THE FUTURE OF ANIMATION: ALEX SIQUEIRA
Thursday December 27th 2007, 2:00 pm
Filed under: Profiles

I like to bring promising young animators from all over the world to the attention of my readers. Alex Siqueira is definitely a young animator to watch. He is featured in the new book PURE ANIMATION: Steps to Creation with 57 Cutting Edge Animators by Spencer Drate and Judith Salavetz, with an introduction by J. J. Sedelmaier. This beautifully illustrated book spotlights the innovative, cutting-edge work of 57 established and emerging animators from around the world.


Alex Siqueira Savoring Dessert at his Favorite Restaurant in Espinho
Alex Siqueira Savoring Dessert at his Favorite Restaurant in Espinho

Nik and I first met Alex in 1991 in Porto, Portugal where we were attending a Normand Roger workshop. Whenever we are in Portugal, we try to get together with Alex and I have followed his career with a great deal of interest. His student film, Sopa Fria (Cold Soup) is still one of my favorite pieces of puppet animation.

This year at the Cinanima Animation Festival in Espinho, Portugal Alex and I spent a great deal of time together, usually over food and drink. When Alex asked if he could create an illustration for my blog I was delighted to accept. His very comic drawing of the ANNECY PLUS BAND (Nik, Rolf Bächler and Jesper Fleng) is in the style of a group of illustrations that he is working on for a group exhibit.

la folie du ensemble
la folie du ensemble


When I asked Alex if he would like to say something about his work, instead he sent me a lovely memory of our last night in Espinho when a group of festival guests from all over the world went out to dinner together. “It was a perfect dinner that I had with Nancy and the other 11 foreigner big fellers at the last night of the Cinanima Festival. People from Belgium, Japan, France, Russia, Ukraine… Was a truly mixing of culture and crazy minds (ehehe), that we only have the opportunity to meet in this genre of events.”

Alex at Table On The Last Night
Alex at Table On The Last Night

You can see for yourself why I am such a fan of Alex’s work by visiting his blog site: www.alexandresiqueira.blogspot.com



HAIRY PONIES and Friends by Sandra Jones and Jamie Badminton
Friday December 21st 2007, 5:08 am
Filed under: Profiles

The Perfect Gift for All Of Your Horse Loving Friends

When I met Jamie Badminton at the Annecy International Animation Festival several years ago, the first thing that he did was to pull out his sketch book and show me the characters that he had created for a book that he planned to write and illustrate. At Annecy the following year, I was surprised and delighted when he presented me with a copy of HAIRY PONIES and FRIENDS: A Day at the Races, the first of a proposed series of stories based on the adventures of a young pony named Star and his friends on Hazel House Farm.

Jamie Badminton
Jamie Badminton

HAIRY PONIES is a comedy-adventure book for both boys and girls with plenty of illustrations so that tiny tots and pre-schoolers will want their parents to read it to them over and over. I myself thoroughly enjoyed reading this book about the adventures of Star and his friends.As they developed the story, Jamie and his writing partner, Sandra Jones enlisted the editorial assistance of Paloma Mills, daughter of animators Joanna Quinn and Les Mills. Paloma is an avid equestrian and horse lover, and she gave the two authors knowledgeable feedback from the younger viewpoint.

HAIRY PONIES, published to much acclaim in the equestrian world, achieved the nearly impossible feat for a self published first book when the first printing sold out due to Jamie’s hard work promoting the book at horse shows.

star race.jpg
star race.jpg

HAIRY PONIES and Friends is an ideal last minute Christmas present and can be purchased through Amazon.co.uk. But - don’t forget that Christmas is not the only time for giving presents - and sometimes it’s nice to give a gift for no other reason than you think that the recipient will like it!

Visit the HAIRY PONIES web site to read the first two chapters of the book:http://www.hairyponies.co.uk

After enjoying chapters one and two, find out how the adventure ends by ordering HAIRY PONIES and Friends - A Day at The Races at:

Amazon.co.uk - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hairy-Ponies-Friends-Day-Races/dp/0955347009/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1196967212&sr=8-1



ANIMATION AND SUN AT THE ESPINHO 2007 INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ANIMATION
Tuesday December 18th 2007, 8:43 am
Filed under: Festivals

I am back home in Gent after my odyssey across Europe that took me to festivals in Espinho, Portugal; Bradford, England; Tallinn, Estonia and Rome, Italy. I was also lucky enough to visit major animation studios in Riga, Latvia and invited to give workshops in Riga, Rome, and Bournemouth, England. I flew back and forth across my home country Belgium four times before finally landing again in Brussels.

