Annecy Festival Strikes Again

in 61st Annecy International Animation Film Festival

by Simone Soranna

The most important animation festival in the world returned in a hybrid form in 2021. All the feature films and shorts presented in this most recent edition were, as usual, very good and powerful. This year, maybe because of the global COVID pandemic, most of them were dark and scary.

Finally, after one year without cinema screenings, Annecy was ready to celebrate its 60th anniversary, and the festival did not disappoint. The hybrid formula was a good way to see a lot of films, on the one hand, watching them online and, at the same time, having the opportunity to join the festival in person, to reconnect with professionals and enjoy some movies on the big screen. And after one week of very interesting screenings, it can be said that Annecy has yet again achieved its mission to identify and celebrate new tendencies in an animated cinema that is constantly evolving.

In particular, it seems that the most colourful animation is set out to tell dark stories. This is nothing new, but maybe during this particular year, the lockdown has accelerated that process. We watched a lot of films about the end of life, such as Peel (Écorce, 2020) by Samuel Patthey and Silvain Monney, which is set in a retirement home for old people, or about the most difficult thing we faced during this past year: living together. In this regard, Plans for Love (L’Amour en plan, 2021) by Claire Sichez was probably the most powerful work on offer.

Annecy also presented a range of experimental short films that used animation to create something strange and very far from our life in order to surprise the audience. It is impossible not to mention Concatenation (2021) by Donato Sansone, a great work of editing, or the stop motion O by Paul Wenninger, in which a man is standing in the centre of a room that is turnimg very fast around him.

However, even if Annecy is an animation festival, this does not mean that animated films are always funny or child proof. In fact, as mentioned above, a lot of films told rather dark stories (sometimes even venturing into horror), and a large number of them could be seen as a metaphor for some of our most common fears as humans. This is, for example, the case in People in Motion (2021) by Christoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein but could also be seen in the scary short Beast (Bestia, 2021) by Hugo Covarrubias or Juan José Medina’s Tio (2021). All three are very dark films that use horror elements and create a mood intended to make the audience feel uncomfortable. The first one tells a story about avidity and is shot in a dramatic stop motion. The second one is inspired by an unbelievable news item. Tio, instead, is a metaphor for a terrible historical hurt set in Mexico.

In conclusion, Annecy returned this year with a very interesting program that did not miss to offer every single different style of animation: from digital 3D to stop motion – such as the FIPRESCI winner, The Shaman’s Apprentice (Angakuksajaujuq, 2021) by Zacharias Kunuk – via traditional 2D and other experimental forms and formats that were based on editing or collage. Children and adults around the world would have been very happy to join the festival and watch these amazing movies. It was an excellent restart after the lockdown imposed by the pandemic last year. Now, we can’t wait to take part again in the next edition in 2022.

Simone Soranna
Edited by Pamela Jahn