The Different Faces of Animation

in 60th Annecy International Animation Film Festival

by Naama Rak

It’s quite strange to serve as judge in an online festival. While watching the animated films chosen for Annecy 2020, I googled the city where the festival takes place in years without a global pandemic. The pictures were beautiful. A perfect place to fantasied about while stuck at home. But I tried not to pity myself for missing the chance to visit it (for now) and focus on the thing we’re all here for – the art of animation and the different ways animators use to express emotions and ideas.

Luckily, my jury got to focus on short films, which are more suited to be watched at home than feature films. The variety was amazing and even inspiring – so many types of techniques, designs, color palettes, experiences and references. A living proof of the power and potential of animation. I’d like to tell you about some of the films I enjoyed the most.

The one we chose as our winner is the Canadian film The Physics of Sorrow (Physique De La Ristesse, 2020) by Theodore Ushev. It was the most ambitious of the collection, both on an artistic level and in terms of screenplay. Visually, it’s just jaw-dropping, one of these works of art that look like it was impossible to make, yet still looks vivid and sucks you into its world. It is both expressive, smart, rich and minimalist. 

Another ambitious film was Flesh (Carne, 2019), a project that combines the talents of 5 animators from Brazil and Spain and director Camila Kater. Flesh chose an interesting way to discuss the connection between women and their bodies, with a special use of different animation techniques. Each part has a unique point of view, a new storyteller and a new way to tell the story visually. Some are disturbing and harsh, others more touching and even uplifting.  

Most of the films that I loved this year had female characters in the lead or a female experience in the center. Hot Flash (2019) by Thea Hollatz from Canada also tells a story of a woman’s relationship with her body, but it does so in a more plot-based way then Flesh. It’s a short and sweet tale about a meteorologist going through menopause, told in a sort of cynical way, but with much love for the main character.

Vier Nev’s A Mind Sang (A Mãe de Sangue, 2019) from Portugal is truly one of a kind – a poetic work of art where every shot can be seen in two ways. It has the appearance of an optical illusion and a beautiful yet unsettling mood. 

Murder in the Cathedral (2020), created by Matija Pisacic and Tvrtko Raspolic (from Croatia and Serbia) is a very strange piece, where a detective story meets a very silly type of humor and lots of nudity. Finally, there is Svetlana Razguliaeva’s Urban Goat (Gorodskaya Koza, 2020) from Russia, which tells the story of a young woman trying to start over in a small village. The characters are all cartoonish animals, but it’s not a family friendly picture. Both the funny, cutesy moments and the dark twists made me root for the young goat lady that the story follows.

One of the strangest in the bunch was Andrea Vinciguerra’s No, I Don’t Want to Dance! (2019), a short stop motion film from Italy. It shows a few little moments of people dealing with health issues or freak accidents, who make them look like they just started dancing out of nowhere. This is as dark as it sounds, and it’s somehow weirder when done with innocent looking little puppets. Anyone who only think of this technique as a way to entertain children would be surprised.

All of the above and others were interesting to see, but there was one movie that just made me really happy, from beginning to end. The Zillas Have a Picnic (Familie Zilla macht Picknick, 2019) by German director Christian Franz Schimidt is very short, colorful and lighthearted, but most of all – funny. The story is simple – a family of giant Godzilla-like monsters goes on a little trip in which they terrorize a city, fight another creature and becomes more united. The minute it was over I watched it again with my husband, and for that I thank the fact that the festival was online – it made it easier to go back to the movies I loved and share the experience with others.

Naama Rak
Edited by Yael Shuv