Report: Animaze Festival

Anthony Kirby reports from the fourth Montreal International Animation FestivalAnimaze, which ran from 17 – 20 August in Montreal, Canada.    

“There’s a buzz about this festival,” said festival director Laurie Gordon when opening the festival on Thursday, 17th August, “each year we attract larger audiences, especially among youth”.

The well attended festival featured seminars on international co-production, techniques used in presenting proposed projects, narrative forms from cinema to mapping, and Virtual Reality Techniques regarding entertainment, education and medicine.

At the closing ceremony, Laurie Gordon announced a new award for a film promoting peace. “We want to honour the film Dr Junod and its message of tolerance and peace. Our screening is the North American premiere of this remarkable film.” Dr Junod showcases the life of Dr Marcel Junod (1904-1961), a groundbreaking and courageous humanitarian.

Combating tears, producer/screenwriter Shinichiro Kimura gave details of her journey to bring this project to the screen. “I’m a doctor with a PhD in pharmaceutical medicine. I worked with the Red Cross following the Iran/Iraq war. Following the end of hostilities, I invited a delegation of ten to Hiroshima. There they experience a great feeling of peace and are now active peacemakers. I’d heard of Dr. Marcel Junod from my father in law. Then I discovered his diary in the Headquarters of the Red Cross in Geneva.  I completed the screenplay in 2010. The film is financed by the Japanese Red Cross.” The target audience of this film is children of five to sixteen years of age. A group of twelve-year-old students visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and see a plaque to Dr. Junod giving brief details of his work following the nuclear explosion on 6th August 1945. They’re fascinated; then using a tinker-bell Disney technique, they’re transported back to France in 1935. Raised with strong ethical values, Dr. Marcel Junod first encountered the ravages of modern warfare in the Italian-Ethiopian Conflict in 1935. Later he was involved in the aftermath of the war in Europe. Then in summer 1945 he was appointed the Red Cross Commissioner to Japan, He made a presentation to General McArthur. Following this, the U.S released 245 tons of anti-burn and other medicines to Japan. “My message is one of special hope. This award means I can make more films of this type. Now after seventy-two years, Hiroshima is again a beautiful city. We share Dr. Junod’s message of love”.

Following Dr. Kimura’s passionate speech Laurie Gordon announced the rest of the prize winners:

Best International Short Film 

Ex aequo award to Meeting MacGuffin by Catya Plate (US) and Drifting Away by Cyprien Clement Delmas (Spain)

Best Canadian Short Film 

Cigare by Tom Tassel (Canada)

Best Short Film: Student Film Contest 

Nana by Alexandra Kellner (Canada)

With a special mention to In a Heartbeat by Beth Davis and Esteban Bravo (US)

Best Feature Film 

Abina and the important men by Soumyaa Behrens (US)

Best Experimental Film 

Nutag – Homeland by Alisi Telengut (Canada)

Animation for Peace Award  

Junod by Shizuko Tsuya (Japan)

Best VR project 

Fortress Europe by Neil Bell & Simon Hultgren

Simon Hultgren, Neil Bell, Martin Petrov, Alice Chen, Tsuya Shizuko, Laurie Gordon, Rei, Soumyaa Behrens, Catypa Plate

Drifting Away is the poignant story of a pre-teen son and his father. They have a damaged yacht that they begin to restore. Then, because of a bad diagnosis, the father loses interest in the project. Following a row with the boy’s mother the father further angers his son. The son uses his anger positively and, overtime, restores the yacht. As a family they drive to a sheltered beach where father and son sit together and look at the yacht. The son wants them both to sail together. However, God, or whatever greater power there is, hasn’t ordered things this way. The final scene shows just one set of footsteps in the sand. Then a shadowy hand raises the sail and the yacht departs. This coming-of-age film has beautiful animation and well deserves its accolade.