While my stalwart husband Nik worked away composing music in cold and sleety Gent, I spent 5 through 11 November in Espinho, Portugal. Espinho is a charming fishing town located on the Atlantic Ocean, with long sandy beaches and plenty of sun. As my good friend, Russian animator Leon Estrin once told me “Sometimes it happens, several days could give you years of memories”, and this festival has certainly given me that. Evenings spent with Leon, Jimmy Murakami, and Ginger Gibbons sitting at a beachfront café drinking and talking, or basking in the sun watching the from the little fisherman’s bar at the far end of the beach the sardine boats come in. These are memories that will never fade. One very late night as Leon was walking me back to my hotel, we happened upon the young festival staff members playing football on the beach, and their sheer joy and enthusiasm was contagious as we sat on the beach wall and watched the game. All of the festival guests took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy traditional three and four hour lunches and dinners of the exquisite Portuguese cuisine and to heartily drink the delicious and inexpensive red wine.

Leon Estrin and sardine boat
Leon Estrin and sardine boat

The festival offered a wide range of programs ranging from short, medium and feature length animated films in competition to retrospectives, special programs and morning screenings for primary and secondary school children. With the addition of three panorama screenings, I had a full week of viewing.The selection committee did their job well, and among competing films in the short and medium length categories, there were some exceptionally interesting pieces of animation. I first saw Lavatory Love Story by Russian director Konstantin Bronzit at KROK in September and this delightfully amusing story of two people who find love in a most unexpected place once again brought a smile to my face with its simple and whimsical charm. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Denmark’s Rune Christensen’s Down the Road is a dark thriller about a vicar who picks up a hitch hiker. What seems like a coincidental meeting evolves into a matter of life and death. I have seen this film several times and it always leaves me feeling very unsettled; I find myself thinking about it long after most other films have faded from memory. The style is simple, effective, and full of contrasts in black, white and shades of gray.I first met the Blackheart Gang - Ree Treweek, Markus Smit, and Jannes Hendrikz, a trio of young South African animators from Cape Town, South Africa, at Annecy last year. Their film The Tale of How caught my eye amongst the hundreds of films I viewed that week and so I was very glad to have another chance to see their visually lush and organic film. The Blackheart Gang’s tale of the dodos in 2D and 3D is a voyage through a surreal landscape that made me feel as though they had brought African painter Jesse Allen’s work to life.The White Wolf created in cut out animation by Pierre-Luc Gronjon of France also captured my attention at KROK. Starting out as a story of a child who befriends a huge white wolf, the plot takes an unexpected turn in the end, and just as every child growing up is forced to face reality, so too does the young boy have to accept the inevitability of life and death to survive in the real world.

Several films that I like a great deal, including Madame Tutli-Putli, George Schwizgebel’s beautiful Jue and The Pearce Sisters were also in competition but since I have already written about them at length I won’t repeat my praises for these exceptional films except to say that Jeu was awarded the prize for Best European Animation and the other two films tied for the festival’s Grand Prize.

In the medium length animation category (films from 15 to 50 minutes) renowned children’s’ animator Ginger Gibbons’ Toot and Puddle, I’ll be Home For Christmas is a film that will be a hit in any home where there are small children. Nik, Remi, our little West Highland Terrier, and I are going to watch on Christmas Eve at our home, our excuse being that Remi, the animation critic, will love the Westies in the film. Based on an admired children’s book by author and illustrator Holly Hobbie, the story follows two best friends as one goes off to Scotland but promises to be back home for Christmas Eve. Will he make it back in time? If you live in the UK, Nick Junior will screen Toot and Poodle on Christmas Day, as well as Ginger’s Angelina Sets Sail.

British animator Ginger Gibbons
British animator Ginger Gibbons

In the feature animation category, I have already written about the excellent Czech puppet film One Night in the City and I enjoyed watching the second time as much as I did the first Jan Balej’s fascinating glimpses into the lives of a group of people over the course of one night. Spain’s Miguelanxo Prado, who is best known as a comic book artist, directed De Profundis, an animated poem. Unfortunately, I found the film lacking in depth, suffering the fate of so many feature films, with not enough body to hold my interest for the one hour and fifteen minute length. On the other hand, the musical score by Spanish composer Nani Garcia was excellent, and it held my attention throughout the film.The screening of films in competition for Best Young Portuguese Director and the Antonio Gaio Prize gave me an excellent opportunity to view films that are not usually screened at other festivals, as did a special program of Galician and Portuguese Animation. Other special programs included The Open Art Studio in Japan; Hochschule in Luzerne, and Switzerland; and the Best of Norway. The always entertaining John Dilworth was in Espinho to introduce his retrospective and his lively question and answer session following his program definitely kept the audience wide awake with his mixture of off the wall humor and personal anecdotes about his films.A very special event was the ASIFA Workshops Group (AWG) Sound of Animation project presentation. In 2006-07, AWG launched a unique project involving 16 countries and over 200 children creating animation inspired by a 26 minute musical work by renowned Canadian composer Normand Roger. The music track was divided into 2 minute segments that were given to groups of young people who were asked to express their own ideas about Normand’s composition. The assembled finished work is delightful. It honors the inspiration and imagination of children from around the world.Cristina Lima and her excellent staff went out of their way to make sure that all of their guests were well taken care of. The apartment that the festival gave me was larger than my house in Gent, with a kitchen, large living room and bedroom and a balcony overlooking the ocean. Unlike at some bigger festivals, all guests are invited to participate in all events. The opening and closing night parties were a wonderful chance for all of us to meet over local food and excellent port wine (a local specialty) as were the group excursion and a reception at the Mayor’s Office featuring local delicacies of fresh sea food and some very delicious port.

