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

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 www.bitfilm.com/festival 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 http://itfs.de/



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

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