Meeting McGuffin is part of a trilogy which began with Hanging by a Thread. Made with great humour, the film is set in a post-nuclear  age. People live deep underground and lack vital organs – these are supplied by their leader. They then begin to have quality of life and journey to a promised area… which sounds a lot like Las Vegas. Ms. Plate is presently working on the third part of her trilogy.

Cigare is a visual tone poem. A drop of water meets a drop of oil and they start dancing. They shape into morphing characters and build a dance sequence alternately elegant and grotesque.

Abina and the Important Men is based on a graphic novel by Trevor R. Getz.  The novel dramatized court transcripts from the 1870s.  Abina, a married woman, moves from her tribal home to the British Colony. Of East Africa. There she is virtually sold into servitude. She knows that under British Law this is unjust. Through the friendship of a court translator she takes her case to court. Britain had abolished slavery in the late 1830s. As colonialists they’re in something of a bind. Yet they want to establish British Justice. Yet must respect local customs. Mr. Getz adopted his novel to the screen. The animation by Daewon Kim beautifully captures the colonial era. Producer/director Soumyaa Behrens, who teaches documentary film at San Francisco State University, involved her students in the project and used university editing facilities. The overall cost of the film was $30,000 U.S. This feminist film about human rights resonates with the 21st century values. Ms. Behrens well deserves her award. Hopefully the film will be widely seen.

Nana tells the true story of the deportation of 1200 Jewish Hungarian Women in the last year and a half of WW2. “We lived in a house known as yellow star house,” says the narrator. “We went first to Austria then to Germany. We were abandoned. We were over 1200. Only 300 returned. The Russians freed us. I was reunited with my mother and my brother. ” Produced by the National Film Board. This film tells a story very succinctly. Ms. Kellner has a bright future ahead of her.

Nutag – Homeland is a moving visual poem and requiem for the Kalmyk people, who were deported from the USSR from 1943 to 57 and half of them died before they were allowed to return home. The film consists of surrealist frame by frame of hand-painted imagery. The director, Ms. Telengut, is presently living in Montreal. Her films have won prizes at 24th Stockholm World Film Festival and at the 36th and 38th Montreal World Film Festivals.

Migrant’s Journey uses Virtual Reality techniques to enhance the documentary form. Filmmaker Neil Bell says, “Virtual Reality is a departure from normal storytelling. When wearing the V.R. mask the viewer is at the very center of what he’s viewing. The experience is often intense. As filmmakers and as human beings we were moved by the plight of new immigrants. We wanted to follow a migrant from Mali in East Africa to safe harbour in Europe. We travelled to Mali. We developed an interactive narrative and stop motion techniques. Our V.R. cameras follow migrants travelling from Turkey through Greece and then in a closed lorry without toilet facilities from Serbia through to Austria and eventually Germany. The lorry is stopped for many hours at the Hungarian border. The viewer experiences the claustrophobia and fear of these displaced people fleeing hunger and often civil war in their native countries. As filmmakers we felt a little guilty about making profit from the plight of these migrants. We also developed a board game and all the profits from this go to Medicines sans Frontiers.” Virtual Reality is still being developed. The undersigned followed the section of the documentary from Serbia through the Hungarian Border. The V.R experience was all encompassing and superior to viewing events on screen.

Migrant’s Journey deserves its honour. Hopefully it will reach a wide viewership.

The final event of the festival was a re-screening of first-time animator Ruth Coggins’ poignant tribute to her great-grandfather, a soldier of the Great War. “I discovered this film while trolling the net in February. Ruth was putting the final touches to it. I asked her to submit the completed work,” said festival director Laurie Gordon.

Coggins’ film, A War to end all Wars, has already gone viral on the internet. “I made all the clay models and sets and shot every scene,” said Ms. Coggins in a BBC interview. “The overall cost of the film was 500 pounds.”  The film follows the story of Tommy Atkins over the months of his service in the trenches and under fire. Ms. Coggins uses music and a poignant poem by a Yorkshire poet to great effect. The film will be released commercially in the coming months.