Jimmy Murakami, Gary Schwartz from Detroit, Ginger Gibbons, Leon Estrin, Nancy and Diaa Malaeb from Lebanon
Jimmy Murakami, Gary Schwartz from Detroit, Ginger Gibbons, Leon Estrin, Nancy and Diaa Malaeb from Lebanon

After the opening party I headed out for a late night dinner with my dear friend Leon Estrin. The best part of these festivals, aside from seeing excellent animation, is the gathering of the experiences and memories that you share with your colleagues. Leon and I had just been together a couple months before at KROK, and as we strolled down the beach walk we pretended that we were back on the KROK boat and that it was moving, not us.A real surprise this year was an all day excursion to the mountains outside of Espinho that began with a visit with the mayor of Arouca followed by a stop at a slate quarry. At first most of us were not too thrilled at the idea of seeing a quarry, but it turned out to be an ancient fossil site and the exhibits of fossil embedded slate on display were quite astounding. Walking through the mountain of slate was a visual delight of colors and shapes on the exposed surfaces. We were taken to an old winery where we were served delicious appetizers of local fish and smoked meats and sausages followed by a lovely lunch at an old winery and of course all of this was accompanied by the wonderful local wines.

L-R John Dilworth, Vesna and Bordo Dovnikovic at the slate quarry
L-R John Dilworth, Vesna and Bordo Dovnikovic at the slate quarry

After lunch we had a chance to see the beautiful mountain terrain and waterfalls that make the municipality of Arouca one of the most beautiful parts of Portugal. Standing on the edge of a sheer cliff gazing at the distant mountain peaks was a breathtaking experience. Our trip ended by viewing another geological phenomenon, rocks that translate from the Portuguese as “Birth Deliverers” - granite stones with small nodules of biotite embedded in them. As a result of erosion, the small biotite stones pop out of the mother stone and this process is called giving birth. The small piece of granite that sits by my computer looks very pregnant and I am anxiously awaiting the “birth” of my tiny black stone!A great festival is made up of good film programs and a special mix of people, and Cinanima certainly lives up to my standards of a first class festival. I have so many happy memories from this year that visions of animation and friends will dance in my head until the 2008 Cinanima Festival!

List of Festival Winners

Grand Prize CINANIMA 2007 - Prize Caixa Geral de Depósitos (Two co-winners)

MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada

and

THE PEARCE SISTERS by Luis Cook, United Kingdom

Jury’s Special Prize – Prize - City of Espinho

LE LOUP BLANC by Pierre-Luc Granjon, France

Best Short Film - Class A (up to 15 minutes)

THE DRESS by Jelena Girlin and Mari-Liis Bassovskajá, Estonia

Honorable Mention

A SUNNY DAY by Gil Alkabetz, Germany

Best Medium Length Film - Class B (more than 15 minutes and up to 50 minutes)

DOWN THE ROAD by Rune Christensen, Denmark

Best Feature Film - Class C (more than 50 minutes)

LE TUEUR DE MONTMARTRE by Borislav Sajtinac, France

Best First Film or Graduation Film - Class D

FOOLISH GIRL by Zojya Kireeva, Russia

Best Series or Film for TV - Class E

TALES OF THE OLD PIANO - LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN by Vladimir Petkevich, Russia

Prize José Abel for Best European animation

JEU by Georges Schwizgebel, Switzerland / Canada

Grand Prize Tobis for the producer of the best Portuguese film

CÂNDIDO by José Pedro Cavalheiro, Portugal

Prize for the Best Original Soundtrack

THE TALE OF THE HOW by The Blackheart Gang, France

Audience Prize

SLEEPING BETTY by Claude Cloutier, Canada

Prize Alves Costa

MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada

Prize António Gaio

CÂNDIDO, José Pedro Cavalheiro, Portugal

Prize António Gaio (Honorable Mention)

CÃES MARINHEIROS by Joana Toste, Portugal

Prize for the Best Portuguese Young Director (up to 18 years old)

UM MUNDO MELHOR by Crianças das Oficinas da Anilupa, Portugal

Prize for the Best Portuguese Young Director (over 18 years old)

YULUNGA by Cristiano Mourato, Portugal

Prize RTP2 - Onda Curta (In no particular order)

THE PEARCE SISTERS by Luis Cook, United Kingdom

JEU by Georges Schwizgebel, Switzerland / Canada

MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada

THE NEXT MOVE by Laura Neuvonen, Finland

T.O.M. by Tom Brown and Daniel Gray United Kingdom

A SUNNY DAY by Gil Alkabetz, Germany

THE TALE OF THE HOW by The Blackheart Gang, France

OVER THE HILL by Peter Baynton, United Kingdom

Special Mentions:

CÂNDIDO by José Pedro Cavalheiro, Portugal

CÃES MARINHEIROS by Joana Toste, Portugal