On the Outside, Looking In By Avédik Olohadjian

in 32nd Annecy International Animated Film Festival

by Avedik Olohadjian

There was animation everywhere — on the screens, of course, but also in the city, and especially in the large space of Bonlieu’s cultural centre. It’s rarely the case, at film festivals, that the opening and closing ceremonies generate as much interest as the films being screened.

Serge Bromberg, artistic director of the 32nd International Festival of Animation in Annecy, has succeeded in transforming the staid, protocol-heavy ceremonies into genuine festivity — an unbridled, merry and even educational show.

India was the privileged guest at this year’s festival, and of course the organizers did not miss the occasion to celebrate with decorations, traditional costumes and music at the closing ceremony. In a small irony, Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues — a very Occidentalized American feature, which nonetheless evokes the legends of India — won the Cristal prize for the best feature film.

The presence of not only Bill Plympton — who received the Feature Film Special Mention for his Idiots and Angels — but also Simpsons creator Matt Groening, who sat on the festival jury, demonstrated America’s predominant standing in the animation field. With numerous works in competition, the United Kingdom, France and Japan also had pride of place.

Our FIPRESCI jury bestowed the International Critics Award on the Croatian film She Who Measures (Ona Koja Mjeri), directed by Veljko Popovic, but another Croatian film, Simon Bgojevic Narath’s Morana, was selected by the short-film jury.

After viewing nine full-length films and 44 shorts in four programs, we can attest to the international nature of the festival — to the diversity of the work, and especially to the vitality of global animation.

However, quality was not always the watchword of this festival. Two or three films per program felt like student works; four or five titles in the selection of the short films deserved to be seen in theatres or on television. The prospects for the rest seemed less clear.

The main question of this festival, is obviously, what will become of all these films. Will they be distributed in numerous countries, bought by the biggest TV channels, or will this festival be their last stop before vanishing into obscurity?

On the other hand, there was no such concern for the features, some of which can compete alongside “conventional” films without difficulty — particularly Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir, presented as an opening-night preview fresh from the Official Competition in Cannes, which will certainly enjoy great success.

As with documentaries, animation is still obliged to rely on television broadcasts to reach a large audience. The cinemas are not accessible enough yet for this kind of film. There’s no doubt Annecy contributes to the popularization of animated cinema, but the press has also its role to play.