The Winner, The Donkey and Other Great Masterpieces

in 36th Annecy International Animated Film Festival

by Bozidar Zecevic

Edmond Was a DonkeyThe Tram, a film by Michaela Pavlatova (France) is a brilliant piece of animation and I firmly stand by our jury decision but I have to admit it wasn’t my best bet. Many of the awards were given as a result of compromise and the same stands for our case: in fact, The Tram was the only film in the program that we had unanimously agreed on; the result being the Fipresci Prize.        

From my point of view there were more meaningful and cinematically valuable films. For instance, the film that two members of our Jury had been proposing during discussion: Edmond Was a Donkey by Franck Dion (France-Canada), a study of God’s creature being discriminated and humiliated by “others”, a position of any minority in modern society. It is about the lost individual in our indifferent and often cruel society. From the cinematic point of view, Edmond is a little masterpiece of form, a completed (“pregnant”) Gestalt, or a particular film structure that nothing can be added to or taken from. This film has an artistic authenticity and wholeness good enough to place it among the best ones in contemporary animation.          

Or The Aalterate by Christobal de Oliveira (France-Netherlands), a celebration of abundant, Baroque-like artistry, dominated by never-ending arabesque in oneiric time and space; an amazing piece of art. Or Oh Willy… by Emma de Swaef and Marc James Roels (Belgium-France-Netherlands), another masterpiece, a puppet animation unfamiliar to anything previously seen in this medium ever. It manages to transfer an authentic and painful observation on modern society together with a strong audiovisual seal. (The only “problem” with Willy is that the film won two major prizes recently — in Utrecht and Zagreb — which brought an advantage or a positive “disadvantage” to this outstanding achievement).      

Or Villa Antropoff by Vladimir Leschiov and Kaspar Jancis (Estonia-Latvia), an interesting social satire on contemporary European society made in a knowingly pictorial style by Leschiov. The film is “inhabited” by joyful stereotypes who act expectedly, and their totally unexpected counterpoint characters that disturb the desired “politically correct” model of social behavior. It is a metaphor on what eastern parts of the EU face nowdays; a humorous yet serious image of their reality.

Last but not least, the best film of the Festival from my point of view: Here and the Great Elsewhere by Michele Lemieux (Canada). In a way it is a grand homage to Alexander Alexeieff’s world of pinscreen animation but goes beyond it and opens new vistas. Lemieux is an author of distinguished style based on the geography of reversed prospective that may appear in a dream, in a unique world “lost in a reverie” where man “reels with sudden, piercing awareness of his own state of being”. This “eternal quest for meaning” leads her towards the upper room of sacred Orthodox icon, the essence of Alexeieff’s world, where she reveals the visible within the invisible in a profound reflexion of the mind. This film is among those achievements that request time in order to be fully conceived and analyzed. Nevertheless, it was breathtaking on first glance and left us silent; our eyes wide open.  

Edited by Steven Yates