The 31st World Festival of Animated Film – Animafest Zagreb 2021 began last night with the opening ceremony at the SC Cinema. Between 7 and 12 June at SC and Tuškanac cinemas, &TD Theatre and many venues across the city, numerous artistic animation films will be screened, along with many side events. The most important Croatian film festival and one of the four leading animation festivals in the world was opened by the representative of the Mayor of the City of Zagreb Tomislav Tomašević, Deputy Mayor Luka Korlaet.
Since 1972, this festival has been turning Zagreb into a world centre of animated film, a meeting place for visual and film artists, animators and those who love animated art. The success of this festival is a reflection of the extraordinary quality of the Zagreb School of Animation, which is still the subject of interest of professionals and inspiration for new generations growing up on the progressive foundations of our great animators. We are also looking forward to the entry of seven Croatian filmmakers, whom I congratulate on this occasion, into the international competitions. Congratulations also to this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner Ralph Bakshi who has enriched the history of animation with several truly important chapters. The feature-length competition shows some long-awaited works that took years to make, which indicates the essential characteristics of this art: cooperation, perseverance and patience in long-term processes. Exactly such a process awaits us in Zagreb’s culture in order to create good conditions for action. We consider culture one of the starting points for building a society, a society that insists on solidarity and mutual understanding. And let me remind you of the slogan of Animafest: Z… is for Zagreb! I hereby pronounce the 31st Animafest open! – said Korlaet.
Christopher Peter Marcich, head of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre, Daniel Šuljić, Animafest’s artistic director, and Matea Milić and Paola Orlić, Festival producers, addressed the representative of the Minister of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia Nina Obuljen Koržinek, State Secretary Krešimir Partl, high representatives of the diplomatic corps, media representatives and guests of honour from the international animation scene.
The success of Animafest is owed to the organizers, who year after year prove that this is a big and important event, but the biggest thanks, of course, goes to the animators. The glorious past of Croatian animation is not the only thing we can be proud of. Our animators are still relevant on the world stage and still contribute to the diversity and quality of animation in the world.Think of Dalibor Barić and his film Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus, which was seen and praised all over the world, and which was made on a micro-budget. I would especially like to point out the fact that in such a strong international competition there are a handful of Croatian films, two of which are VR projects that indeed cost an arm and a leg to make. Animation is, however, insufficiently funded in our country. We have a chance to change that now that two important laws are moving towards a second, final reading in the Parliament. Carpe diem! I call for a greater dose of ambition and courage regarding them. I am convinced that our Minister, Mrs. Nina Obuljen Koržinek, will do her best to do that. I met her 25 years ago while she was an activist, and very successfully, in terms of cultural diversity worldwide. She understands what we are talking about, she knows that it is important and I am convinced that the flame of activism is still burning in her. I wish you a great six days of the festival – said Marcich.
I would like to greet all 150 foreign guests and all the local people who came to the cinema. Last year I thanked 40 brave guests who came and it was nice to see them. It was one little miracle that we went live. This year a 150 – to me it is proof that this festival is important. People longed for it and gathered despite restrictions, travel difficulties and protective masks. In front of the cinema they could not believe they saw fellow animators from different countries. We are here because of that – Šuljić emphasized.
Dear friends of the festival, welcome. First of all, I must thank the City of Zagreb, HAVC, Zagrebačka banka, all partners and media sponsors who faithfully support us. Special thanks to you – our audience who follow us faithfully. Although you must have a hard time breathing under protective masks, it makes us very proud to see so many of you. Enjoy the films – added Orlić.
The fact that the guests were here last year and that they are here again is not strange because Croatia is one of the few countries in the world whose cinemas remained open almost throughout the pandemic. We thank the Ministry of Culture and Media and the Croatian Public Health Institute, which, in accordance with their measures, have recognised that culture is not just useless entertainment, but a real necessity. This is an encounter in an auditorium with a big screen, audience and filmmakers – concluded Milić.
At the opening ceremony, the Animafest 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Ralph Bakshi, the Award for Outstanding Contribution to Animation Studies to Xavier Kawa-Topor, the Award for Best Animation School to the Lucerne School of Art and Design and the ASIFA Prize for the Outstanding Achievements in the Art of Animation to Otto Alder. The award for the best school of animation, given by the Selection Committee of the Student Film Competition consisting of Lucija Bužančić, Lea Vidaković and Daniel Šuljić, was also accepted by Alder, the founder of the animation department.
Thank you Zagreb for this prestigious award that really makes us happy. I will pass the award on to my students and former colleagues – Alder pointed out receiving the award on behalf of the School of Art and Design in Lucerne, whose retrospective is scheduled for Tuesday, June 8 at 3:30 pm at the SC Cinema. Receiving the ASIFA Award from Vesna Dovniković, who read the message from the president of that organisation, Sayoko Kinoshita, Alder added: This is really a surprise, nobody told me! In her message Kinoshita particularly stressed Alder’s contribution to the organisation of festivals in Stuttgart, Leipzig and Baden, the founding and running of the school in Lucerne, as well as artistic creation at the crossroads of animation and other arts.
The Award for Exceptional Contribution to Animation Studies, whose explanation was read by Animafest’s councillor Nikica Gilić, will be presented to Xavier Kawa-Topor later. Kawa-Topor is a keynote speaker at the Animafest Scanner VIII symposium, which will be held in a hybrid (online and off-line) form on June 8 and 9 at the Tuškanac Cinema from 10 am to 4 pm.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented by Animafest Council President Margit Antauer Buba to the great American and global animation filmmaker, 82-year-old Ralph Bakshi, who addressed the festival and its audience with a video message.
Every animator works in a time and a place that affects his work. I am so honoured to be receiving the Animafest Lifetime Achievement Award. So many of the names I knew came through there. In my time the only place I could derive some hope were from the 16mm shorts that came from Europe and out of Europe. They gave me hope that animation could do more than sell cigarettes and toys. It's not Covid that kept me from coming to Zagreb, but old age. I would love to have been there with you guys. So I send this computer image of me that is not really me, or real. But then again, what is real today – said Bakshi.
Ralph Bakshi’s retrospective at Animafest 2021 includes the iconic Lord of the Rings (Saturday, June 12, 9 pm, SC Cinema) and animated facsimiles of American counterculture of the 1960s (seen from the angle of the psychedelic 1970s): Heavy Traffic (Thursday, June 10, 3:30 pm, SC Cinema) and Fritz the Cat (Saturday, June 12, 10 pm, &TD Theatre). The winner will also, on Wednesday, June 9, at 10 pm, talk about his rich career in &TD via video link with the audience.
On the first working day of the new city government, I remind you that the Zagreb Festival will be 50 years old in 2022. It is the legal child of this City. Our festival is still homeless – a person who has his breadwinners, people who take care of him with tenderness and love, but he doesn’t really know where he belongs. We hope that we will have the opportunity to talk to our new parents and that the festival will get the right place for its 50th anniversary – added Margit Antauer.
After the presentation of the members of all juries, as well as the festival trailer by Jelena Oroz, the ceremony ended with a screening of films from the Grand Competition Short Film 1 and a Q&A with the present authors: Joana Toste (Girl Who Stood Still), Bruno Razum (Can You See Them?), Mathilde Parquet (Trona Pinnacles) and Daniel Gray (Hide). The conversation was hosted by Alexis Hunot, Animafest’s regular collaborator, French animation populariser and critic.
At 10pm, Kill It and Leave This Town by Mariusz Wilczyński from the Grand Competition Feature Film was shown.