Anthony Kirby.  August 24, 2017    

 

 

 

 

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The 4th Animaze Festival

Anthony Kirby introduces Animaze, an international film festival and conference exploring the world of animation in all its diversity.  This year’s festival runs August 17- 20.

Laurie Gordon president and co-ordinator of the Animaze Festival announced this year’s programme at a press conference on 26th July. “ Thank you all for coming. I’m happy to announce that sixty five countries are being represented at this year’s festival.

“Ireland and its animation industry will be represented by four short subjects at this years festival,” said Laurie Gordon .” However, this year the festival will focus not only on animation but on humanitarian issues,” added  Ms Gordon. “ My associate Ken Fernandez has relationships with consulates and politicians at the local, provincial and federal level. Ms Jose Payant of La Croix Rouge will present a film on the life of Dr. Juneau a Canadian Humanitarian who’s spent the greatest part of his life working with survivors and descendents of victims of Hiroshima &and Nagasaki. Dr. Juneau changed lives in Japan,” said Ms Payant.

The festival will also focus on virtual reality technology both as an entertainment element but also as a valuable medical tool. Dr. Samir Segrani of McGill University explained how this technology is currently being used in the remedial treatment of stroke victims: “Using this technology, stroke survivors see objectively how following the infraction they favour their unaffected leg with regards to the number of steps they take. The objective is to reduce the number of steps to a ration of 50/50. This is, of course, in relationship with physio and other therapies,

Hanna Cohen, a therapist at Osmos Academy for handicapped children, described the effects of virtual reality on children. “The children are continually smiling as they put on the headsets, They want nothing more than to get out and explore the world.”

The complete programme of seminars and festival screenings will be announced in the next two weeks.

Anthony  Kirby, July 2017

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‘Coda’ Nominated for Cartoon d’Or 2015

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Alan Holly’s Coda, has been nominated for a Cartoon d’Or, which rewards the best of the best European animated short films since only price-winning films can enter the competition.

In the film, a lost soul stumbles drunken through the city. In a park, Death finds him and shows him many things.

Coda has taken honours at SXSW South By Southwest 2014 for Best Animated Short Film and the FICC Don Quijote Prize at the Galway Film Fleadh 2013.

The six nominees for the Cartoon d’Or 2015 are:

  • A Single Life by Job, Joris & Marieke, Netherlands, 2’15, prod: Job, Joris & Marieke
  • Autumn Leaves by Carlos De Carvalho & Aude Danset, France, 10’30, prod: Je Regarde / Melting Productions / In Efecto
  • Brothers in Arms by Cav Bøgelund, Denmark, 30’00, prod: Film Maker
  • Coda by Alan Holly, Ireland, 9’00, prod: and maps and plans / The Irish Film Board / The Arts Council of Ireland / RTE
  • I can’t wait by Claire Sichez, France, 5’00, prod: Les Films d’Ici 2 / La Station Animation
  • The Bigger Picture by Daisy Jacobs, United Kingdom, 7’30, prod: Chris Hees / National Film and Television School

The jury was composed of producer Philippe Delarue (Futurikon, France), director Jan Bultheel (Tondo Films, Belgium) and producer Paul Young (Cartoon Saloon, Ireland). They have watched 31 films which had won an award at one of CARTOON’s partner festivals and selected the 6 nominees.

The Award Ceremony will start with the screening of the nominated films in front of all animation professionals attending Cartoon Forum. The winner will be announced and will receive a 10,000 EUR grant, thanks to the support of Creative Europe – MEDIA. The Cartoon d’Or evening is sponsored by Région Midi-Pyrénées.

The aim of the Cartoon d’Or is to promote European animation talents and to create a link between the artists and the industry. This is the reason why the directors are invited to attend Cartoon Forum, gathering about 900 sector professionals, including 270 buyers.

