Monday June 30th 2008, 4:32 am
Filed under: Personal, Films, Educational, Profiles
Comments Off

As I watched noted director and film critic Natalia Lukinyk’s touching moving documentary film Alexander Tatarsky, Or How To Embrace The Immense . . . I found it hard to believe that it has been almost a year since one of the biggest hearts in Russian animation stopped beating. Natalia’s touching celluloid portrait began as part of her new trilogy of films about creative Russian and Ukrainian artists in three different fields titled The Restless Talents. Sadly the film was completed as a labor of love after the untimely death of her close friend.

Alexander Tatarsky
Alexander Tatarsky

Natalia gives us a warm and insightful view into the early life that shaped a true artistic genius. Humorous moments of Alexander playing with his beloved toy collection which he said every grown-up child needed and pictures of him with his dogs and cats that played an important part in his life from early childhood show one side of this very complex man. Most beautiful of all are the pictures of him with his wife and of him holding his young son at home in Moscow.The great director and animator went on to found Pilot Studios, the first private animation studio in the new Russia, turning it into one of the world’s leading animation studios. Pilot is world renowned, winning awards at festivals the world over and mentoring several decades of animators and script writers that now work in all corners of the world. Speaking of his dear friend and colleague at Pilot, Valentin Telegin said “He took up a flag and led the troops.” This quote complete summarizes the great man’s life.

For those of us who had the privilege to know Sasha, Alexander Tatarsky, Or How To Embrace The Unembracable . . . brings back wonderful memories. Even though my Russian is limited to a few words I can recall afternoons on the KROK boat, sharing drinks and laughter with a man whose humor and delight of the world knew no boundaries geographically or linguistically. For those who were not lucky enough to encounter this amazing man or his films, Natalia’s documentary serves as a perfect introduction to his amazing world.

Saturday June 21st 2008, 10:15 am
Filed under: Festivals
Comments Off

My spring festival season got off to a great start in Stuttgart, Germany at the 15th INTERNATIONAL TRICKFILM FESTIVAL OF ANIMATED FILMS, May 1 through the 6th. For Nik and me the big event of the week was to finally get to see the entire 82 minutes of Nina Paley’s wonderful feature film SITA SINGS THE BLUES. Although Nik composed and performed the intermission music for the film we had only seen segments and we were very curious about how Nina would fit the pieces together. Her use of three Indian voices in an unscripted conversation about the Sita legend worked beautifully to connect the action sequences. The fact that the voices were disagreeing about how they believe the history of Sita and Rama should be told was a perfect counterpoint to the 1920’s Annette Hanshaw vocals that accent both Sita and Nina’s stories. SITA SINGS THE BLUES was screened in the festival theaters and also on the gigantic out door beer garden screen to an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds. Prior to the screening Nik played music from the film to set the mood.

Darcy Prendergast and Nik at the beer garden
Darcy Prendergast and Nik at the beer garden

Nik was kept busy giving a workshop on animation sound tracks and performing several times solo and with a pianist at Cafe Schlossblick, the offestival meeting point as well as in the beer garden.

Joanna Quinn sketching Nik at his concert
Joanna Quinn sketching Nik at his concert

The Trickfilm Festival has focused on Eastern European animation since its outset in 1982. Animation from the Baltic States is a special area of interest to me so I was pleased to find that Latvia was the focal country this year. Two good Latvian friends served on juries. My amazing friend Signe Baumane, who creates some of the most insightful work around, by talking frankly about sex from a woman’s standpoint, was on the student jury. It was great to get to hang out with her and share of couple of good gossip sessions since she now lives in New York City and we never get enough time together. Vladimir Lesciov, a talented, ironic animator who represents a new generation of Latvian artists sat on the International Competition jury. We found plenty of opportunities to hang out with mutual friends in the festival beer garden.

Nik and Signe Baumane
Nik and Signe Baumane

Vladimir Lesciov, Bruno Bendazzi and Dennis Tupicoff
Vladimir Lesciov, Bruno Bendazzi and Dennis Tupicoff

Although Latvian animators are not as well known as they should be, they use a richness of color and design to their art to extreme limits and explore new boundries. The festival screened two programs of Latvian short films and the 2006 feature THE THREE MUSKETEERS which is a Latvian, Danish, Scottish co-production. There was also a special program for children and Roze Stiebra’s fairy tale classic THE CAT’S MILL.

