Now in its 25th year and with the prestige of being the birthplace of ASIFA which is also 25 years old, the Annecy Animation Festival had something to celebrate, writes David Jefferson.
Last June’s festival was the biggest yet, and they had clearly put a great deal of work into staging it, but people were saying that it was not a vintage year for films. Many of the competition films were bland entertainments, presumably chosen for mass audience appeal. The ones that were breaking new ground or exploring the medium were few and far between.
There was uproar at the final press conference with journalists demanding to hear from the selection committee. ‘You had your chance to talk to them at the first press conference at the start of the festival,’ we were told. But how can you question them on their choice before you have seen the films? Prior to the festival the selection committee had viewed over 600 animated films in all day sessions spread over a two week period. They chose 83 short films and 5 feature films that would comprise the competition programmes from which the jury would select the winners. They also chose 83 runners up to be shown in a series of Panorama programmes. There are some excellent films around that did not get a showing, was this because they were not selected or because the animators did not submit their work in the first place? This is a question that only the selection committee can answer.
There were also retrospectives and homage’s of the work of famous animators. All in all it added up to six days of films with the first programme starting at 9.30 in the morning and the last one going on until after midnight.
This was the year when the Media Market came to Annecy. Festivals can be very profitable if they can attract enough commercial concerns to pay for market space. Clearly Annecy was going after business in a big way. The Market was opened by Jack Lang, the French Minister of Culture. He took the opportunity to point out that 22 million francs had been invested in French animated productions in 1984.
There was a marked contrast between the work of individuals and small studios, that was showing in the festival cinemas, and the cartoon series of formula based Super Heros, on offer in the Market. Giuliana Niccodemi, President of the Italtoons Corperation, writing in AnimaFilm 5 said ‘…for the next Market the organizers should make an effort to bring together the distributers and the filmmakers only a few filmmakers felt the need to stop by our stand and discuss the possible distribution for their films’
‘What about the picnic?’ became a familiar lament. Animators were looking back to the early days when the festival was smaller and it was traditional for delegates to get together for a barbeque style picnic in one of Annecy’s lakeside meadows. Such events were the casualty of the shear size of the event.
This June 2500 people registered with the Festival on the first day. We were issued with badges of either red, green or blue, which dictated the time of day we got to view the competition films. Journalists and Media Market people got into the evening show of their choice while some student animators felt they were being treated as second class citizens by having to wait until the afternoon of the following day to see them.
Among the journalists there was a feeling that not enough was done to aid communication between the animators and the media. A press conference was held each afternoon so that the press could meet the animators of the films in the previous day’s competition show. In some cases self opinionated animators were allowed to hog the show and at one session many of the filmmakers walked out because they realised they would not have time to speak themselves.
It surprised me that hardly any of the people employed at the Festival information desk spoke English. This was an international event, and probably a third of those attending had English as their main language. However, the Festival is to be congratulated on their excellent publications which were printed in French and English. As well as the main programme there was a daily bulletin from Bank-Titre magazine giving festival updates and comments on the main events.
In the week leading up to the festival there was an animation workshop run by Bob Godfrey. One of the workshop students, Gary French-Powell, told me that he had learned to animate with a much freer style as a result of Bob’s guidance.