The French city of Toulouse will host the 26th edition of Cartoon Forum, the co-production platform for European animation series from 15-18 September 2015.
Along with the presentation of projects, this key event for the European animation sector will host a ceremony for the Cartoon d’Or, the pan-European award for animation short film and the Cartoon Tributes, the professional awards given to broadcasters, investors/distributors and producers that have had a positive and dynamic influence on TV animation industry over the last year.

The Award Ceremony will take place on Thursday 17 September 2015 at 20:00 in Toulouse.

 

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Interview: Moe Honan, co-producer of ‘Two by Two’

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The animated feature Two By Two is released in cinemas today. Co-produced by Galway-based Moetion Films, Film Ireland got out of the rain and took shelter with co-producer Moe Honan to discuss the process behind getting from script to screen.

 

The story of the Nestrian species has long been shrouded in mystery. Thanks to the new Irish animated feature Two By Two, out in cinemas today, we finally have an answer. The tale of rejection, survival and victory was a few years in the making. Co-producer Moe Honan tells Film Ireland that the initial idea and story developments came “between a group of us that decided to collaborate with writers and producers at the time. Once we’d worked out the story we were supported in that development by the IFB and we developed various drafts of scripts with our German partner, and that went on for approximately 3 years in total. In that time we were obviously progressing the content and making lots of plans to finance. When we felt we had the script in place in a strong way we went out to attach the additional financing partners with the support of the Film Board. The production continued over the last 18-20 months and we finished in post-production last December.”

Moe knew from the beginning she had a project worthy of the big screen. “In this process we knew quite early on when we were pitching the project among our trusted network for starters but also in the wider market, people responded very quickly and positively to it. The pitch-line that ‘we’re going to make a story about the animals that didn’t get on the Ark’ was such an original concept and we knew it also visually could allow us to create characters in a very free way that we hadn’t seen before – literally. In the imagination of the writers and the visual artists we began to develop that side of it. We felt it gave us freedom to write a very original story and also would allow itself to exploit that visually within the great process that animation brings us and be able to do things you can’t necessarily do in live action without spending so much more money! It allowed us to live in that imagination and bring quite a unique film to the market.”

Once they had completed the content of the story as regards the script, “we then move onto storyboarding,” Moe explains. “We often do what we call a ‘guide track’ [a preliminary soundtrack that gives the animator an idea of what the final track will be like] for starters. Then we cast and record the voice talent – and this is really the key point the animators are relying on – we have to have great performances and the right voice characters for the animators because that’s what they listen to and that’s what inspires them to get the right body acting for their characters. We do go through the process of storyboarding and creating 2-d drawings before we move it onto our computers where we develop and create the 3-d model for our characters and background. And we do what we call ‘blocking’ – this is where we can see the composition of the shots and we can see the perspectives and rough movements, but it’s still not animated. Then we enter the animated phase of the production – this is where the real talent of the animators come to fore. They interpret the scene and the intention and the body language – really selling a character, because if that’s not working right you’re in trouble. You’ve got to feel that the emotional aspect of the character is credible. You may be looking at this strange little Nestrian animal we’ve invented but you have to believe him and you have to empathise with him fully – and that really is where the animator’s talents come in.”

Ultimately, Moe hopes they have created a special film that is fun for all the family and not just the kids.We’ve built layers of humour and story plot to keep the adults entertained as well. From a parent’s point of view, there’s a story there for them as well as the children. They’ve bought the ticket so we have to reward them as well – we don’t want them to fall asleep! It’s what we’re aiming to do – to entertain the whole family.”

 

 Two By Two is released in cinemas 1st May 2014

 

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‘Doc McStuffins’ Wins Peabody Award

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Doc McStuffins, an animated series produced in Dublin by Brown Bag Films for Disney Junior, has won a Peabody Award for Children’s Programming.

The Peabody Awards, housed at University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, recognize excellence and meritorious work by radio and television stations, networks, webcasters, podcasters, producing organizations and individuals. The 18-member Peabody Board is a distinguished panel of television critics, industry practitioners and experts in culture and the arts. The awards will be presented at a red-carpet ceremony on May 31st.

