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Hiroshima Animation Festival 2010:

I've been coming to Hiroshima regularly since 1996. Except for the 2008 festival I've posted my personal impressions in Japanese. This year I'll try something different and write my film impressions in English. This might alienate some people who don't read English, but hopefully find readers outside of Japan to make up for the loss.

Outwardly the city of Hiroshima displayed no signs of economic distress.  Most of the cars looked relatively new and well maintained.  There were no empty office spaces as far as I could see. I had missed the atomic bombing memorial ceremony on the previous day (August 6th) not just in person but on TV as well.  Later I read that the American ambassador to Japan had refused to offer flowers to the alter. He refused to do so because that would have signaled admission of war crime. Politicians and bureaucrats seem to be boxed in their prescribed boundaries of political correctness.  One wonders if one should feel pity for them.  It is probably the case  that the US was finally ready to send a delegate to Hiroshima, because it had already developed a new line of more advanced weapons of mass destruction and for that reason more than willing to show a peace loving face to the world by declaring that it would start dismantling outdated nuclear arsenals. The ambassador's gesture was just for show.  Everybody knows.

As usual it was hard work to watch films for over twelve hours everyday.  The eyes felt groggy and swollen due to overuse and lack of sleep. I have to admit that I slept through several films shown at the competition.  Having attended this film festival many times, I've come to realize less than ten percent of the films are worth watching twice but there is no knowing which films are worth seeing until I actually see them. The official catalog is of no help. Well known artists do not necessarily produce good quality works on a consistent basis, and I've often witnessed students put out incredible films. So I need to shuttle back and forth between three screening venues.  I can't afford to travel every year to other respected animation festivals like Annecy, Toronto, Zagreb and others.  Hiroshima comes around only every other year and this is my only chance to see quality films on a big screen.  I might not be able to see most of the films I like ever again.  Critically acclaimed feature films have a good chance of being reissued on DVD but animated shorts rarely come out in other formats.  Thus my obsession to see as many films as possible is not totally unjustified. I have noticed that many animators and producers or people with links to the industry  are keen on networking, more so than watching films.  But I'm an outsider.  I'm just a fan.  The job of a fan is watch as many films as possible and to keep educated about the art.

What follows is my impressions of films that I thought were noteworthy.

Angry Man, Anita Killi: I knew this film would win some award. I had a brief conversation with the author. I told her I was hoping the film would win an award. And it did. This film richly deserves the grand prix.  The drawing is powerful. The facial expressions are real. The theme is totally relevant in today's world.  The kid's secret (his father's domestic violence agaist his mother not agaist him fortunately) can also be read as a metaphor for the truth about 911.  We have to talk about it. We need to pass it on. The world we are living in is mad and scary.  We should stop internalizing it. We need to let it out.

Danny Boy, Marek Skrobecki Archangel: People with no heads walk around on cobbled streets. Have I seen headless puppets before as in this film? No. Scary. A man with a head falls in love with a woman.  In order to be loved he cuts off his head. Toward the end the 911 twin towers are hit by a plane. What does this image mean in the context of the film?  This is definitely not a simple love story.

Malban, Elodie Bouedec: Very stylish. Digitally processed with a refined touch. One of my favorite in the competition. A story about seduction.

Wolves, Rafael Sommerhalder: Simple graphics but the story is powerful.  Drives home the message that you don't need to be a good drawer to make a good animated film. The wolf call is a call of seduction.

The Employment (El Empleo), Santiago 'Bou' Grasso: The audience favorite.  I voted for this one too. The message is powerful and true. Most of us are treated like a door mat.  Even well paid corporate executives are slaves in the eyes of the super rich.

The Spine, Chris Landreth: He has his unmistakable style. Not many animators have their distinctly original styles of their own.

The Winter Solstice, Xi Chen, Xu An: Stylized beauty like "Malban".

Kitchen Dimensions, Priit Tender: Unmistakable Estonian look to it. I like this one better than Parn's "Divers in the Rain", which I found difficult to understand and get into.  Objects in the kitchen go through transformations in shape as if in a dream. After a while they go back to their original shapes.

Logorama, Francois Alaux, Herve de Crecy, Ludovic Houplain: a well made caricature of the U.S. dominated by mega corporations.

Lili, Riho Unt: Lili means Lili Marleen. Rats swarm over a young German soldier's body. They discovers a radio and listens to "Lili Marleen".

Madagascar, a journey diary (Madagascar, carnet de voyage): 3D drawings in crayon; music is fantastic (I love Madagascar music).

