A press conference was held in the Kranjčar Gallery ahead of the start of the 33rd World Animated Film Festival – Animafest Zagreb 2023, which takes place from June 5 to 10 at SC Cinema, Tuškanac Cinema, Tuškanac Summer Stage and other city locations. The programme consists of more than 300 films, will host record-breaking 400 authors as guests, and in addition to prestigious competitions that include feature films and VR projects, features a large thematic block dedicated to science fiction in animated film, a retrospective of William Kentridge (exhibition, AV performance, masterclass, films), Polish animation, Animafest PRO with the 10th anniversary Animafest Scanner symposium and the workshop Rise & Shine, exhibition programme and Programme for Children and Youth.
Members of the jury and distinguished guests, Croatian films in international and Croatian competitions and details of attractive programs were presented by the festival's artistic director Daniel Šuljić, producers Matea Milić and Paola Orlić, Deputy Mayor of the City of Zagreb Luka Korlaet and authors of films in Croatian Film Competition Martina Meštrović, Ivana Bošnjak Volda and Thomas Johnson Volda. The official festival trailer by Dalibor Barić, with music by Toni Starešinić, was presented as well. Barić is also the author of the festival illustration, which Studio Kuna zlatica (Ana Kunej, Alma Šavar and Zlatka Salopek Radić) integrated into the complete visual identity of the festival.
Daniel Šuljić greeted the crowd on behalf of the festival, which has since 1972 represented one of the most significant cultural manifestations that the city of Zagreb and Croatia offer to the world. More than 1,800 films from 93 production countries were submitted for Animafest 2023, the world’s second oldest festival entirely dedicated to animation. Šuljić referred to the topic of using artificial intelligence in animation, which came about during the selection process this year. He also pointed out the record-breaking number of distinguished foreign guests and underlined eight Croatian films in the strongest international competitions (49 Croatian films were submitted to the festival, so Šuljić assessed that it was an extremely successful year for Croatian animation): Family Portrait by Lea Vidaković, The Following Season by Natko Stipaničev, Y by Matea Kovač, Eeva by Lucija Mrzljak and Morten Tšinakov in the Grand Competition Short Film, Sara Tomas’s Foreign Side and Dorotea Radušić’s Peacock Inn in the Student Film Competition, Who Who Birthday Party by Vjekoslav Živković and Mirela Ivanković Bielen’s The Journey in the Films for Children and Youth Competition. The Croatian Film Competition features, on the other hand, 19 new works, of which Šuljić singled out Martina Meštrović’s new film Her Dress for the Final and two other films that will continue their festival journey after Animafest in Annecy (Remember How I Used to Rid a White Horse by I. Bošnjak and T. Johnson Volda; Under Cover by D. Bakliža), new works of Zagreb film (The Republic by A. Begušić and Aleph by S. Tomić) and a record-breaking nine titles from Academy of Fine Arts, University of Zagreb.
Šuljić singled out the names of animation classics, Oscar winners and friends of the festival of all generations who are competing in Zagreb this year, such as Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis (The Flying Sailor), João Gonzalez (Ice Merchants), Elizabeth Hobbs (The Debutante), Naomi Van Niekerk (Box Cutters) and Inés Sedan (Love Me True), as well as twenty world premieres that indicate the prestigious international status of the festival.
Animafest puts Zagreb on the cultural map of the world in the best possible way. It is one of the four most respected animation festivals in the world, so through it Zagreb becomes one of the ‘most amazing’ cities in the world. This is the Zagreb I want to live in. The numbers of films and authors are truly impressive. As an architect, the medium of animated film is extremely close to me. I have two great animators in my family. One is an author who competed at Animafest, and the other is a designer also related to animation. The three of us regularly attend Animafest and will definitely be there again this year. – said Luka Korlaet.
Šuljić said that the jury of the Grand Competition Short Film will include Oscar-nominated Chilean author Hugo Covarrubias, Israeli animator Tal Kantor, Dutch animator, painter and composer Hisko Hulsing, artistic director of Kaboom Animation Festival Aneta Ozorek and winner of last year’s Croatian Film Competition Vuk Jevremović. Before them lies the difficult task of evaluating 42 films from 34 countries, while Kantor and Hulsing will use their stay in Zagreb to hold masterclasses. Last year’s Grand Prix (and Audience Award) winner, Portuguese animator Laura Gonçalves, will be a member of the combined jury of the Student Film Competition and the Croatian Film Competition, along with Anifilm program director and animation journalist Pavel Horáček and Croatian animator and comic artist Irena Jukić Pranjić. Student Film Competition consists of 41 films, and the National Film and Television School (NFTS) from the United Kingdom has earned the title of the Best animation school for the second year in a row by the total production entered. Four NFTS films will be screened in the competition, and we will see many others in the traditional retrospective of the winning school.
