World Festival of Animated Film /
3 to 8 June 2024
World Festival of Animated Film / 3 to 8 June 2024
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Genre – Body – Identity: Animafest Zagreb 2024 Student Film Competition

Even in the Animafest Student Film Competition 2024, films with distinctively female themes and perspectives stand out, but compared to the participants of the Grand Competition – Short Film, students of animation schools all over the world are more inclined towards hybrid techniques, humour and grotesque, science fiction and horror, physical identity in a wide range from queer and coming out to sexuality and romantic relationships and traumatic separations from moles and appendix, parties and their hangover reminiscences, reflections on family and digital alienation and misanthropy. We also come across several interesting reinterpretations of literature, folklore and classical music. Sorting through the uninhibited works ofauthors of the future is made easier by the fact that all screenings of the Student Film Competition are free.

The best animation school – La Poudrière
See You Champion!
, Alexis Mouron’s film about a boy’s play with his mother’s stockings is one of the films that helped French school La Poudrière win the Best Animation School Award in 2024. Although it is a computer 2D film, the author achieved the impression of a stop-motion animated set of an antique furnished apartment, and the retro impression is additionally emphasized by a grainy, slightly blurred image. A relatively rare film representation of the supportive attitude of parents towards children’s self-examination of identity contributes to the light treatment of a potentially serious topic. The second film from the winning school that earned participation in the competition, Lorca Alonso’s Love and Pretence, describes a young man torn between a date with a girl and hanging out with a friend in a black-and-white drawing. Both works, with their short duration and timely point, successfully maintain the tension of the situations they portray.

Woman and body
Behind the pink-green forest of Julia Tostado’s
To Be a Seed lies a poetic reinterpretation of the seventeenth-century Mexican legend about witches (La mulata de Córdoba) and their organic connection with nature, but also about violence against women, endurance and resistance. The film, made exclusively from pigments of natural materials such as avocado, coffee, black beans and finally sand, into which the characters turn, is dedicated to Mexican women. The Indian hybrid film Too Much Information (2D drawing, puppet, claymation, live action; dir. Subarna Dash, Vidushi Gupta) illustrates a cheerful female conversation about breasts, their growth during puberty, ‘social position’, size, shape and their importance in creation of the self-image. The American-Chinese Braided (dir. Chenxi Zhang), a hybrid of paper cut out, animation of objects and drawings, is a recollection of a mother’s touch, behind which lies the formation of a female identity in the tension between separation and imitation. With an intriguing combination of different styles of 2D and 3D animation and imaginative character design, The Sound that Silence Makes by a group of French authors from the MoPA school talks about the difficult subject of a rape victim’s encounter with a bureaucratized and callous ‘system’ and family contempt.

A young woman tries to maintain a long-distance relationship, so she manoeuvres between frustration, hope, excitement and melancholy in Nadja Tanno’s Long Distance. Conceptualizations of the absent man and the insatiable longing for touch, tenderness and romance are creatively presented. With an impressive array of techniques (2D and 3D computer animation, live action elements, claymation) and the metaphor of closed vessels, Chu-Chieh Lee follows the heroine of the film Minus Plus Multiply in search of emotional relationships and safe spaces, evoking fragility and fragmentation of identity with the motif of pottery. A Pathetic Man by Korean Chaerin Yoo imaginatively portrays a girl/woman’s attempts to achieve a meaningful relationship with a half-dead man, and the black-and-white German Not You is accompanied by a voice-over of literary qualities about an encounter with a lover-like man, but its greatest quality is associative storytelling through individual symbols and elements of the situation. Examination and removal of a mole by an experienced doctor becomes a serious issue of bodily self-perception in the hybrid film It’s Just a Whole by Bianca Scali, which nevertheless treats the heroine’s fears playfully and with a touch of humour. The raw animated hospital grotesque Bunnyhood (dir. Mansi Maheshwari) about the trauma of an appendectomy, but also the loss of faith in a mother, is in a certain sense close to Scali’s film, even though it is about a young man.

Family and environment
The puppet film
Adiós by José Prats is a story about the relationship between a father and son, about to leave the Spanish wastelands. With impressive sets, atmosphere, lighting, voice acting and general production qualities, as well as expert management of the plot, Adiós focuses on the metaphor of hunting and the poisoning of the family dog to mediate the theme of departure and loneliness. In the always attractive technique of painting on glass, Czech Pola Kozak in Weeds depicts a gardening allegory of personified flowers and invasive species. The film of classical artistic beauty of colours ends with synergy after the destructive campaign. In Our Hands (dir. Kristián Mensa) creatively integrates elements of the human body in motion into animated scenes to show the connection between man and the environment, but also draw attention to the mistakes of recent history.

