Jen Hall Reports Back from Annecy Animation Festival…

41 Jen Hall Reports Back from Annecy Animation Festival

The Annecy Animation festival can be considered a confusing beast for anyone arriving for the first time. With 8 main screening venues consisting of the Bonlieu, in which the Grande Salle seats around 1000 and the Petit Salle has around 400 seats, the nearby Pathe multiplex cinema hands over 5 screens to the festival and one of the theatres in town also hosts screenings and events. With all of these venues in mind you can start to see the scale of the festival. But when you then see that they have 2 out of town venues, a huge open air screen, a castle that displays animation exhibitions and the animation market place (a whole other world!) represented at MIFA it takes you aback. I met several first timers at Annecy this year who although they had heard that the festival had been running for over 50 years and is the largest animation festival in the world, holding the highest regard of all the animation festivals, they were still surprised by the scale of Annecy. The festival completely takes over this gorgeous picturesque town in France for the whole week. This years edition had 115,000 admissions.

I arrived in Annecy at around midday on the Tuesday, I’d managed to find a perfect spot (right near the old town) and after checking in at the Airbnb, I hotfooted it over to the Bonlieu where I collected my badge, brochures and festival bag. Luckily I had time to grab a quick sandwich before I headed to my first screenings knowing I wouldn’t emerge until midnight, well except for an hour at 5pm to grab some food!

The best thing about Annecy is the short films, it’s all about the craft and the short films are a major part of this. This year the festival’s artistic director Marcel Jean announced that they had received 2,606 submissions. From that only 230 films were selected to compete in competition. I attended all screenings of Short Films in Competition (6 programmes) and 4 out of the 5 Graduation Films in Competition. I also watched commissioned films. Watching this many films in succession may cause your head to spin but with the help of a handy rating system and a keen eye for good films it’s easy to remember and reflect on the best.

The festival also hosts “shorts & breakfast” talks which I attended one morning. This is a great opportunity to meet animators, where the festivals Artistic Director talks to the film makers whose films had screened the previous day. We discover more about the film, the technique and their motivations for making it. Although it’s an early start after many late nights, it’s certainly worth it for the extra insight!

There are some odd traditions at Annecy, the main one you’ll see is paper aeroplanes being thrown in the theatres. You’ll also hear people making popping noises and shouting “LAPIN!” whenever a rabbit comes on screen. Another amazing tradition is Annecy Plus, an “unofficial” evening that screens short films that were rejected from the official Annecy selection. The event was started 9 years ago by Bill Plympton. This year the screening took place on a moored boat and had lots of people attending. This event is a great networking spot and a good place to see some fantastic films that weren’t selected by Annecy Animation Festival.

5 days, 168 short films and 1 feature later and my Annecy Animation Festival 2015 was over.

Some of my favourite films of the festival were:

Amelia & Duarte – this film was a pixilation film. Similar to stop motion, this technique uses live actors as the puppet and the animator takes frame by frame shots of them moving. The film starts with breakup of a relationship that then looks back on how the couple got together and follows their relationship through to its end and how the couple coped with the huge change in their lives.

Teeth – this story of a man trying to create the perfect set of dentures . Narrated by Richard E Grant who gives the film a dark and sinister tone. Not one for those who are squeamish with dentists!

In Deep Waters – The film follows three characters who have something missing in their lives and their journey that leads to them finding answers.

We Cant Live Without Cosmos – Winner of the Annecy Cristal, the film is about 2 best friends who want to become astronauts and how they train hard to make their dreams come true.

Ernie Biscuit – This is a tale about a deaf, down on his luck taxidermist who must overcome his shortcomings and learn to ”be the windscreen not the insect”. This film is made in stopmotion out of clay by noted “clayographer” Adam Elliot, who previously directed the feature film Mary and Max a touching story of a little girl in Australia who becomes a penpal with a New York man with Asbergers.

Edmond – This graduation film from the National Film and TV school is about a boy who can’t find his place in the world. It has fantastic transitions as he goes back through his life. The film is made using needlepoint felt and then once animated in stop motion, facial expressions are animated over the film in 2D. It won the Jury award.

Guida – The story of a middle aged woman who tries to change her life by becoming a life model

I hope to be able to bring some of these to This is Not A Cartoon over the next year. If you caught the previous programme, the films Zepo, Moving On and World of Tomorrow all featured at Annecy, with World of Tomorrow receiving both the Jury Distinction and the Audience Award!

Jen attended the Annecy Animation Festival with a bursary from Film Hub NWC- for more details see here.