The jury of the Grand Competition Feature Film will include the legendary Hungarian founder of the animation studio and festival in Kečkemet Ferenc Mikulás, the Egyptian professor of animation and ASIFA vice-president Mohamed Ghazala and the prolific Croatian animator Ivana Guljašević Kuman. The programme whose central screenings will take place under the clear sky of the Tuškanac Summer Stage, will present six impressive films: from the adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s stories Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (dir. Pierre Földes) and the feminist-satirical musical, voiced by the star of the series Succession Dagmara Domińczyk, by the celebrated Latvian Signe Baumane (My Love Affair with Marriage), to the intimate-monumental dystopian Hungarian SF White Plastic Sky and the brutally sweet, anti-war and darkly humorous Unicorn War by the old Animafest acquaintance Alberto Vázquez, to the world premiere of the anime horror Feast of Amrita by Saku Sakamoto and the strangely poetic film from a Chinese province No Changes Have Taken in Our Life by Jingwei Xu.
The central retrospective Masters of Animation programme is dedicated to William Kentridge – winner of the Animafest 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award. Kentridge is a leading name in the world art scene whose works are in the permanent line-ups of the most important museums and galleries, and theatrical productions in the most famous opera houses and theatres. His universal oeuvre ranges from children's literature, drawings, graphics, tapestries and sculptures, through acting, feature films, puppet shows, theatre and opera direction and scenography, to demanding transmedia projects, installations, plays and performances. In his animated films, this South African genius is recognizable by the charcoal on paper technique, autobiographical inspirations (characters Soho Eckstein and Felix Teitelbaum) and the theme of Apartheid.
Bringing Kentridge to Zagreb was a great adventure. His colleague Paola Bristot brought him to the Venice Academy of Fine Arts and it was a chance for us because he was close. We went there as a team, Margit Antauer, Paola Orlić and I, and luckily we were accommodated in a hotel with Kentridge. He is guarded by an army of producers, curators, gallerists. But when you manage to reach him, he is a very kind, nice and open man. He knew about Animafest and promised to come. – said Šuljić.
Paola Orlić explained all the Kentridge-related things, along with a retrospective of nine of the master’s films selected by Andrijana Ružić, that await Animafest visitors: a special screening of the film City Deep with a live musical performance at the opening ceremony (with the participation of the brothers Sinkauz and Maja Rivić), an exclusive performance of Kentridge’s version of Ursonata by Dadaist Kurt Schwitters with music and video mapping (Daniel Šuljić, Maja Rivić, Igor Pavlica, Stanislav Kovačić and Žana Marović will join Kentridge in the performance), an exhibition from the collection of the Slovenian collector Igor Lah Circulus Vitiosus at the Kranjčar Gallery and a masterclass.
In the retrospective sections of Animafest 2023, the great Aleksandar Marks of the Zagreb School of Animation deserves a rightful place, while the newer works of established names (Andreas Hykade, Simone Massi, Janet Perlman, Debra Solomon, Izabela Plucińska, etc.) will be presented by the authors themselves. Finally, Polish animation, with films by greats such as Borowczyk (whose retrospective is being organised on the occasion of the centenary of his birth), Lenica, Giersz, Kucia and Dumała, as well as authors of the newer generation, is the focus of the special programme of Animafest 2023.
Daniel Šuljić also presented an extensive thematic programme dedicated to science fiction. The program in nine parts features films that contemplate the world of the future and the potential directions of development of the human species and technology, and overlaps with the current discussion about artificial intelligence. The first part “The Future Is Here” deals with AI (e.g. Vladimir Todorovic’s Algodreams), but also other computer technologies in animation (Sean Buckelew’s Drone). The second section “The World of Tomorrow” gathers classic animated reflections on the future, and the third under the title “Disasters” brings examples of the (post)apocalyptic subgenre, just like the fifth “Speculative Animation – Return to the Post-Apocalypse”, this time selected by Olga Bobrowska. The fourth collection features collage films “Science Friction” chosen by the artistic director of the festival in Ottawa, Chris Robinson, and the sixth will feature SF films from the history of Zagreb film. All of the aforementioned collections of short films bring together classic and recent authors such as Méliès, Marker, Vukotić, Grgić, Servais, Hertzfeldt, Mulloy, Marušić, Mcglocklin, Seidel, Popakul, Barić, Tadić and Pisačić. The seventh, eighth and ninth units are feature-length animated SFs: cult anime Ghost in the Shell by Mamoru Oshii, the French-Polish experimental Chronopolis by Piotr Kamler and the restored Romanian Space Mission "Delta" (dir. Mircea Toia, Călin Cazan, Victor Antonescu).
Matea Milić presented seven artistically intriguing and narratively strong projects chosen for the VR Animation Competition, which takes place with free admission at the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum every day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with the support of Legame Studio and Milan Gostimir: from a shocking Italian documentary about children in prison and a small German student dystopia, to a fun simulation of the debate between Munch and Ibsen and Chernobyl experiences of Svetlana Aleksijevic, to experiencing the position of a disabled person. VR is judged by Andrijana Ružić, Reinhold Bidner and Michelle Kranot.
