An Overview of the Best Short and Long Films in Annecy 2020
Annecy 2020 was my first online festival. The different experience was somewhat inconvenient (mostly, the absence of reactions from the public) but also had some advantages: mainly, the possibility to watch a film several times if you want to, and the assurance of being able to see the winning films as they were online 7 days after the Palmares.
This year, as every year, my curiosity was drawn to the shorts, with their inventiveness and their variety, and I was not disappointed – so many were very good. My favorite, The Physics of Sorrow (Physique de la tristesse, 2019) by Theodore Ushev from Canada, won both the FIPRESCI prize and the Cristal d’Annecy. In my view, it is the achievement of a sensitive artist with a strong personality, faithful to his commitment, and very aware of the pains of the world. The film is hand-painted with a very original technique, and we all can’t wait for Ushev’s first feature film.
I also very much liked Empty places (2020) by Geoffroy de Crecy from France. As the title says, we see a world deserted by humans, where machines, automatic doors, elevators, merry-go-rounds and conveyor-belts in airports keep turning and turning… for nobody, because nobody is here, as if a disaster has happened.
The theme of the mask was very present, for example in The Town (2020) by Yifan Bao from China. It is a political reflection showing a world where everybody is forced to wear a mask and individuality is condemned. Many more masks were to be found in Patrick Smith and Kaori Ishida’s Beyond Noh (2020) from the USA – a four-minute film composed of images of 3,745 masks from different cultures (including a very quick glimpse of Donald Trump’s face).
I regret that the jury neglected Machini (2019) by Frank Mukunday and Tresor Tchibangu (Congo and Belgium). It shows a part of Africa, plundered of its cobalt and lithium by rich countries. We see African people living in slums, and big factories polluting rivers. The technique is very original: everything is made from little stones and pebbles.
There was also humor to be found: No, I Don’t Want to Dance! (2019) by Andrea Vinciguerra (Italy) is a very funny film about puppets suddenly having a big health problem, but everybody around them thinks they are dancing. Also Rebooted (2019) by Michael Shanks (USA) shows a monster (an obvious homage to Ray Harryhausen’s Creatures) begging for a role in a new movie, but discovering that new techniques (3D and performance capture) render him redundant.
We can see that black and white is not dead and lends some films incredible beauty: The Shoreline (Rivages, 2020) by Sophie Racine (France) is made from wonderful animated engravings. It speaks about nature, impressionism, and melancholy, with splendid changes in lighting.
Homeless Home (2020) by Alberto Vázquez (France/Spane) won a Jury Prize. Despite the rather obscure scenario, its images of bright undergrowths with the range of different greys are superb. The color red appears little by little to express the violence of each combat between the demons and the witches.
Annecy is also the place for experimental films: Freeze Frame (2019) by Soetkin Verstegen (Belgium) is a variation on Muybridge’s pictures with frozen materials (animals sculpted in ice suddenly melting).
Four feature films were without a doubt the best – they all won the festival’s top awards. Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary (Calamity, une enfance de Martha Jane Cannary, 2019) by Rémi Chayé (France/Denmark) that won the Cristal du long métrage brought to the screen the childhood of the most famous woman in the Far West in a wonderful book of colourful images full of life and action.
Jury prize winner The Nose or Conspiracy of Mavericks (2020) by Russian Andrey Khrzhanovsky (known for his 1994 masterpiece Lion à la barbe blanche) reconstitutes an exhibition of the opera by Shostakovich based on Gogol’s The Nose. It follows the main events of Russian history from the XIXth century to Stalinism. Fascinating and very exciting!
It took many years for Marius Wilczynski to achieve Kill It and Leave This Town (2020) that won the Jury merit. He paints his life as a sordid nightmare, extremely depressing, but very personal and so close to Poland’s soul with its particular graphics.
But the sweetest voice we heard in Annecy is in My Favourite War (2020, Norway) that won the Prix Contrechamp 2020. Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen tells about the birth of her desire for liberty during her adolescence in a Soviet country under a Soviet Union administration, that gained freedom only in the nineties. A very personal documentary, peaceful, and full of hope and emotion.
By Bernard Génin
© FIPRESCI 2020
Edited by Yael Shuv