In early May Třeboň hosted a festival of short animated films and TV series in independent production from Central and EasternEuropean countries associated with the professional platform Visegrad Animation Forum. About one hundred projects were entered in the competition, a total of 25 competing teams were presented in the finals: 13 short films up to 20 minutes in length and 12 TV projects. The winner of the short film section was the French-Hungarian project Carpel, in the other category the jury chose the Hungarian-Croatian series The Piracy of Princess Priceless. Special mention was awarded to the Romanian film Somewhereand the Hungarian series Borka and the Magic Dress.
The international juries of both sections were made up of professionals from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Croatia as well as from Western European countries (France, the UK, Sweden and Finland). They represented potential co-producers and distributors, public broadcasting institutions (Czech Television, Croatian Television, Radio and Television of Slovakia), state film institutions (Polish Film Institute, MTVA production agency) as well as independent producers (Planet Nemo, Stream.cz) and others. We asked some of them what they found interesting about the selected projects and for their views on Central European animation.
“I’ve been astounded by the quality of projects I have seen in Třeboň this year. There are more and more interesting ones every year, it was not easy at all to choose who to award. Production studios are getting better, they are employing more professionals, the stories are elaborate, the animations complex, projects often work in a complex way on several platforms and follow contemporary trends in animation,” Křešimir Zubčić, responsible for the acquisition of new projects for the Croatianpublic TV, enthused. “The winning picture fascinated me with its creativity and the imagination of its world, especially for children. It can be successful on the internet, on iPads, in books or video games. Besides The Piracy of Princess Priceless I also liked the silent Slovenian Prince Ki Ki Do and the British Happy Go Hopscotch,” Zubčić adds, pointing out that the most important element of a successful project is the story: “Colours, sounds and technology appeal to children as well but we all want them to improve their emotional and social skills by watching stories.”
The Slovak producer Juraj Krásnohorský agrees that the quality of competingfilms is growing every year: “It is great to see that French, German and British projects want to enter VAF as well, thus creating positive pressure on the quality of the projects from our region. However, there are always only two, maybe three projects that are truly exceptional. These are then shown at festivals all over the world.” What he appreciated about the winning short was mainly its strong story: “It could also work with a longer format with no problem. During pitching, the authors did a great job of telling the story so that one had the feeling of really seeing the film. A short film must bring a visual experience too, though, that’s one of the strengths of animation. Carpel has both: an excellent story and very interesting aesthetics. The victory was absolutely well-deserved.”
The director of Czech TV programme and programme format development Jan Maxa sees the fact that projects which did well in the previous years of VAF were successful in obtaining finance and achieving realisationas a positive thing. The most important criterion when selecting projects to be produced by the Czech TV, he believes, is the combination of creative potential and the originality of a project, a high quality narrative structure – which is sometimes underestimated for children’s audiences – and, of course, being in accord with the programme needs and financial possibilities of Czech TV. “What I liked about the winning series was the distinctive visual stylisation of characters and rich imagination of its authors. Personally, I also enjoyed Prince Ki-Ki-Do, which we have seen at VAF for the second time, and which has reached a pure, simple and therefore more effective final form.” Although he considers Czech animation to be maintaining its art and technical quality, it is facing shortcomings in script-writing and dramaturgy, as well as the fact that the Czech market is small and cannot provide for a sufficient volume and speed of production financially and in terms of capacity. ”To make thirteen parts of a TV bedtime story takes several years. While the minimum marketable number of parts is twenty-six, which can be produced by a larger market in one year,” Maxa says.
To conclude, Juraj Krásnohorský sums up the significance of authors’ encounters at VAF upon returning from the Cannes Festival, where he travelled with the Hungarian project Superbia in the Semaine la Critique section: “The project was awarded second prize at VAF 2014. The Czech Republic was represented in the Cannes competition section Quinzaine des réalisateurs by the short Happy End, which debuted at VAF 2013. The Hungarian short film The Noise of Licking was at VAF too, competing in the Cinéfondation section in Cannes. These are three Central European projects associated with VAF competing in Cannes 2016, which prove that animation production in Central Europe is fruitful. I believe that VAF as the main “meeting point” for animation from Central and Eastern Europe shall continue growing along with young talents.
WHAT ARE THE WINNING PROJECTS ABOUT?
The adventure sci-fi journey of a young curious princess, who finds herself on board a pirate ship along with other popular children story characters (a wizard, a ninja, a dinosaur and others). In each part they experience a different encounter with harsh reality, fighting against an absurd system or utopian society.
The surreal romantic story of a remarkable woman suffering from a peculiar delusion – she doesn’t perceive her own body and life as human but as a plant. The film follows the fascinating story of Emma, who survives the Auschwitz concentration camp but is separated from her husband and small child by destiny. She endures all manner of hardships due to her imagination.