Canadian Animation at Its Best

in 37th Annecy International Animated Film Festival

by Katharina Dockhorn

Canadian directors and animators are the winners of the Festival International du Film D’Animation, held in Annecy from 10–15 June 2013. The FIPRESCI jury awarded Gloria Victoria by Theodore Ushevas best film of the short films in competition. The main jury gave their Crystal Prize to Subconscious Password by Chris Landreth, one of Canada’s most celebrated directors, who created his very own style, called psycho-realism. In 2004 he won an Oscar for Ryan.

Inspired by the quiz shows that are so popular all over the world, Landreth shows the misadventures of a gentle man called Charles, who can no longer remember names. He has a dream of being imprisoned in a TV show with a whole range of animated celebrity guests who try again and again to prompt him to remember their names — but names completely escape him.

Landreth and the entire Canadian animation landscape benefit of tax incentives: up to 40 per cent of the budget is provided by the government and regional funds. With this support, the artists are able to make amazing feature films for children, such as The Legend of Sarila, a 3D-movie about the adventures of three young Inuit searching for the green land of Sarilato to save their clan from famine.

But independent filmmakers also benefit from the system. A lot of talented artists have come to Canada to work. One of them is the highly acclaimed Bulgarian Theodore Ushev. After studying at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia, Ushev moved to Montreal. He works in new broadcast media, including live multimedia, advertising and book illustrations. He had three short films in Annecy: Joda, shown in the “Resistances” program about local history; his poetic Bulgarian short Kokarashky & the rain dogs ‘Demoni’ was shown in the special program “Commissioned Films” and last but not least, his masterpiece Gloria Victoria screened in competition.

Ushev uses for his film the most popular part of Schostakowich’s Seventh Symphony (Leningrad): the invasion theme, written in 1942 to make a strong statement against war and ideological intolerance. Therefore he combines signs of Soviet times with the most popular art works of the 20th century into an impressive, intellectual collage. He recycles impressionism, cubism and surrealism, reflects the style of German artists such as Käthe Kollwitz and Ernst Barlach, and plays with Picasso’s famous painting La Guernica to imagine the horror of battle and massacres.

Gloria Victoria is also a brilliant film about the relationship between art, politics and society. Shostakovich’s symphony was originally written to inspire the people of Leningrad as they were surrounded by the German Army for 900 days during the Siege in World War II. Later, the music was often used to glorify the soldiers and inhabitants who persevered in Leningrad. But the people in Ushev’s film are not heroes. They bet for peace and freedom.

Edited by Birgit Beumers