The crown of the exhibition programme of Animafest 2023, along with William Kentridge’s exhibition, is the fifth anniversary edition of the group exhibition Behind the Scenes, which gathers the works of authors whose films have earned participation in the Grand Short Film Competition and the Student Film Competition in the SC Gallery. As said by Paola Orlić, this year’s exhibition, which contains the contributions of as many as 51 authors, is the largest so far and has been profiled as an indispensable festival practice for promoting animation within the gallery space. The exhibition will also include comic-mobiles by Irena Jukić Pranjić (an innovation that combines comics, animation and the experiences of optical and mechanical toys) in the lobby of the SC Cinema, works by animation students of the University of Nova Gorica in the Šira Gallery, an exhibition of projections and spatial installations from the film Family Portrait by Lea Vidaković in HDLU’s Prsten Gallery, works from the scenographic video mapping workshop ALU MAPPING: Planet Kanca Manca held under the leadership of Ivan Marušić Klif in the Sek hall.
The flagship of Animafest PRO is the anniversary 10th international symposium on contemporary animation Animafest Scanner (June 6 and 7, &TD Theatre). The keynote speaker is Suzanne Buchan, winner of the Award for Outstanding Contribution to Animation Studies, and the current meaning of animation, digital technology and originality, animation in the service of other art forms and science fiction in animation will be discussed. Animafest’s outstanding position in the festival world is reflected in the programs of CEE Animation and Animation Festival Network, as well as in the rich professional programme with top mentors. A forum for the development and presentation of animated films by young filmmakers, Rise & Shine, is organised by the Ljubljana Animateka and in cooperation with CEE Animation – 11 projects from as many countries are presented, and the mentors are Michaël Dudok de Wit and Pedro Rivero. AFN Edu is a forum for the mobility and international cooperation of animation students, and GoCritic! workshop for film critics led by Variety journalist Jessica Kiang. In addition to the already mentioned masterclasses, Dino Krpan will hold a production analysis of the Cricket and Antoinette project, and Michelle and Uri Kranot will talk about their work on animated documentaries. Reinhold Bidner, Gerrit Kuge, Aneta Ozorek and Marko Paleka will talk at the round table about the use of artificial intelligence in the production of animated films moderated by Daniel Šuljić. Eight new ones, foreign and domestic, books, comics and monographs related to animated film will also be presented.
Matea Milić pointed out that Animafest 2023 wants to enable audiences of different ages to see films of different author generations for free. The Student Film Competition, the Films for Children and Youth Competition, the VR Animation Competition, segments of the Masters of Animation program, special film programs (NFTS retrospective and CEE New Talents) and the entire programme of Animafest in Your Neighbourhood in the city’s Cultural Centres can therefore be seen without ticket payment. With cheaper tickets for the Saturday screenings of Cricket and Antoinette and Croatian Film Competitions 1 and 2, Animafest joins the project “H15 – 15 Years in Our Film” with which the Croatian Audiovisual Centre celebrates 15 years of activity.
Milić also spoke about the traditionally rich and diverse Programme for Children and Youth. The 36 films of the Films for Children and Youth Competition were pre-selected by Nino Kovačić and selected by Slovenian media psychologist Martina Peštaj, who classified them according to their suitability for four age categories (3-6, 7-10, 11-14 and 15+). In addition to the competition, there is also an attractive Family Programme, ideal for watching with parents. The family programme and the competition for children 3-6 and 7-10 are shown as part of the Animafest in Your Neighbourhood programme in the city’s Cultural Centres: CKI Maksimir, NS Dubrava, KUC Travno, NS Sesvete and KNAP Centre. Admission to all programs in the Cultural Centres of the City of Zagreb is free. Selections from the Animafest program will be subsequently shown at the Bačvice Summer Cinema in Split and at the Art Cinema in Rijeka, and this year the festival also returns to Zagreb children's hospitals – at KBC Sestre milosrdnice in cooperation with the Children Meet Art Association, they will show a selection from the Films for Children Competition.
At the end of the press conference, Martina Meštrović and Ivana Bošnjak Volda addressed the crowd.
I am glad that the audience will see my film for the first time at Animafest. The film had a thorny path, the production dragged on for an extra year and we spent the received budget, so I also worked other jobs to finish it. It was inspired by my grandmother, who painted the wedding dress in which she wanted to be buried black – said Meštrović about Her Dress for the Final, which will be shown in the main program of Annecy International Animation Film Festival after Animafest.
This is our third joint puppet-film, very abstract and the most rounded that we have made so far. His topic is apathy, which we consider the most dangerous disease of today’s society. We deal with the way of experiencing the story, not its end. It is important for us that the audience connects with the characters because in the film we are talking about the state of mind. Through very surreal images, we try to cause identification with the heroine – said Bošnjak Volda about Remember How I Used to Ride a White Horse.