An entire program was devoted to the work of Arnold Burovs, the founder of Latvia’s animated cinema and even though there were some technical problems with the 35mm prints it was still a delight to see these gems some of which are over 40 years old. The tribute programs were rounded out by a screening of LITTLE BIRD’S DIARY, the first Latvian animated documentary film, completed in 2007. The film is based on the unique drawings from the diaries of 80 year old Latvian Irina Pilke, which she has created over a lifetime. I was privileged to visit with the producer, Bruno Ascuks, and see the diaries when I was last in Riga, the capital of Latvia. I have watched the copy of the film Bruno gave me many times and I’m still moved byby Ms. Pilke’s pictorial story of her life during WW II and the Soviet period of the 20th century.

Several years ago TRICKFILM FESTIVAL changed from a bi-annual to a yearly event, so 2008 marks the 15th fest over a 25 year span. This year along with the International Competition there were five other competition catagories: Young Animation screening the best of the student films; Tricks For Kids presenting sophisticated and entertaining new films for young people; Animovie for feature films; Animated TV Series Competition; and new this year Under Commission which included advertising, music video and TV ident.

The Third Animation Production Day was a meeting for industry professionals which brought 19 carefully selected feature length animated film project producers together with distributors, bankers and investors. For the second year in a row the German Animated Screen Award was given by the Evangelical Church of Germany for the best German language feature length screen play. The 5,000 Euro award went to John Chambers for DER LETZTE NEANDERTALER (THE LAST NEANDERTHAL MAN).

There were several programs devoted to Japanese Anime and especially the work of Osamu Tezuka who invented what is now the world famous style of drawing characters with huge round eyes which has become characteristic of the genre. The documentary KINGS OF TIME paid homage to the 50th anniversary of the renowned Estonian animation studio Nukufilm. I wrote extensively about the studio and their anniversary party in my article about the Black Nights Film Festival.

Latvian animation historian Uldis Makulis and Latvian director Roze Stiebra
Latvian animation historian Uldis Makulis and Latvian director Roze Stiebra

Noted Russian film critic and animation expert Natalia Lukynikh presented a lovely tribute to Alexander Tatarsky. The renowned and beloved head of Moscow’s Pilot Studio, the first Soviet independent animation studio, unexpectedly passed away last year. Along with Natalia’s moving documentary ALEXANDER TATARSKY, OR HOW TO EMBRACE THE UNEMBRACEABLE . . . Tatarsky’s own films were screened as well as works by his colleagues at Pilot.

The Crazy Horse Session consisted of five teams of two animators each of whom had 48 hours to create an animated film in front of festival guests who could visit the 3D computer area where they worked. Each team had to use the new festival mascot, Trixi, a multi-colored psychedelic horse. The new Trickfilm awards statue is also modeled on Trixi, who has her origin in Stuttgart’s city banner of a horse rampant.

As if all of this and more were not enough, for the first time the worldwide Online Bitfilm Festival kicked off it’s 2 month event at the Stuttgart Festival. Bitfilm which was founded in Hamburg nine years ago is dedicated to films that use digital technology in creative and innovative ways. Bitfilm showed highlights of its current competition at a festival cinema and all films can be watched on line and viewers may vote for films which vie for awards totaling 10,000 Euros donated by the City of Hamburg. To view and vote on the films go to before July 1.

There were so many special programs at Stuttgart that there was no way that I could see them all let alone write about it all. From excellent screenings to enjoying German beers with friends under the trees in the festival beer garden, the 15th Trickfilm Festival is an event not to be missed. Andrea Bauer, Programer and Guest Coordinator, and her excellent staff went out of their way to do everything possible to ensure that our festival visit was perfect. If you have a chance to attend Trickfilm Festival this is one festival not to miss. The 16th edition of the Trickfilm International Animation Festival will take place May 5 to 10, 2009. For more details visit the festival web site



Jury: Suzanne Buchan, London; Ron Diamond, Hollywood; Vladimir Lesciov, Riga; Joanna Quinn, United Kingdom; Fritz Steingrobe, Hamburg

