Programme Caroline Sury
This is a hypnotic, wild selection. To see the 3D film by Dave 2000, one has to put on glasses with red and blue lenses. These refined images of toxic beauty reveal themselves in all their obscenity; a nice opening by this Marseille-based member of the Le Dernier Cri artist collective. We continue with the Bruce Bickford, an apocalyptic artist who keeps moulding his protagonists until in his delusions he rips out their entrails; plenty of hell and a piece of paradise, thank goodness this is just modelling clay. Ultimately, Phil Mulloy is a philosopher using ink. His dark, crude drawings are full of black humour, very black and very peculiar humour. CS
Best of ReAnima Festival
The following program is a selection of the best films from the first edition of the ReAnima festival. The selection is a reflection of our concerns; of what we think animation is and can be. It is very important for us to be able to show the powerful messages and the technical and narrative quality of each of the films presented here.
As a new-born festival in the international animation scene we are very happy and proud of our selection, and we hope that it will give the audience food for thought. We also hope that the artistic, political and social commitment of these films will contribute to the creation of a society free from pre-defined constructs in its interaction with reality, which is always liquid and constantly moving.
In this selection the audience will find contemporary stories and artworks that reflect our times plagued by uncertainty, but also express combative messages, artistic concerns, metaphors about life and death, the alienation created by governments to subdue the citizens. This is a global vision of the best alternative and independent animation from around the world.
From ReAnima we hope you enjoy, as much as we do, this wonderful selection of short films full of life.
Jair Salvador Alvarez
Rao Heidmets retrospective
Half Smiles of the Decomposed – The films of Rao Heidmets
If Priit Pärn and Mati Kütt are the Lennon and McCartney of a certain generation of Estonian animation, then Rao Heidmets is their George Harrison. Often overshadowed by Pärn’s – and to a lesser degree, Kütt’s – internationally renowned work, Heidmets has quietly gone about his business putting together an impressive body of films that have explored a variety of intriguing political, societal and domestic issues (ranging from mass media, cloning, genetics, creation, and individual and cultural identity).
Though Heidmets (who joined Estonia’s Nukfilm puppet studio in 1982, back when it was still a part of the Soviet state run Tallinnfilm Studio) works primarily in stop motion, his work has no real distinct visual style the way, say, Pärn’s work does. Heidmets has used giant puppets, small puppets, actors, sand, yarn and assorted other objects.
What does link his body of work together is an ongoing fascination with the fragile, thin walls that individuals and societies hoist up around themselves (e.g. television, religion, or wealth). The often raw and unpolished look of Heidmet’s films along with his occasional fusion of live action and puppet reveal a schizophrenic world that skirts between real and unreal, a world that can barely hold together these questionable and unstable layers.
Throughout his work – from the early classics Papa Carlo Theatre and Noblesse Oblige (which tackle totalitarian society and class structures respectively) through to the magnificent Pearlman (which addresses the challenge of a society maintaining cultural purity), Inherent Obligations (a prescient work that uses fakes news before it was even a thing), Oracle is Born (not just a slam on religion but also a commentary about how stuck in patterns and belief systems we become) and the recent Life Before Life (what happens when ideas we were always taught were true turn out to be false?),Heidmets seems to want to show us – usually with a healthy dose of absurdist humour – just how tenuous, dubious and fallible these structures are, and that ultimately the line between cultivated and barbaric civilizations is a very slim one.
Heidmets has always been quite modest, casual, and straightforward about his work: “I don’t feel that I must say something to the world or that my films are so great that people must hear them,” says Heidmets. “It’s not so pressing for me to do things. I enjoy the process of making a film. I like the six-month brain workout… when you must always be thinking. You never know what the results will be because you make changes all the time. Maybe I’ll stop after I find my perfect film and move on to something else.”
Here’s selfishly hoping that Heidmets and perfection never shall meet as we can all benefit from his thoughtful musings about society’s often grotesque make-up.