Chicory 'n' Coffee, Cikorja an' kafe, Dusan Kastelic: A woman's life with an oppressive husband.  She successfully fooled her husband into thinking the chicory was coffee.

The Green Willow, Chung-Lun Shan: A story of love and jealousy.

Grandma Grasshopper Abuela Grillo, Denis Chapon: a powerful docu-animation about Bolivia's water war.

The Portrait, Irra Verbitsky: a powerful story about how the author's life was spared by Stalin before her birth.

What they could take with them they took, Veselina Dashinova: a real story about a village town on the border of Bulgaria and Turkey. They took whatever they took with them but buried gold. Nobody knows where it is buried.

The Truth-Quizshow, Shi Hua Show, Kung Wu: one cannot see this film without being reminded of Lance Armstrong, possibly the biggest fraud in professional sports.  The last time I checked, over 50% of people believed his story despite Floyd Landis's recent allegation.

The Boy who wanted to be a lion, Alois Di Leo Gremmelspacher: a cruel story.

Eden, Hye-won Kim: an unforgettable film. Hard to believe why this film did not make it to the competition.  A brief history about how humans conquered the animal kingdom and keep killing each other.

A gum boy, Masaki Okuda: the best film by a Japanese animator this year.  Just like the previous film, it is hard to believe why this one did not make it to the competition. Perhaps too much Yamamura Koji's influence in it, but music is fantastic. I imagine lots of people just didn't get the music of this film.  You will never get this kind of music if you hire tested and proven people like Normand Roger.  I would have voted this film for the grand prix, although I have no complaints about "Angry Man" winning the grand prix at all.

The rabbit case, Jakub Wronski: Those faces remind you of Norstein. It's a story of a shy and timid rabbit who is traumatized by the memory of a near death collision with a train.

Savage (Sauvage), Paul Cabon: story about a man who wants to be a  wolf. After several attempts he finally becomes one. Funny. Music is nice. Timing well executed.

Precise Peter, Martin Schmidt: a perfect coordination at a dinner table except for one little kid who just can't fall in line.

Ani-meet me in St. Louis, Maya Yonesho: Two frames in the film, one of various places the author has visited and the people she's met and the other of the rectangular cards held by the people in which painted animation takes place.  This one should have been in the competition. It's more of a conceptual art than animation.

Family, Sonoko Yamada: an allegory of the family where the most important issue is how to divide and share food, that is, who gets how much. Thought provoking.

Yan Yan Machiko, Satoshi Tomioka, Tomoko Nishimura: funny, cute and innocent.

The Fancy real estate, Yusuke Sakamoto: This one should have been in the competition.  Lots of people unwittingly end up basing their decisions on the sales reps' accepted norms.  There is no rationale why the distance from the nearest train station should determine the rent. But it's the accepted norm of the industry. Obvious influence from Estonian animation.

An Invention for destruction, Karel Zeman: Wow. A masterpiece.  Why have I not seen this till now?

Inspiration, Inspirace, Karel Zeman: Wow. A masterpiece. Looks 100 times better on a big screen.

Mr. Prokouk, the Acrobat; Pan Prokouk Akrobat; Karel Zeman: Wow, another masterpiece.

The Conceited General, Te Wei: the first time to see this.  Been a fan of his ink painting animation.  But this is different.

Alice in Wonderland, Disney: The lines are dated but the animation itself looks modern. Looks like a 3D animation converted to 2D using a software program. Never imagined it was made in the 1950s. As much as I hate Disney (because it's like Microsoft in many ways, I have to accept its greatness from time to time.

Tick tock tale, Disney: What?  That clock was supposed to be an odd man out? Because it runs slow?  I didn't see it because my attention was drawn to the digital texture of the graphics. The story is a vintage banal Disney. But the film is a technical marvel.

Junod, Studio Hibari: a docu-animation on Dr. Marcel Junod who persuaded Douglas MacArthur to send medical supplies to Hiroshima. Informative and inspiring. Makes you want to know more about the man.

The last words of Dutch Schultz, Gerrit van Dijk: Contains animated clips of the Zapruder film and the 911 incident. Obviously the author has a lot to say about the U.S. I wanted to have a chat with the author but never had a chance.

Carnival of Animals, Michaela Pavlatova: I didn't know she made funny films about sex. I wanted to see Repete again because I remember vividly how much I wanted to see the film win the grand prix in 1996 and it did.  Since 1996 I never agreed with the jury's decision on the grand prix until this year. I would have voted for "Angry Man" with no hesitation whatsoever.

copyrights Takashi Wakui