GRAND PRIX (State of Baden-Wuerttemberg and city of Stuttgart Grand Award) 15,000 Euros


INTERNATIONAL PROMOTION AWARD (Best Student Film) 10,000 Euros

CAMERA OBSCURA – Matthieu Buchalski, Jean-Michel Buchalski, Jean-Michel Drechsler, Thierry Onillon – France

SPECIAL AWARD: MUSIC FOR ANIMATION (Sponsored by the GEMA Foundation) 5,000



Jury: Signe Baumane, New York/Riga; Hanna Nordholt, Hamburg; Theodore Ushev, Montreal

BEST STUDENT FILM (Sponsored by the Landesanstait fur Kommunikation Baden-Wurttemberg) 2,500 Euros

1977 – Peque Varela – Great Britian


Junior Jury: Marthe Eilenstein, 13 years of age; Fabian Helde, 13 years of age; Francis Mayer, 10 years of age; Martin Moch, 13 years of age; Lucie Schultz, 11 years of age; Zara Willmann, 11 years of age

BEST CHILDREN’S FILM 9Sponsored by NICK) 4,000 Euros

THE CURSE OF THE SKULL ROCK – Ben Smith – Great Britian


Jury: Michael Coldewey, Munich; Iain Harvey, London; Michel Ocelot, Paris


FREE JIMMY – Christopher Nielsen – Norway


Jury: Paco Rodriguez, Barcelona; Sunita Sttruck, Hamburg; Priit Tender, Tallin

BEST ANIMATED TV SERIES (sponsored by EM Entertainment) – 2,500 Euros

HAIRY SCARY: NO.33 – Wolf-Rudiger Bloss – France/Germany


BEST COMMISSIONED WORK – (Sponsored by Mackevision) – All inclusive trip to Siggraph, Los Angeles)

SONY BRAVIA: PLAY DOH – Darren Walsh, Frank Budgen – Great Britian


BEST GERMAN LANGUAGE SCREENPLAY FOR A FEATURE LENGTH ANIMATED FILM (Sponsored by the Evanglical Church in Germany) – 5,000 Euros



Energie (Energy) – Thorsten Fleich – Germany


MILK TEETH – Tibor Banoczki – Great Britian


Dionysos – Jorg Weidner, Anke Spath - Germany

Exciting Annecy Headline!!!
Monday June 16th 2008, 12:56 am
Filed under: Festivals
Comments Off

Nik and I have just returned from the Annecy International Animation Festival where the Cristal for the Best Feature Film was won by Nina Paley for SITA SINGS THE BLUES. Nik and I are so thrilled for Nina who put five years of work into making this remarkable film all by herself, and we are so glad that she will be able to have a social life again!

from Sita Sings the Blues
from Sita Sings the Blues

We are doubly excited about the win because Nik wrote and played the intermission music for the film.
We are also very pleased that Bill Plympton is back in the spotlight again with his Special Distinction Award for his excellent new feature film IDIOTS & ANGELS.
The feature film jury made up of Matt Groening, Ram Mohan and Barry Purves had the highest accolades for both of these wonderful films.
I will post my long article about Annecy soon.

Friday June 06th 2008, 6:34 am
Filed under: Festivals
Comments Off

ASIFA Croatia hosted a lovely brunch for the ASIFA members at the festival. Buba (former head of ANIMAFEST ZAGREB and Vice President of ASIFA Croatia) and Vesna Dovnikovic (Secretary of ASIFA International) brought tasty and powerful traditional Croatian liquors which truly added to the festive air of the party. A good time was had by everyone.

The big event of the day was the awards ceremony and I believe that the juries did an excellent job, so without further ado the winners are . . .


Jury: Joanna Quinn (Great Britain), Moustapha Alassane (Niger), Caroline Leaf (USA/Canada/Great Britain), Igor Kovaljov (Russia/USA) and Danijel Suljic (Croatia)

GRAND PRIZE (best short film in the festival) - festival statue, cash award of 2.500 Euros, and honorary presidency at the next festival

THE PEARCE SISTERS - Luis Cook, Great Britain
“For its original and unique graphics and direction which pulls us into the bleak world of two misfit characters.”

