Filed under: Festivals
All of our San Francisco friends know what we went through in our last month
in the city — and I must say that we could not have done the move without
the amazing help of all of you. Finally after MONSTRA we got the chance to
have a few days off on the North coast of Spain, where Nik promptly got sick
but Kirby, Molly and I enjoyed the lovely beach and I actually got the
chance to start writing and actually read a book — now off to The Annecy
International Festival of Animation!!!
2006 Annecy International Animation Festival
Once again this year I found the animation at Annecy by and large to be a big yawn!!! The quality of the competition films was exceptionally low — there were entire programs that I came out of thinking “Why did I have to sit through that?” Films that I would normally have thought “That was OK, but . . .” seemed to be a breath of fresh air and the few really good films – Joanna Quinn’s DREAMS AND DESIRES – FAMILY TIES, A RAM AND A GOAT and PRINTED RAINBOW really stood out. For those familiar with Quinn’s two previous award winning films featuring her character Beryl (GIRL’S NIGHT OUT and BODY BEAUTIFUL), her new film treats us to an older Beryl who decides to plunge into the arts to help cushion her mid-life crisis. At the directors’ chat, Joanna said that this is the first of a four-part series about Beryl plunging into the arts. Needless to say, Beryl’s foray into the world of wedding video photographer ends in hilarious .disasters. A RAM AND A GOAT by Natalia Berezovaya, part of Pilot Moscow Animation Studio’s ambitious and beautiful series of animated folk tales from regions all over the former Soviet Union. I wrote very highly and in greater detail about this series last year after seeing samples at KROK. Each episode is in a different style by various Russian animators and covers a wide range of animation techniques. The lovely Indian film, PRINTED RAINBOW, by Gitanjali Rao, is a story, told through Indian matchbox covers, of a woman and her cat who live alone and travel vicariously through her beautiful match boxes. The film looks at loneliness and death in a positive and hopeful way.
Of the five feature films in competition I had already seen two (WALLACE AND GROMIT: THE CASE OF THE WERE-RABBIT and ASTERIX AND THE VIKINGS) and the other two that I saw, RENAISSANCE and ORIGIN – SPIRITS OF THE PAST, were a waste of time that could have been better spent watching the wide variety of special programs that are usually only screened once. When I watched RENAISSANCE, I disliked it immediately and said to the person that I was watching it with that “this film has nothing to recommend it but it will receive the Crystal” — and it did!!! I thought that the “acting was terribly wooden and the plot was strictly second rate – the opening scene of Paris was very nice, but gimmicky, which is how I would sum up the entire film. I talked to people who said they liked it, so, I will leave it up to ASIFA members to see it and make up their own minds.
Unfortunately the theatre where the student films are usually screened is undergoing much needed renovation — yes, it was very hot without any air movement – especially at 2:00 PM after the lunch break and the seats were very hard – but since the Graduation films were screened in English at 10:30 AM this year – the same time that the English Competition Screening was shown — I had to make a hard choice. I was able to see two programs of student works (which in years past have included some of my favorite films), both with French subtitles, and given my basic level of French, it took a great deal of intense concentration to follow the dialogue.
Opening night started off with a great treat when a grand piano was rolled out on the stage, and Serge Bromberg, Festival Artistic Director, played his original score to the 1927 Charley Bowers film MANY A SLIP, where Charley tries to invent a non slip banana skin. The print was newly restored for opening night and was twice as long as any previously known existing print. Serge’s score was fabulous – a true delight for all of us who are Charley Bower fans!!!!
Unfortunately, the feature film was not as entertaining. “U”, the 2006 French animation by Serge Elissalde and Gregoire Solotareff, about a little wormy creature that kept breaking into a British accent and a spindly dog thing that lived in a castle with her guardian unicorn was a definite ho hum!!! The opening night party, held in upstairs in a grand hall at the beautiful old city hall, was a delight of good food, plentiful drink and reunions with old friends.
This year Italy was the featured country, and each of the nine special programs was a great treat. From the 1949 LE ROSA DI BAGDAD and I FRATELLI DINAMITE, which shared the laurels for the first Italian animated feature film and first Italian feature film in color, to “The Italian Current” program that highlighted the emerging creative self-produced short films of the past 15 years, I had a chance to totally immerse myself in the amazing (and far too seldom seen in the US) world of Italian animation. This year there was no HOT AND SPICY screening , but the late night Italian FORBIDDEN FRUIT screenings filled the gap.
As much as we are all at Annecy to do business (we picked up a very nice contract for Nik to write the music for a series of animations for a British TV Production company, JETIX –more details soon) and be entertained, it was important to be reminded that the fight against AIDS has not been won yet. Some of the best filmmakers world in the world addressed this world wide concern in the ANIMATION WITH AN ATTITUDE: ABOUT AIDS program which having, lived in San Francisco for so many years where all of us have lost dear friends to this terrible plague, I found to be a poignant and disturbing collection of filmsthat should be traveling to film festivals around the world.
