Women in Animation

in 39th Annecy International Animation Film Festival

by Nanna Frank Rasmussen

Where Are the Women?

The animation industry is largely male-driven even if women dominate art schools. Women make up only 20% of the creative work force in America. This is one of many peculiarities that Women In Animation (WIA) addressed at this year’s festival when the grassroots organization hosted a panel discussion and presentation.

But not only did the festival host panel discussions to focus on the bias in the animation world, the festival also dedicated a large part of the entire program to female animators and their incredible work. This is an invaluable signal to send to the film world. Women matter as artistic forces to be reckoned with. Even if we already knew that, it is important to keep emphasizing it until women are no longer regarded as telling stories that are particular and niche but are instead seen as able to tell universal stories. Or, as it was put at the WIA debate: “We need more women in mainstream filmmaking”.

Annecy this year was a good place to start. Not because the festival was overblown with big mainstream animation films from the big studios directed by women, on the contrary. But the festival presented a huge number of short films from female talent. Both established artists, like Canadian Janet Perlman (who had a section reserved for her wonderfully funny short films), and up-and-coming stars of the animation scene like Rosana Urbes, who won a FIPRESCI Special Mention for her sensitive, plastic and beautiful film “Guida”. Also, women like Melissa Johnson (“Love in the Time of March Madness”, co-directed with RobertinoZambrano) and HahanLetaïf (“A Slice of the Country”), as well as Izabela Plucinska (“Sexy Laundry”) and Chintis Lundgren (“Elu Herman H. Rottiga”) made quite an impression with their short films In Competition.

Women Only Juries

Annecy is truly a melting pot of talents with both experimental and classical narrative ambitions, and it is a place for not yet recognized talents to be discovered. This year the festival made history (HER story – to be correct) by comprising all the festival’s appointed juries by women only. This is the first time in the 55 years Annecy has been running that such a thing has happened. Two women and one man formed the FIPRESCI jury. Seeing all the creative, gifted women on stage for the closing ceremony made it clear that it is not female talent that is lacking – neither old nor young. The next step for WIA is to investigate why so few women are involved in the animation industry despite the fact that more than 50% of art students are women. Also, there lies ahead a challenge in creating content for and with girls. But the great interest taken at this year’s International Animation Film Festival of Annecy in highlighting the important issue is both helping the cause and emphasizing that now is the time for change. Not by laying a smokescreen as at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but by offering the women a radical position in the festival programme. If we are wondering where the women are in animation, this year we could find them in Annecy.

Edited by Tara Judah