The gathered fans of cinema and animation were greeted by festival producers Vjera Matković and Dana Budisavljević, who invited the audience to enjoy the six exciting festival days, watching films for the mind and the body, films that both entertain and challenge. They also introduced the new member of the festival team, the award-winning author and musician Daniel Šuljić, who will act as the Animafest art director in the next four years.
“Welcome to the 21st edition of the World Festival of Animated Film, the festival that has for 39 years placed the name of Zagreb in the very centre of attention in the animation world, from America to China. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the previous art director Krešimir Zimonić, as well as all of his predecessors whose outstanding work brought this festival to the level it holds today. I hope I will fulfil your expectations and continue the programme quality at such high level and, when time, comes, I hope I will leave my successor with a festival as good as it was when I took it over,” said Šuljić to the audience.
Daniel Šuljić took the occasion to present this year’s jury members, the trio that will have a hard time deciding on the Grand Competition entries, given that some of the best creative feature-length animated works made in the last two years are being screened. The jury consist of: Dunja Janković, Croatian comic book artist and illustrator living on the Mali Lošinj-Portland stretch; David Silverman, the director of the famous Simpsons, the film screened on Saturday; and Paul Driessen, the living legend of animation, winner of the 2002 Animafest Lifetime Achievement Award. The festival prepared a retrospective programme, every day at 6:30pm at Tuškanac cinema, giving the viewers an insight into most works by this master of the universe – as Daniel Šuljić presented him.
After the star-spangled jury greeted the audience, Dana and Vjera thanked the festival sponsors: Croatian Audiovisual Centre, City of Zagreb, EU MEDIA Programme; and partners: Zagreb Film, Croatian Film Clubs’ Association, Europacinema, official festival telecom B.net, Raiffeisen Bubašpara savings programme, that enabled free programmes for the youngest viewers, and all sponsors, festival friends and audience.
Hrvoje Hribar, director and head of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC), addressed the audience: “This is such a happy moment – Animafest is about to begin, and we are here. Only a month ago we were not sure if it was going to happen and now I am looking at Paul Driessen, one of the greatest geniuses who has ever pursued animation. I remembered a postcard from the healthy socialist period, portraying my Dalmatian family on a camel in front of the Cheops pyramid. They commented – look at this pyramid, just imagine- it was made by humans. This is exactly how I perceive animated film, I say – unbelievable, but someone had to make it. The amount of human labour required to produce a single second of animated film is truly remarkable, and we will not be watching seconds, but feature-length animated films. What I like about animators is that they are capable of reconciling two characters: the playful imaginative child and the hard labourer who can do this tremendous job. Tomorrow is 1 June, not 1 May, but I still wish this festival to be our mutual Labour Day.”
Jelena Pavičić Vukičević, Deputy Mayor of the City of Zagreb, addressed the audience from the stage as well. After kind words for organisers, filmmakers and visitors, she opened the 21st Animafest: “For its birthday, Zagreb got the best possible gift – the 21st edition of Animafest, the World Festival of Animated Film both Zagreb and Croatia take great pride in. Thanks to festival guests, the rich and exciting programme and acclaimed authors from the art world, ANIMAFEST ZAGREB has grown to be one of the most important world animation events, promoting Croatian culture and art with dignity. I am especially pleased that yesterday we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first Croatian Oscar, 60th anniversary of the first animated film in Croatia and 55 years from the establishment of Zagreb Film’s Animation Studio. Yesterday we looked at animation pat, today we are looking at its future, not only in Croatia, but the entire world. Special congratulations to the festival Council and management for their impeccable organisation and I wish good luck to all those competing. I wish all artists and festival participants and visitors from Croatia and abroad a warm welcome to the city of Zagreb, the city of rich and diverse cultural tradition. The 21st Animafest is now officially open.”
The Europa cinema’s silver screen was lit by the trailer of the young filmmaker, illustrator and animator Dalibor Barić, after which the screening of The Illusionist by Sylvain Chomet, the director of the popular Triplets of Belleville, ensued. In front of Europa cinema, the festival-goers were entertained by the up-and-coming Croatian band The Genuines.