THE BIG SLEEP, an annual homage to members of our animation community who left us in the past year, was only screened once at 10:30 AM unfortunately, and this year I missed it since I was watching the first competition screening. I was very sorry to have to pass it up because there were homage’s to Derek Lamb and Joe Ranft among others that I would love to have seen , but as often happens at Annecy you just can’t get to every program.
Because I love animation of the ‘30’s and Carl Stallings in particular I took time out to watch SILLY SYMPHONIES – an hour and a half of just plain animated fun set to wonderful musical scores.
I did skip two major events – the premier of CARS and Tim Burton’s live appearance accompanying the screening of CORPSE BRIDE. I felt that my time was better utilized watching animation that I might never have a chance to see because I knew that CARS will be screened here in Gent. There was an incredible line for CARS and I heard from people who attended that there were guards with metal detectors that you had to pass through and cell phones had to be checked – if this is true I’m definitely glad that I am waiting to see CARS here.
The Burton appearance and screening was scheduled for 10:00 AM Saturday morning – and if I had been anywhere at that hour I would have been at the 9:00 AM directors chat. I did see an interview where Burton said that “ I have always heard that Annecy is the ultimate of animation festivals and I am so happy to be here at last.” I never actually saw him but I am sure that he was here.
The Annecy street café scene is always alive and well – sitting along the Main Street with a glass of wine, you are always joined by friends and soon several tables have been put together with international conversation, renewing old friendships and making new ones in several languages.
As always there were parties a plenty – the usual big events , opening night at City Hall and the MIFA PARTY, the Italian Party and of course closing night - all at La Plage which were very big events separating the whose-who from the who? (for those who have read my past ASIFA articles you know how much I hate this – but at least I am lucky enough to be a “whose-who”!!! Invitations were still needed, but security was definitely not as intense as in years past – no police dogs and handlers were in sight at the gate. We had a couple of really balmy nights ( at Annecy you never can be sure of the weather ranging from rainy to down right cold or boiling hot – this year we had near perfect evenings and the La Playa parties were especially nice since we could sit out by the lake watching the lights play on the water in what is indeed a lovely town . – complete with swans on the lake.
Once again this year the Stuttgart International Festival of Animation threw the most outstanding party as far as I am concerned. After a lovely half-hour bus ride down the lakeside a small group was treated to a lovely meal with leisurely lawn chair and grass seating at lakeside. It is so lovely to spend a few hours away from the constant rush, rush of the festival and to have a chance to catch up with European friends that you haven’t seen in a while over copious amounts of good French wine (red of course!!!)
The Swiss Animated Film Groups and Consulate General held a party at an Art Gallery, a nice 10 minute walk out of the center of town with quite lovely food and drink centered on the theme of ravioli to celebrate the Claude Barras animation, THE GEINI IN THE RAVOILI CAN. Another good opportunity to talk to friends in a small outdoor environment.
As in years past the Dutch hosted their Geniver party – low on food but very high on good cheer after everyone had a few rounds of the potent alcoholic drinks. That party is always a mob scene with what seems like the entire Festival packed into a small courtyard but it is definitely not to be missed.
The Dreamworks picnic hosted by Shelly Page, European representative for Dreamworks and one of the three members of the Feature Films Selection Committee this year, is always a relaxed event where you have the luxury of having long conversations while sitting on the grass with food and wine. It is always one of my favorite afternoons at Annecy.
For the second year in a row Bill Plympton and Pat Smith presented ANNECY PLUS this year with the added sponsorship of Cartoon Network and the Platform Film Festival (new Portland, Oregon festival that I have written about). The outdoor courtyard of the Belle Excuse Café was totally packed, Bill, Signe Baumane, and Pat programmed a wonderful array of films that you would not see in the competition screenings and Nik and “The Annecy Sprocket Ensemble ( Rolf Bachler from Switzerland and Denmarks’s Jeesper Feng) provided wonderful intermission music. The audience had a wonderful time and lingered long after the films were finished.
Of special interest in ASIFA/SF members is that Arnie Wong had a booth at MIFA (the business end of Annecy which is located at the swank Inperial Palace Hotel) to showcase his new project LOVE AND SAX . With his classic Hawaiian shirts, pineapples, and leis adorning his booth, Arnie was definitely ready to do business. In true Arnie form he also brought in a very special guest and secret weapon – his good friend Jean Moebius Giraud, a French National Hero (TRON, among other marvels) to appear at a book signing party at the Annecy Library and at Arnie’s MIFA booth for a cocktail party. Nik played music (sax, of course) for both of these very successful events. Mobius also did a book page signing in the main theatre lobby of the Festival where you can buy DVD’s, flip books, books, etc.. He and his lovely wife Isabelle Giraud were a pleasure to get to know and he was gracious enough to inscribe two book pages specially to Nik and I.