Classical inspirations
Stabat Mater
by a group of French authors is an impressive elegy about a dying sculptor and his dancing creation, which uses a split screen, accented lighting and the title piece by Pergolesi (composed just before the author’s death) to achieve a unique cinematic requiem. Driven by Vivaldi’s flute concerto of the same name, the visually impressive La Notte by a group of Italian authors takes us to the Venice Carnival, where Pulcinella experiences a dark turn at the VIP party. The Spanish Conej Steps Out (dir. Pablo Río), which metafilmically evokes the golden age of American animation (rubber hose animation), the famous Termite Terrace by Warner Brothers, and the Disney studio, was also realized using traditional animation. Fully realized as a retro musical with big band jazz music, Conej Steps Out is an anarchically surrealistic, furious itinerary through the past with a bunny in love and a constellation of recognizable characters.

Science fiction
Olivia Rosa’s black-and-white
Smell of the Ground is based on the poem There Will Come Soft Rains by the American poet Sarah Teasdale, which later gave the title to Ray Bradbury’s post-apocalyptic story. A film of meditative graphic beauty, immersive soundscapes and grandiose “idleness” predicts, similarly to poem and story, a new natural order devoid of humans, which the viewer realizes by following the sequence of journeys through the attractively designed traces of a civilization that no longer exists under the starry sky. The Polish SF The Last Man on Earth (dir. Joanna Żybul) in green and blue hues offers a walk through a post-apocalyptic landscape as well, but with an unexpected twist, while the likeable furious apocalypse Goodbye My World by the French group of authors from the MoPA school is a romantic disaster film cantered on a man trapped in a fish costume. SF meets court drama and light existentialism in bright colours with a hint of psychedelia in A Clock Trial by Sébastien HELIAS from EMCA in which a grandfather clock claims to be a human. Experimental SF The Posthuman Hospital (dir. Junha Kim), which manifestly mocks Descartes in the prologue, strings digital scenes of largely outdated (analogue) technology in conjunction with various biological forms and fluids together, thereby creating a vivisection of reality. Madeleine Homan’s endearing British 2D gag-miniature The Creators imagines a race of creators of Earth and humans, while Júlija Lantos’s Oliver the Giant is set on an unusual, geometric black-and-white planet whose inhabitants are treated like toys by the giant until they, as well as Oliver himself, finally connect with the cosmos.

The bizarre Chilean puppet horror film
The Feast (a group of authors) whose centrepiece is a magical refrigerator stands out for its extraordinary impression of shabbiness of the environment and the character, creative framing with the suggestion of a hand-held camera, and animation of food and offal in different stages. Vidalia, an action 3D horror film by the group of authors from the French school ESMA, is of exceptional audio-visual quality and stands out for its creative organic design of characters and monsters, as well as its dynamic rendering of a tense, unexplained situation. Mildred’s Exotic Meat Emporium (dir. Zalika English) is a black-humoured horror puppet-film about a girl who spends the summer in her aunt’s butcher shop, and Humanity (dir. Tereza Kovandová) is of the same technique and genre, based on the portrayal of irritating and repulsive human habits that are handled by extreme means.

The German queer comedy
Carotica by Daniel Sterlin-Altman is a puppet film full of lustful tension that is released by fantasies about a carrot and a coach, and comical-banal pornographic records, but also contains a more serious theme of family trust and coming out. WeiFan Wang’s Taiwanese-British Hey Dad is also a film about coming out, i.e. about the cyclical impossibility of revealing a gay identity to the father, but in a completely different, coastal setting of ancient statues and nature. Niek de Leeuw’s pastel Melk deals, through the symbolism of milk, with a gay man lost in automated, alienated promiscuity and in search of authentic emotions and self-knowledge.

Hangovers and oddballs
Duck Broth
by the Polish Maria Dakszewicz is a rather playful animanarchic representation of the reminiscence of the previous evening, which the hero does in the bathtub with the help of a talkative rubber duck. The chaotic-poetic film is dedicated, it seems, to the contemporary flâneurism of dirty streets and kebab shops. A caricature of adolescent behaviour, Sunny Beach (dir. Jana Leeuwerck) is another film about a hungover reconstruction of last night, but with the motif of a helicopter mother and her trained mantises. In Barbara Rupik’s film Such Miracles Do Happen, monuments come to life before the eyes of a boneless girl. Rupik’s macabre, technically stunning combination of clay and spilling ‘wet’ colours and materials is well known to Animafest viewers who were enthralled by the movie The Little Soul in 2020. Like that work, Such Miracles Do Happen behind the attractive-repulsive appearance also hides a spiritual note, this time with subtext of the Marian cult. The enamoured-philosophical monologue is accompanied by beautiful charcoal drawings of the Portuguese Cherry, Passion Fruit by Renato José Duque, who employs them for exploration of male desire and pain. The Japanese Bottled Insects (dir. Yuxin Gao) is a strange, atmospheric and meditative window into a girl’s menagerie, while the rotoscoped and 2D work Tomoya! leads to baseball minor league, also in Japan. Czech-Hong Kong’s Keep Out is a commentary on the alienating, capitalist-narcissistic-pornographic nature of social networks, while the title characters, hidden behind theatrical masks, in A Story about a Monkey, a Bear and a Caterpillar play an abstract boardgame with far-reaching implications.