GOLDEN ZAGREB PRIZE - festival statue and cash award of 2.000 Euros

THE RUNT - Andreas Hykade, Germany

“The jury has given the Golden Zagreb to the film we consider the second film of the festival for it’s strong, simple, clear design and direction which delivers a powerful and shocking message.

ZLATKO GRGIC PRIZE (best first production apart from educational institutions)- Festival statue and cash award of 1.500 Euros


“For its anarchic stream of consciousness to pursue her stream of vision”


KJFG NO.5 - Aleksei Alekseev, Hungary

“For it’s excellent humor”

FORECAST - Adriaan Lokman, The Netherlands

“For best non-narrative film”

MADAM TUTLI-PUTLI - Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada


SONY BRAVIA:PLAY-DOH - Frank Budgen and Darren Walsh, Great Britian

“To a visually surprising commercial”

THE BELOVED ONES - Samantha Moore, Great Britain/Uganda

“For it’s message, told in a personal, accessible way”

SHE WHO MEASURES - Veljko Popovic, Croatia

“For using 3D animation in an organic and handcrafted way”


JURY: Regina Pessoa (Portugal), Helena Klakocar Vuksic (The Netherlands/Croatia), Saeed Tavakolian (Iran), Erik van Drunen (The Netherlands), Nedzad Begovic (Bosnia Herzegovina)

“We traveled through an artistic universe in 78 films. We enjoyed the quality and diversity and we are confident about the future of the medium”

DUSAN VUKOTIC PRIZE (Best Student Film) - a Dusan Vukotic Medal and 1.000 Euros

THE IRRESISTIBLE SMILE - Ami Lindholm, Finland

“For it’s charming and effective humor and simplicity of design. The pleasure and fressness of the animation with touching dramatic details leaves no spectator indifferent”


BETON - Ariel Belinco, Michael Faust, Israel/The Netherlands

“For the artist’s engagement clearly executed, beautifully designed and animated. The film has a strong voice”.

CAMERA OBSCURA - Matthieu Buchalski, Jean-Michel Drechsler and Thierry Onillion, France

“For its fresh, outstanding and innovative approach of the medium. It brought the members of the jury in an imaginative world where anything is possible”.

CAN YOU GO THROUGH? - Banj Ju-Young, Republic of Korea

“For a strange but intimately intriguing universe, elegantly designed”,


Children’s Jury: Patrik Horvat, Paloma Quinn Mills, Anja Sever, Anna Sagadin, and Andela Zapcic


MY HAPPY END - Milen Vitanov, Germany

“It was a hard choice, because there were so many great movies and in the end we had to choose only one. After a lot of hard thinking we came to the decision to give the main prize to the movie which had the most origional story, smooth and unusual animation - which all fitted the profile we were looking for.”


ANIMATOU - Claude Luyet, Gerorges Schwizgebel, Dominique Delachaux-Lambert, Claude Barras and Remero Andreani , Switzerland

OKTAPODI - Julien Bocabeille, Francois Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Emund Mokhber and Quetin Marmier, France

KJFG NO. 5 - Alexey Alekseev, Hungary


KJFG NO. 5 - Aleksei Alekseev - Hungary

BEST FILM - at the discretion of the animation and new media student jury:

SKHIZEIN - Jeremy Clapin, France




AKADEMIA SZTUK PIEKNYCH w KRAKOWIE - Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, Poland

Thursday June 05th 2008, 6:13 am
Filed under: Festivals
Comments Off

The ANIMAFEST staff planned a trip to the country with a picnic for festival guests, but sadly it had to be canceled due to rain. Instead that hosted a lovely and delicious lunch for us all at a near by restaurant. It would have been a great treat to take a drive in the country - but since the rain came down in buckets it was very wise of them to change plans.

Renowned Croatian film maker Bardo Dovnikovic at the filmmakers' lunch
Renowned Croatian film maker Bardo Dovnikovic at the filmmakers’ lunch

Wednesday highlights included a retrospective of Joanna Quinn’s wonderful work and World Classics selected by Clare Kitson which included such great films as What’s Opera Doc? and Raoul Servais’ Harpya. For those who heard her speak the day before about Yuri Norstein and his wonderful film Tale of Tales, but hadn’t had the opportunity to see the film, she included it in her program.
I often feel that student competitions have stronger programs than the Grand Competition and this certain proved true on day 5. Doxology by Michael Langan from San Francisco brought back a flood of memories when I saw a scene shot on the cliffs above Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Nik and I used to walk our dogs in that exact spot every day.

