’s President Irene Hemelaar posed these questions at Gender Talks: Gay Curious.  You could also ponder “Boy Princesses and Girl Warriors”, “Gender –Bending Anime” and learn how to “Decode Transgender Modes” in other sessions.

If you were already comfortable with who and what you are then KLIK! Specials was the place to be.  You could have the opportunity to be one of the first people in The Netherlands to see the beautiful Song of the Sea at its Dutch premier.  The Dutch Delights screening showed what’s new in shorts, student work, TV series, and commercials in the country.

Disney Studio’s new 3D short Feast also had its Dutch premier at the festival.  Directed by Patrick Osborne it is the story of one man’s love life as seen through the eyes, and stomach, of his best friend Winston, his dog. 

Josh Staub, VFX supervisor on Feast, and Disney Talent Director of Development Dawn Ernster came from Los Angeles to present an afternoon of Disney Masterclasses.  Josh’s Disney credits include work on Feast, Frozen, Rapunzel, Paperman, and Wreck-It Ralph.  He had a lot of stories about working at the “House the Mouse Built” plus he shared  practical VFX knowledge on his masterclass.

Dawn Ernster began her career at Disney in 2005 as Director of Animation Resources.  She spoke about how her career had advanced to the point where she is now Talent Director of Development, what the job entails, and what her day to day life is like at the studio.  Masterclass attendees were encouraged to bring their portfolios to receive a personal evaluation from Dawn or Josh.

KLIK! Industry has become an important part of the festival.  These sessions focused on the Dutch animation industry and gave students and professionals alike the opportunity to exchange ideas and knowledge.  The Script Dating workshop has become an excellent opportunity for scriptwriters to present their projects to a group of fellow writers and animators for discussion.  Even more valuable is the opportunity to get feedback from two veterans of the scriptwriting game,  Matthe Curlewis founder of Amsterdam Writers and Jantiene de Kroon, partner in the prestigious Mooves Studio in Amsterdam.

Debutante Ball offered a chance for the professionals to see what the next generation of Dutch animators will look like.,  The 2014 graduating classes of AKVlSt, Joost, ArtEZ, WdKA (Willem de Kooning Academie) and HKU individually presented themselves through their 1 minute showreels.  Following the presentations there was a reception where we had the opportunity to chat with the “debutants” informally over drinks.

A new addition to KLIK! Industry this year was the Consultation Hours Sessions.  These were one on one meetings with a representative from the crowd funding platform Cine Crowd or the Creative Industries Fund NL (Stimulerings Funds).  They gave animators an opportunity to explore alternative methods of funding a project.  The consultants from Cine Crowd provided advice on how to set up and run a successful crowd funding campaign tailored to the filmmaker’s project and needs.  Stimulerings provides subsidies for cultural projects worldwide through its “Design, E-culture, and Internationalization Grants Program”.  At their sessions they answered questions and offered suggestions about putting together a project plan and submitting an application for a subsidy.

Festival goers were greeted at the bottom of the broad front steps leading up to the Eye entrance by the Cineville Caravan.  The cosy little Airstream caravan has been converted into a mini-cinema where visitors could watch all of the videos in the Music Channel Competition.

The Cineville caravan

Of course all work and no play is NOT in the KLIK! vocabulary.  For a little hands on fun you could play Mr. and Mrs Potato Head with the large bean bag chairs in the lobby/bar area.  After making your favorite, most comfy character you could sink into it for a little reading from the Zsa Zsa Zine collection.  Zsa Zsa Zine is an Amsterdam collective specializing in queer and feminist material.  Members of the collective were on hand to do some live drawing as well. 

You could get into the act and earn your 15 seconds of fame by contributing to “Just Another Frame On The Wall”.  A wall in the lounge area was covered in sheets of long white poster board divided into frames.  The first frames were begun by Dutch animators and then guests took to the wall to add their own frames and continue the “film”.  On Sunday there was a presentation of the finished mural by The Cardboarders who conceived the project spear headed by Mathijs Stegink.

Michaela Pavlatova adding another frame to the animation wall

All the cotton candy you can eat is a KLIK! tradition.  Freshly spun by a KLIK! volunteer you could even have it handed to you by a giant pink cotton candy as it strolled around the theatre.  I am still lobbying for a popcorn machine.  On Sunday afternoon the boys from Hotmamahot baked pancakes in the most fanciful and animated shapes.  You pranced to Lesley all week and now you could bite off his legs or munch on a hot SpongeBob covered in syrup.

Both Cartoon Network and Comedy Central returned again this year bringing along an extreme dose of silly fun comedy.  Cartoon Network also brought along a suitcase full of goodie bags for lucky winners.

Swag at the Cartoon Network screening

The Animators BYOB Party was a great way for guests to get together.  Every filmmaker and foreign guests was asked to bring a bottle of spirits from their native country so there was quite a selection to pick from.  The shop of Mathijs Stegink, master of all things cardboard and wood,  was a short ferry ride and stroll from the Eye.   It was the perfect “secret location” for the party because it was big enough to hold everyone comfortably but not so big that you could hide in a corner.  Live music from the 20’s and 30’s was provided courtesy of Jazz Deco.  The group was put together by Nik Phelps and his old friend guitarist Hal Glatzer who was in town from Hawaii.  They were joined by three local musicians to create music that was perfect for carrying on a conversion and there were even some dancers.

