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World Festival of animated Film, Zagreb 2004: students’ competition, Zagreb — June 14th-19th 2004

For some years now, there have been a great number of short animated films entered for competition at the most important world festival, so it is not surprising that more than a thousand films came in for this year’s Zagreb Festival. A large part of this production consists of ’students’ or ’school’ films, which came in from growing number schools of animation in industrially developed parts of the world. Those schools have become main producers of short author animated films. Ajanoviæ investigates the economic reasons for such an expansion, or stagnation, in animated films production, and political circumstances that support artistic animation, particularly in so called, socialist block, and decides that the fall of socialism and predominance of capitalistic and market oriented logic moved artistic, author animation to universities which have been experiencing huge expansion in the past two decades. An additional reason is the digitalization of film production process, which made animation more widely available than classical film approach, both in production and distribution — distribution of digital films is cheaper and wider, both in cinemas and the video rental stores, as well as in festivals.
The author estimates that, even though the students’ program is selected in such a way that many worthy and interesting films (that could be seen at other festivals), could not be seen in competition program, Animafest was still an abundant feast, and primarily because of students’ production. Since today’s students’ competition quality is at least as high as the ’big’ one, in a way Animafest became a double festival with two competition programs that are characterized by variety of genres and plurality of animation forms and techniques (CGI, different cell-animation surrogates, combination of 3D and 2D, so called ’procedural’ animation, holography etc.). Because of rigorous admission tests, animation students are usually people who have previous experience with film, animation or some similar area, and their films are often pilot-films for future commercial projects, series, feature-length films or video games. The fact that the authors see their exams and possible screening of their films at some festivals as secondary, and primarily use their film as a ticket to the world of animation business is a characteristic of a great part of the program of students’ competition. A good example for this is the film Raft (Das Floss, author Jan Thûring), which can be called ’student’ only because of a pretty clichéd story of two castaways, where each tries to survive at the other’s expense. Similar high level of technical sophistication and obvious ambition to develop their work in the direction of commercial serials or video games could be seen, for example, in the films Bus station by a group of authors from France, Annie and Boo (Germany, author Johannes Weiland) or in Knight’s Honors (Ritterschlag, Germany, Adrian Suter). The second perceivable tendency in films produced by schools was that some of them imitated their mentors. In the film Weitzenberg Street (Weintzenberg tänav) a student Kaspar Jancis took many solutions at expression and realization level from some of the works by his professor Priit Pärn, especially from Triangle; while it is more than obvious from the film Granddad’s Honey by Vladimir Leschiov that his mentor was Piotr Dumala.
As it is inevitable at any festival, at Zagreb 2004 we saw some uninventive exercises, authors who God knows how passed the admission tests at their academies, and especially with the festival selection committee. Still, the biggest part of program consisted of interesting accomplishments, as a result of energy and creativity of young authors, combined with inexhaustible possibilities offered by this dynamic form of art. The following films undoubtedly belong to this group: Night shift (Yövuro, Finland, Kokkonen, Wahl and Koivunen, Finland), a funny model animation about a bet who is not allowed to sleep; About a Girl (Pro Devochku, Russia, Lena Chernova), n entertaining game of reduced visual art; Ducks (Israel, Uri Kranot), a fantastic animated allegory about war made in a classical technique; as well as Cecile Without Eyelids (Cécile sans paupieres, France, Ferrari, Gernerone, Gay, Lurde), a frightening idea of a girl who does not have eyelids with a poetic ending, in which a butterfly uses its wings to protect her from bright light. An Old Man with a Backpack (Be-nang-men-noin, Korea, Hyun Kyung Park, Woonki Kim) is a fabulous interpretation of an oriental fairy tale in the form of an animated horror-picture book that is characterized by nearly virtuosic drawing-animation performance that made this film one of the peaks of the festiv in all competitions. Woman in the Attic (SAD, Chansoo Kim) is and emotional and existential story made in Central Europian model animation tradition. Mechanics (Czech Republic, David Sukup) is a funny satire about modern era and on of the rare film made without great material resources, the fact that is replaced by ingeniousness, which used to be typical for students’ films. Fold (Le faux pli, France, Lepeintre, Arditti, Delpuech), is the best 3D-film in students’ competition. It’s a funny version of the world in which all the people hang on clothes-lines which are the only connection between skyscrapers in an immense urban ocean of (near) future. Engineering marvel (Germany, Michael Sieber) is a beautiful film based on a classical metaphor of freedom, while Benny and the tooth fairy (Norway, Morten Nyutsumo), artfully made puppet film that combines Nordic tradition of humor and technical perfection accordance with the great Norwegian maestro of the genre Ivo Caprino. 2D-film Mr. J. Russel (Belgium, Wouter Sel) is another peak of the festival, a funny, simple and inventive mocking of human nature and impulses. Dragon (Yeon, Korea, Ye Sil Hong) is a successful attempt of animated ukyo-e graphics, which ’saturate’ the screen in a pleasant way. The Town of The One Handed (Great Britain, Heli Ellis) is a typically student, ruffled and work, both in its content and realization, so the jury’s decision to award one of the prizes to this film is probably motivated by the above mentioned facts. Trap (France, Lionel François) is graphically extremely beautiful composition that gives the illusion of animated linocut, the fact which is in complete contrast with the film’s topic: video games. My Little Bunny (Korea, Heena Baek) is the most humorous gag-film in the whole festival, while Ascio (France, Mathilde Philippon-Aginski) is a film of extreme visual sensibility in which and animal character (donkey) is visualized in a completely different way than in commercial films like in, for example, Shrek.

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