Filmmakers' drawings at the Cinema Central, where the student competitions are screened
Filmmakers’ drawings at the Cinema Central, where the student competitions are screened
Dennis Tupicoff and Nancy
Dennis Tupicoff and Nancy

By and large I have felt that the Grand Competitions have been very weak. I don’t know if this is due to the fact that not enough good films were submitted or that the selection committee had very strange taste. Of course there have been some very excellent films screened, such as George Schwizgebel’s beautiful painted on cell animation Jeu and Luis Cook’s The Pearce Sisters, but I have seen both of these films many times and found very little that was new and exciting.
The evening ended with a round or two of drinks and dancing at a local bar. Tomorrow all will be revealed when the competition winners are announced.

Wednesday June 04th 2008, 8:15 am
Filed under: Festivals
Comments Off

Yesterday the rain came down but it didn’t dampen the spirits at ANIMAFEST ZAGREB. The two highlights of the day for me were Clare Kitson’s talk and the final presentation of the Priit Parn retrospective.
It was fascinating to hear Clare tell about the time she spent in Russia talking with Yuri Norstein for her award winning book YURI NORSTEIN AND TALE OF TALES. The book not only looks at a film that is considered to be one of the greatest animations ever made but also delves deeply into the personal references that Norstein infused into the film.To further her understand of the depth of Eastern block animation she learned Russian which enabled her to talk to Norstein without the aid of an interpreter. As curator of the British National Film Theatre, Clare opened the eyes and mind of British audiences to animation from around the world, especially Russian and Eastern European works that had been unknown until to western Europe.

Clare Kitson at opening night
Clare Kitson at opening night

At the final installment of Priit Parn’s retrospective tribute I once again saw films of his that I love such as KARL AND MARILYN and NIGHTS OF THE CARROTS. We also got to view several commercials that he made. His wife, Olga Marchenko joined him on stage to talk about their first collaboration the 2007 I Feel a Lifelong Bullet in the Back of my Head, part of the Estonian poet/animation project. They went on to discuss their new film Life Without Gabriella Ferri which they are going back to Estonia to finish editing.
As a special surprise we were treated to Raphaell Gianelli Meriano’s new short documentary Night Without the Pope, which shows Priit and Olga at home on the occasion of his 60th birthday. You get a private glimpse into how these two creative people work as they draw together on a glass window of their house overlooking the Baltic Sea and sing together.

Pritt and Olga
Pritt and Olga

Tuesday June 03rd 2008, 5:05 am
Filed under: Festivals
Comments Off

I started out my viewing day at the Anima Docs program which was by and large a very strong session. Even though I have seen John Canemaker’s beautifully animated The Moon and the Son many times it never fails to move me. Dennis Tupicoff’s gut wrenching film His Mother’s Voice moved the entire audience. This Australian film uses the voice over of a mother whose son was shot, and Dennis told me that he had originally heard her talking in a radio interview which had such an emotional impact on him that he had to animate her story.
Other highlights of the day included a panel discussion on The Animated Documentary: Fiction or Reality with Erik van Drunen of the Netherlands, Australian Dennis Tupicoff and Alex Chan of France, a discussion with Priit Parn and part 2 of Women in Animation, with films selected by Joanna Quinn.
The viewing evening ended with two more sessions of the Grand Competition at the outdoor theater. I am sorry that the first viewing of the competition films is outside since the audience treats it as though they were at a drive in movie getting up in the middle of films to buy beer, and even talking during the screening. I felt very sorry for the animators whose films were shown during the second screening of the evening. It did not begin until after 11 PM and most people had already left, but as I told one animator, at least those of us who were still there really wanted to see the films. Both programs will be screened again this evening at the main screening room but several of the film makers had to leave this morning, so they will miss the chance to be introduced there. United States animator Eric Dyer’s COPENHAGEN CYCLES with music by my husband Nik was a pleasure to see on the big screen.
Monday night in Zagreb is very dead and even we super sleuths of late night bars couldn’t find one. Since two of my friends were leaving early the next morning we remedied the situation by buying a large quantity of beer and going back to a hotel room to throw a going away party.
The brunch honoring John Libbey gave us all a chance to look at a selection of the books on animation that he publishes and to see more new friends. Since the festival invites guests who have film screening for only four days people keep leaving to be replaced with new arrivals.
More tomorrow . . .