I always look forward to the annual boat trip.  Cruising lazily along the beautiful Amsterdam canals on a long boat is a lovely break from all of the hustle and bustle of the festival.

Festival director Yvonne Van Ulden getting on board for the KLIK! cruise

It is also a good opportunity for guests to get to talk.  With plenty of food and drink provided by the festival and spectacular scenery, I had the opportunity to have a long chat with Dawn Ernster from Disney Studios as we floated down the canal.  She is as charming and interesting as she is savvy about the animation industry.

Getting to know Dawn Ernster on the cruise

Midnight Madness is the favorite byword of everyone at the festival.  Each year those intrepid film watchers Mathijs Stegink and Luuk van Huet sift through hundreds of films to find the truly bad, strange, and “oh my god what was that?” films which they bring to us in the guise of Midnight Madness. The audience is encouraged to get into the act by shouting for the movie to be sped up, slowed down, played backwards or in extreme cases, mutilated and destroyed so it will never torture a KLIK! audience again.  I will leave it to your imagination to figure out what could possess an animator to make Art Student (Let’s Get Naked) or I Laugh Because Your Ass ToThe Party (no, that is not a misprint).  To help keep the audience well lubricated, volunteer “wait persons” were in the theatre to rush cold beer from the full beer fridge at the front of the theatre when someone raised their hand.

Luuk Van Huet introducing the Midnight Madness jury - Joost Lieuwma, Nancy Denney-Phelps and Dot Janson

 A panel of three “film experts”, Dutch animator Joost Lieuwma, Dot Jansen from ASIFA/San Francisco and I were given the difficulty duty of commenting on the films or ordering them stopped if we just couldn’t take it anymore.  Usually the film makers don’t dare to show their face at Midnight Madness but this year many of them were there and it made it much harder to be totally rude about a film when you know that the film maker is sitting behind your staring daggers at the back of your head.  The three of us were rewarded with Lesley the Pony t-shirts and all the beer we could drink.  The evening ended with a screening of this year’s festival mascot Lesley the Pony Has An A+ Day and a pony prancing contest which definitely brought out the animal in the contestants.  The prancers were so enthusiastic that in the end two winners were selected for the coveted prizes.

Leslie the Pony prancing contest

Every festival has an awards ceremony and after party but no one does it quite like KLIK!  We all assembled in a large nightclub near the theatre to hear the jury reveal all.  There was a very loud cheer from the audience when Christian Larrave came on stage to accept the Best Student Film Award for Lesley The Pony Has An A+ Day.  A complete list of all of the winning films is at the end of the article.

Once the official award business got out of the way the KLIK! KLIK! BOOM! THE SMUTTY EDITION closing party got off to a rousing start with N.I.K.  Nik von den Berg is an androgynous icon in Amsterdam who sings R & B in a raw, sexy voice.  Nik was followed by Dollie Ola’s puppet striptease with a little assistance from puppeteer Eva van Heijningen.  Then it was time to dance the night away to music provided by a trio of D.J.’s.  When it was time for a break from dancing we could relax in the outer lobby on a big pile of bean bag chairs to watch bad German porn films with the sound turned off so people could do karaoke acting to the films. This was the perfect way to end the smutty edition of KLIK!

A big thank you and well done goes to Mother KLIK! Yvonne van Ulden, who is a champion festival director,  Tunde Vollenbroek, programmer extraordinaire, and the entire KLIK! staff and army of volunteers who work so hard to make everything run so smoothly.

The 2015 edition of KLIK! will take place from 27 October to 1 November.  You can find out about submitting your film for the next edition, find out the answer to the all-important question of what is the 2015 festival theme, or just learn more about the festival at:

www.klikamsterdam.nl

JURY:  Best Animated Short and Best Political Animated Short

Jurriaan Esmeijer   Nina Polak   Jeanette Bonds   Maartje Smits

JURY:  Best Animated Student Short and Best Commissioned Animation:

Mieke Gerritzen   Inge Daveloose   João Carlos Rodrigues

JURY:  Best Animated Music Video:

Sverre Fredriksen   Maria Dicieanu   Remco Vlaanderen

                                    

 KLIK! 2014 Award winners

KLIK! Award for Best Animated Short

Winner

'Hippos' by Piotr Dumala

Special mention

'Grace Under Water' by Anthony Lawrence

KLIK! Award for Best Animated Student Short

'Lesley the Pony Has an A+ Day!' by Wesley Nunez

KLIK! hard//hoofd Award for Best Political Animated Short

Winner

'Padre' by Santiago Bou Grasso

Special mention

'L'Île Noire' by Nino Christen

KLIK! Award for Best Commissioned Animation

'Amnesty International - Pens' by Onur Senturk

KLIK! 2pause Award for Best Animated Music Video

Winner

'The Uncluded - Organs' by Rob Shaw

Special mention

'Wende - Last Resistance' by Aimee de Jongh

KLIK! Amsterdam Audience Award

Winner

'Bear's Story' by Gabriel Osorio

1st runner up

'The Elephant and the Bicycle' by Olesya Shchukina

2nd runner up

'Oh my dog!' by Chloe Alliez

KLIK! Young Amsterdam Audience Award

'We Bare Bears' by Daniel Chong

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