Doc McStuffins follows a girl who communicates with and heals stuffed animals and broken toys out of her backyard playhouse clinic. The series premiered on Disney Junior on March 23, 2012 where it broke ratings records to instantly become the number one preschool show on U.S. cable television.

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‘Somewhere Down The Line’ Wins at Clermont-Ferrand

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Irish animation Somewhere Down The Line won the the prize for Best Animated Short at the 37th Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival this weekend.

Julian Regnard ‘s film, produced by Jonathan Clarke, examines a man’s life, loves and losses through the exchanges he has with the passengers in his car. It was produced by the Oscar nominated Cartoon Saloon’s Kilkenny studio using a combination of 3D and 2D animation techniques.

The Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival is the world’s leading film festival dedicated to short films. It is held annually in Clermont-Ferrand, France, and is the second largest film festival in France, after Cannes, in terms of audience and professional attendance, boasting over 100,000 attendees annually, since 1995.

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Tea with the Dead

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Stacy Grouden attended a recent screening of Tea with the Dead, in which a gentle embalmer from Connemara shares cups of tea and chats with his mortuary arrivals.

On Friday. 6th June 2014, up-and-coming Irish animation company Wiggleywoo celebrated the completion of its latest project, Tea with the Dead, with a special screening in the wonderfully atmospheric surroundings of Christ Church Cathedral Dublin. Spirits ran high in the room on the night, while spirits of another kind came (back) to life on screen courtesy of the skeleton crew of talented animators and voice actors who worked on the production.

Subtitled ‘Life, Death and a Packet of Digestives,’ Tea with the Dead animates a series of conversations between Frank, a friendly, gentle embalmer from Connemara, (voiced by frequent Wiggleywoo collaborator Frank Kelly) and the recently-departed souls who pass through his mortuary. Taking place over the course of a working week, Frank treats every body that arrives in his parlour with the same attention and respect – which in an Irish context could only mean, asking if they will have a cup of tea. When met with predictably deathly silence, Frank cheerfully responds with, ‘I’ll take that as a yes.’

Once in his kitchen, each person’s ghostly presence warms up to Frank as quickly as it takes a kettle to boil, and a variety of stories are recounted: of first loves, of last loves, of mothers, and fathers, JFK and Dickie Rock.

By times silly, poignant, heartbreakingly sad and deeply, darkly funny, Tea with the Dead presents an engaging anthology of Irish life – and death – focusing on the singular formative relationships that make (or made) life worth living. By combining quirky, distinctive 2D animation and powerful, naturalistic voice acting and dialogue, Tea with the Dead resurrects the spirit of old Irish storytelling with a compelling 21st century twist.

Eight months in the making with only about ten staff members, Tea with the Dead is undoubtedly a passion project for Wiggleywoo, a small but increasingly prolific company founded by Susan Broe, Gary ‘Gilly’ Gill and Alan Foley in March 2012. All five of the stories featured in the film are rooted in the experiences of the friends and family of the cast and crew. The project, Broe explained, was inspired by creative director Gill’s mother’s tale of tracing her own biological mother. ‘I remember sitting down to transcribe her story, for about three days, and I was crying most of the time,’ Broe laughed before the screening, before adding later that, amazingly, all of the other touching, life-affirming stories came from just within the small Wiggleywoo crew.

Following the screening, Bernie Dermody, who voiced Frank’s wife and closed the film with a haunting old Irish ballad, enthralled the audience once more with a live encore performance, ensuring that not a living (or dead) soul remained dry-eyed in the cathedral and palpably reinforcing the much-deserved passion and goodwill for the project in the room.

Wiggleywoo will be bringing a 30-minute cut of Tea with the Dead onto the worldwide festival circuit, before its first domestic airing on TG4 this Christmas 2014. Its other active projects include MYA GO and The Day Henry Met?  They can be found at www.wiggleywoo.com/

 

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