Next to four titles in the most prestigious Grand Competition Short Film (Arka, Murder in the Cathedral, The Closing Door and Toomas beneath the Valley of the Wild Wolves) and two in the another international selection, the Student Film Competition (I’m Not Feeling Very Well by Sunčana Brkulj and Cockpera by Kata Gugić), the 30th World Festival of Animated Film – Animafest Zagreb 2020 screens other 13 new Croatian animation titles in the Croatian Film Competition, one in the Children’s Film Competition (Thundeeer by the prolific Ivana Guljašević Kuman), two in the Family Programme (Sleeper and First They Came… by a group of authors), as well as the Croatian premiere of the feature film Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus by Dalibor Barić. A real treat for the lovers of classics, on the other hand, is a comprehensive retrospective of Pavao Štalter’s films, both his solo works and the works made in collaboration with other filmmakers. We are therefore looking forward to seeing The Fifth One, The Mask of the Red Death, Seven Little Flames, Vacuum Cleaner (from the Bird and Worm serial), The House no. 42, The Last Station and the more recent Wiener Blut once again.
Thanks to the Croatian Film Competition, Animafest Zagreb 2020 is the most representative display of the current state of Croatian animation in the global context. The most numerous among them are films produced at the Academy of Fine Arts, including (in co-production with Zagreb film) Cockpera, a humorous animation opera inspired by Aesop’s tale. Kata Gugić created a persiflage of opera conventions with a comment of cock-people’s vanity and the several meanings of the word cock. I’m Not Feeling Very Well by Sunčana Brkulj, selected for the graduation film competition at Annecy, is on the other hand a bit macabre, a heavy metal depiction of singing birdlike skeletons in cut-out technique, with hints of psychedelia in following the riffs of the namesake song by the local band Crawander, definitely one of the most ‘vibrant’ films of this year’s festival. The humorous pastel sci-fi The Final Nail in the Coffin by Stella Hartman leans on her previous hit with an original sense of colours and slapstick and an examination of personal space and everyday objects, but this is nevertheless an elaborate piece in which gadgets in a metropolitan apartment refuse obedience. Upon His Image by Jakov Piplica is a skilfully crafted meditative-philosophical film which can be read as a religious allegory, examination of a father-son relationship or an openly metaphysical work, whereas Cleithro by Morana Bunić is a valuable example of puppet film in this competition. Mihaela Erceg’s Taximeter and Mild Psychosis is a story about an anxious student hoodwinked by a taxi driver, illustrating the author’s inclination to absurdity and the use of felt-tip pens in strange colours.
Apart from Arka, Kreativni sindikat and Zagreb Film bring us Events Meant to Be Forgotten by Marko Tadić, a further analysis of a part of the eponymous installation presented at the Venice Biennale. This stop-motion 16mm film is based on found photographs intervened on with drawing and painting. The work presents the ongoing interests of one of the most important Croatian visual artists in the modernist heritage and reinterpretations of history. Zagreb Film also presents Iris by Lucija Bužančić, a sketchy and metamorphous ‘portrait’, inspired by the myth of Narcissus which, with a hint of watercolour, offers an overview of a day in the life of a girl imagining herself in film plots. Another piece coming from the same production company is A Role by Darko Bakliža, an experimental film in pixilation technique, aided by actresses Lucija Barišić and Nataša Zlatović, highlighting the body to re-examine the making and boundaries of identity in acting. Zagreb Film also co-produced the Bosnian and Herzegovinian and Croatian film Natural Selection by Aleta Rajič (screened in Annecy’s Perspectives section), a classic drawn study of melancholia and solitude set in an urban environment around which a deer-woman moves. Balancing between human and animalistic nature, an alienating job of a static exhibit at the Natural History Museum, house chores, vapid free time and disturbing dreams, she feels a need to bring some slanted perspective into her life and finally reach for freedom.
Adriatic Animation in association with the Portuguese BAP Studio presents a confessional animated documentary about transgender issues. All Those Sensations in My Belly by Marko Dješka is a testimony of Matia Anne Pleše, enriched with poetic illustrations by Hana Tintor. The film doesn’t focus as much on the act of transition, as it does on the protagonist’s intimate world and a quest for female gender and sex identity. The Croatian-Serbian film Florigami by Iva Ćirić transfers the tough natural laws from the world of animals to the world of plants, achieving thriller-like suspense. A valuable genre contribution to the Croatian Film Competition is Hrvoje Wächter’s The Room, a first-person horror film holding the viewers captive in a haunted house room in a body of a frightened girl beset by a monster. A spectacular computer animation Pet Planet by Ratimir Rakuljić is based on a sci-fi assumption of a planet-toy – a model recreating the entire civilisation history under a dome, all until the inevitable nuclear ending. And finally, the Croatian-Swedish Allergy Pills are a hand-drawn, fictional animation commercial with a little girl full of love for a cute black cat.
The most ambitious project thus far by Dalibor Barić, the Croatian champion of found footage bordering between experimental and animated film, is a feature, philosophically revolutionary, animated live action and collage-rotoscopic noir photo crime story under the title of Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus. Animafest’s audience will have a chance to see it in a premiere on Thursday, 1 October at SC Cinema’s large auditorium at 10pm. In his most recent piece, screened in Annecy’s competition as well, Barić resorts to readymade even more strongly, with powerful impacts of pop-culture, but maintains a stricter narrative thread than we are used to seeing from him, with only a hint of sci-fi.
The visitors of Animafest 2020 will also have a chance to enjoy the traditional retrospective of the Zagreb School of Animation selected by Borivoj Dovniković Bordo, who arrived to the year 1972 and the classics like Tup-Tup, Horse, Umbrella and episodes of Professor Balthazar.