Publisher John Libbey
Publisher John Libbey

Restoran Dvorishche, Animafest Zagreb artistic director
Restoran Dvorishche, Animafest Zagreb artistic director

Monday June 02nd 2008, 6:34 am
Filed under: Festivals
Comments Off

The second day at Anima Fest Zagreb was packed full of special events to go along with the numerous screenings. The festival hosted a lovely lunch for the guests at the Restaurant Dvorisce. Since there is really no central meeting place at the festival this year it was the perfect opportunity to catch up with old friends over a leisurely meal and good wine.

Following the lunch many of us took the funicular up to the old town for the opening of Portuguese filmmaker Regina Pessoa’s exhibition of original studies and designs for her film Tragic Story With a Happy Ending. The exhibit was beautifully presented, showing the various steps that she went through to create her award winning film. The setting in the Campana Latrunculorum (The Bell of Theives) was equally charming. The 13th century tower is located at the site of the old city wall and the bell was rung every night to signal the closing of the city gates.

Regina Pessoa and Abi Feijo at the opening of the exhibition
Regina Pessoa and Abi Feijo at the opening of the exhibition

There was a special evening screening of the Lotte Reiniger silent classic The Adventures of Prince Achmed with live piano accompaniment. Three screening sessions will be devoted to African animation and five screening sessions of Anima Docs, the hybrid form mixing animation and documentary. The first two parts of the International Competition were also screened. Just in case my readers don’t think that I am having any fun, I was out with a group of young animators from all over the world at a bar that stayed open until 5 AM for us. More tomorrow.

late night in Zagreb with an international group of young animators
late night in Zagreb with an international group of young animators

This week at Zagreb Animafest 2008
Sunday June 01st 2008, 6:33 am
Filed under: Festivals
Comments Off

I arrived in Zagreb, Croatia for ANIMAFEST ZAGREB 2008 (May 31 to June 5) early on the morning of the 31st after a 22 hour train ride from Gent. Luckily this ride proved to be much less eventful than my trip to Russia two years ago, and the ride went smoothly.
Since there is a totally new administration running the festival this year, many people had been curious about how it will run and what it will be like. There are many big changes this year. Instead of the festival being in one central location with two screening rooms, ANIMA FEST is now located in the center of town with four separate theaters and two exhibition spaces. There is good and bad to everything - I never spent much time in the center of the city in previous years since we were all in the large theater complex out a bit from the center, but since we are all scattered all over there is no real central bar or place to meet. I will reserve my judgments about the changes until nearer the end of the festival.
The opening night ceremony was held at GLIPTOTEKA, a lovely open air cinema in the Old Town area of Zagreb. The films screened were a cross-section of films that arrived too late to be juried into competition but that Artistic Director Kreshimir and the ANIMAFEST team deemed worthy of audience viewing. It is a shame that such wonderful films as Koji Yamamura’s Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor and Michaela Pavlatova’s Carnival of Animals could not be in competition, but it was nice to see them on the big screen.
The highlight of the evening was the awarding of the ZAGREB ANIMAFEST LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD to Priit Parn. There will be three screenings of Priit’s impressive body of work as well as a screening of Parnography, Hardi Volmer’s brilliant 2005 documentary about Priit and his work.

Priit Parn and wife Olga Marchenko with the Animafest Lifetime Achievement Award that he received at the opening night ceremony
Priit Parn and wife Olga Marchenko with the Animafest Lifetime Achievement Award that he received at the opening night ceremony

Hor d’oeuvres and drinks were served following the screening and then we all adjourned to the bar at Cinema Europa for dancing and good conversation.

I am off to meet Joanna Quinn for a drink - so I will post more tomorrow.

Theodore Ushev, Buba (former head of Animafest Zagreb), Paloma Quinn Mills and Joanna Quinn at the opening night party.
Theodore Ushev, Buba (former head of Animafest Zagreb), Paloma Quinn Mills and Joanna Quinn at the opening night party.