Igor Kovalyov Retrospective
The Ukrainian Igor Kovalyov (Kiev, 1954) is one of the most outstanding figures of post-Soviet animation. He was a founding member (together with his friend and colleague Aleksandr Tatarsky and the producer Anatoly Prokhorov) of the studio Pilot in 1988, the first independent animation studio in Russia. Kovalyov was also central to the international success of the Hollywood studio Klasky Csupó, where he directed the innovative series Rugrats, Aahh!!! Real Monsters and Duckman for Nickelodeon, as well as its first feature film The Rugrats Movie (1998). With the series, Kovalyov revolutionised television animation for the general public, giving the format an exquisite fresh and indie feel.
But beyond his commercial success, Kovalyov is loved and recognised in the world of animation for his shorts made for adults, real jewels that have made him an international reference. It is this personal facet, the artistic and poetic dimension of his work that Animateka celebrates this year. A facet he developed during his early days (The Other Side of the Moon, co-directed with Tatarsky in 1983) and that fortunately he has never abandoned. From Hen, His Wife (1989) to the recent Before Love (2016), Kovalyov has amassed – with barely more than half a dozen titles – numerous awards and distinctions in the most important festivals (Ottawa International Animation Festival, Hiroshima Festival, Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia...). Compared with figures as outstanding as Andrei Tarkovsky (his teacher in Moscow) or Robert Bresson (who he considered his true master), his work is characterised by a recognisable graphic style, inherited from the Estonian Priit Pärn, and an exquisite colour palette. We must add to this his particular poetics, hermetic and surreal, which today we would call quantum (he talks about a particular “rhythmic structure”), about the human condition, which he presents as bittersweet and tragic but with an unmistakable sense of humour.
The sound planning and design are also, given their delicacy, identifying marks, borrowed from his admired Walerian Borowczyk and the Quay brothers. Kovalyov is a master of creating suspenseful atmospheres, enigmatic and with latent repression, populated with ambivalent characters that struggle to find their place in the world where nothing is what it seems. They are stories with a dream-like quality (Flying Nansen), almost always domestic (Hen, His Wife), where desire plays an important role (Bird in the Window and Milch), as well as the difficulty of loving or communicating (Before Love)… Everyday stories, supposedly trivial, which Kovalyov develops until making them monumental through an extraordinary love for detail. To develop the enigmatic nature of his work, Kovalyov recognises an “autobiographical” element in his films.
Robert Löbel: Films I grew up with
This programme contains films I grew up with. Some of them I saw in my teenage years when I didn’t know that there was anything beyond mainstream animation. Somehow they opened my eyes to a whole new dimension of what animation could be, for example political, brutal, weird and trippy.
In almost each of my selected films, there’s one stylistic connection: it has characters, a conflict and is told without language. For me, this is the most challenging part in an animated short and I try to solve this problem every time in my own work. This collection is a non plus ultra of body language and humoristic storytelling. Almost chronologically, it shows my steps of learning.
After school and super naive, I (almost) did an internship at Lutz Stützner’s animation studio in my hometown of Dresden. He showed me his own shorts, which he produced at the DEFA film studio during the last years of GDR. They blew me away with a minimalistic style and a clever political message.
Lazy Sunday Afternoon by Bert Gottschalk is a short I saw when the animation school from Babelsberg screened a collection of their animations at an event in Dresden. Totally impressed by the fluent 2D animation I went back home and couldn’t believe what I just saw. Same feeling about it today.
Next are the classics almost everyone knows & loves by Konstantin Bronzit, Raimund Krumme and Vladimir Leschiov. Mr. Leschiov gave a workshop at my university in Hamburg and I absolutely loved his weird story puzzle animations.
The three Giant episodes by Celine & Yann and Procrastination by Lev Yilmaz represent the online animation community on Vimeo and YouTube, which I really love and support. Without the online animation people, it would be a boring world. Members of this community teach & push each other forward more than any university can. In some online animations I also found the famous & busy animation sound designer David Kamp, who later had to do all sounds for my own shorts.
Singles by Rebecca Sugar is a good example of everything I like in animation, it’s bizarre, clever and simple. Today Rebecca is an animation superstar with her Cartoon Network Series Steven Universe. Patrick Doyon’s film Dimanche is a similar direction but told in a more biographical way. Patrick is a genius with his minimalistic character designs and humoristic moments. I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with him in Montreal in 2013.
Last but not least, my work. My own shorts are the result of what I had watched and liked in previous years, including my actual situation and interests in life, of course. I would like to tell you more about it now, but I think it’s better to save some secrets for after the screening.