As always, Serge Bromberg added great insights to the screening with his dialogues with the animators at the Director’s Chats and even after being up late every night I made it a point to be at all but Saturday mornings 9:00 AM chat.
Saturday afternoon we hosted our traditional pot luck picnic and paddle boat race!!! Everyone from Animation legends to students bring food and drink and we all spend several hours eating and drinking by the lovely Lake Annecy with snow capped mountains in the back ground. After much good food and drink, well lubricated animators from all over the world take to the paddle boats to race out onto the lake and around the island – it doesn’t matter who comes in first (in fact this year we are not really sure who did) although Nik and I do provide fabulous prizes for the winners – the real fun is in the paddling!!! After all of the fabulous parties where hosts have spent thousands of Euros it is fun to have a very low budget party where the emphasis is just on fun and silliness. As an aside, Kirby and Molly were a big hit at the picnic although they wisely decided not to go out on the boat with Nik, Jillian Reinseth and I. Our musical pal Jeesper, who played at PLUS ANNECY, was sure that he would win with his secret weapon – a tour d’ France bicycle participant – but the best laid plans don’t always work out and they did not come in first!!! When there were complaints about Jeesper bringing in a professional peddler Nik and I decreed that “All’s fare in love and paddle boat races!!!”
After six very full days of animation and parties it was time for closing night (the complete list of winners are listed at the end of this article). The winners were rather predictable and in a very lean viewing year certainly no surprises. The walk around the lake to the closing night party at La Plage was a perfect time to reflect on what I had viewed this week. The last party is always a bitter sweet event but with so many of us heading off to Zagreb the next morning the partings are not so intense.
Far too early Sunday morning we met our friend, Rolf, at a café and where he joined our dog pack and the five of us set off on the drive to Zagreb (I am sure that he is still finding dog hair in his clothes) – first stop Zurich to drop all of our unneeded equipment (like the piano) at Rolf’s studio so we can all fit in the car and then onto the long drive across the top of Italy which looks very much like El Camino Real – acre after acre of concrete and big box stores – sorry to destroy anyone’s romantic images of Italy but the Southern part is lovely!!! TO BE CONTINUED AT ZAGREB!!!!
The Annecy Crystal – TRAGIC STORY WITH HAPPY ENDING – Regina Pessoa, France, Portugal
Jury Special Award - DREAMS AND DESIRES – FAMILY TIES – Joanna Quinn, Great Britain
“Jean-Luc Xiberras” Award For First Film – DELIVERY - Till Nowak, Germany
Special Distinction – RABBIT – Run Wrake, Great Britain
Audience Award – DREAMS AND DESIRES – FAMILY TIES – Joanna Quinn – Great Britain
The Crystal – RENAISSANCE – Christian Volckman – France, Great Britain, Luxemburg
TV AND COMMISSIONED FILMS:
The Crystal for Best TV Production – POCOYO “A LITTLE SOMETHING BETWEEN FRIENDS’ – David Cantolla and Guillermo Garcia – Great Britain, Spain
Special Prize for a TV series - ZOMBIE HOTEL “FIRST DAY’ – Luc Vinciguerra - France, Ireland
Award for best TV Special – LITTLE WANG AND THE DRAGON – Henri Heidsieck – France
Educational, Scientific or Industrial Award – THE BIRDS AND THE BEES – A SECRET YOU SHOULDN’T KEEP –Young Jin Kwak, Young Beom Kim – South Korea
Advertising or Promotional Film Award – DOCTORS WITHOUT BOARDERS “ HUMAN BALL –Andreas Hasle, Belgium
Award For Best Music Video – THOMAS FERSEN “HYACIENTHE” – Sebastien Cosset, Joann Star – France
Best Graduation Film – ASTRONAUTS – Matthew Walker – Great Britain
Special Jury Prize – WALKING IN THE RAINY DAT – Hyun-myung Choi – South Korea
Special Distinction – ABIGAIL – Tony Comley – Great Britian
Net Surfer’s Award – UNLUCKY IN LOVE – Bernard Derriman – Australia
JUNIOR JURY AWARDS
Short Film – ONE D – Michael Grimshaw – Canada
Graduation Film – EGO – Louis Blaise, Thomas Lagache, Bastien Roger – France
Unicef Award – BLACK ON WHITE – Andrey Tsvetkov – Bulgria
The Fipresci Award – DREAMS AND DESIRES – FAMILY TIES – Joanna Quinn – Great Britain
TPS Cineculte Award For Short Film – TRAGIC STORY WITH HAPPY ENDING – Regina Pessoa – Franceh