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Lleida, international epicentre of animation cinema

Lleida, international epicentre of animation cinema

Animac, the International Animation Film Festival of Catalonia, organised by Lleida City Council, takes place from 2 to 5 March in several venues of the city, including La Llotja, Caixaforum and Magical Media. The programme includes around 7 feature films, 200 shorts and other animated pieces.

Its programme, under the motto “Against the Wind”, features international animation artists such as Igor Kovalyov, Special Guest, and Michaël Dudok de Wit, Animation Master. Two Oscar-nominated films ‒ My Life as a Courgette and The Red Turtle – will be screened and the festival will also be attended by the character designer and the animator of the stories in J. Bayona’s A Monster Calls, both Goya Award winners.

From 2 to 5 March, Lleida will become the world animation capital with the holding of Animac, the International Animation Film Festival of Catalonia, now in its 21st year.

The Mayor of Lleida, Àngel Ros, together with the Deputy Mayor and Councillor of Culture, Creativity, Education and Sports, Montse Parra, and the Director of Animac, Carolina López, chaired the festival’s presentation. Ros stressed that “9,500 school children, one thousand more than last year, will attend the festival, thus strengthening its educational aspect by generating future audiences and animation professionals while promoting the creativity of the audiovisual industry.”

This year, Animac’s motto is “Against the Wind”. According to Carolina López, Director of Animac, “transforming difficulties into art becomes a powerful idea for many filmmakers, something also very present in most of the animated films screened this year.” Art as alchemy is capable of transforming misfortune into poetry to help us understand the world and each other, one of its most important tasks.

 

Igor Kovalyov, Special Guest

For this reason, this year’s Special Guest is Igor Kovalyov, one of the most important figures of post-Soviet animation. Indeed, his films have reached large audiences thanks to series produced by Klasky Csupo such as Rugrats, Aahh!!! Real Monsters and Duckman, as well as his feature film The Rugrats Movie (1998), based on the series. Animac celebrates his talent with a master class and a complete retrospective with films that have made him an international cultural reference.

Michaël Dudok de Wit, Animation Master

The Oscar-winner Michaël Dudok de Wit, the Dutch animator, director and illustrator living in London, will also attend this year’s festival as Animation Master. This year he has been nominated for an Oscar for his first feature film The Red Turtle, to be screened in Animac, co-produced by the legendary Ghibli studios. His films stand out for the simplicity of his drawing and skilful unscripted storytelling. Animac will also screen his short films, including Father & Daughter (2000), which won a BAFTA and the Grand Prize for Short Film at Annecy.

 

Approximately fifty filmmakers attend Animac

Among the approximately 50 filmmakers present we should mention Philippine Avid Liongoren, creator of Saving Sally, a hybrid feature film that combines animation with live images and concerns a young illustrator who sees the world around him as a book depicting his life. The film addresses teenagers with pop culture influences. We will also welcome to Animac the French film The Girl Without Hands, based on one of the darkest stories by the Brothers Grimm, magnificently drawn by its director Sébastien Laudenbach.

In addition to the seven feature films programmed, short films are once again the main focus of the festival with more than 200 titles. These include Blind Vaysha, by Theodore Ushev, Decorado, by Alberto Vàzquez, Nonca ptico, by Spela Cadez, Une tête disparaît, by Frank Dion and Before Love, by Igor Kovalyov, all in the Short Film sessions with the best current productions. Moreover, short films from schools around the world will be screened in the section Future Talent and the Monograph will focus on recent productions under the motto “Against the Wind”.

Notable among the professionals present this year are the character designer Adrià García (Headless) and the animator Javier Verdugo (Grassworks Barcelona), responsible for the wonderful animated stories of J. Bayona’s award-winning film, who will deliver the lecture “How we made the animation for A Monster Calls." Headless studio has recently been recognised at the prestigious Annie Awards for its work on the character design of Guillermo del Toro’s last series Trollhunters, produced by Netflix and directed by Rodrigo Blaas.

Two more important figures attending this year are the singer and guitar player Benjamin Scheuer and the British animator Peter Baynton, who will tell us about the important role of animation in their music videos. Furthermore, Benjamin Scheuer will perform in Spain for the first time with songs from his album “The Lion”. Scheuer is currently touring the United States and has received very good reviews for his work.

 

Little Animac and School Sessions

Animac also has the youngest in mind, with its most popular Little Animac and School Sessions, which this year will break its record with more than 9,500 children from all around the province. Little Animac is a non-commercial animation showcase that promotes imagination and values with pieces like the feature film My Life as a Courgette, which won the Cristal Award for Best Feature and the Audience Award at the prestigious Annecy Festival. The stop motion film directed by Claude Barras revolves around a 9-year-old boy called “Courgette", who is sent to an orphanage after his mother passes away.

There is also Short & Sweet, for children under 3, with a fine selection of images and sounds so toddlers can also enjoy Animac.

Amongst the latest innovations, Animac has created the session White Cube, a bold film selection halfway between cinema and art gallery, and the programme Animac4teens, a programme for teenagers.

 

Animacrea

Animacrea is again the main engine of the festival, with open and free courses, organised by prestigious schools such as Ilerna, EAM, Ermengol, Ondara, Escola d'Art i Disseny de Sant Cugat, Escuela Joso, Pau Gargallo, IDEM Bcn, ESNE - Escuela Universitaria de Diseño, Innovación y Tecnología in Madrid, BAU Design College of Barcelona, Loopy Teller, Nus Creacions, Biblioteca Pública de Lleida, La Trama Cómics, Editorial París, Kumon, Ipop radio, La Guerrilla del Gilda and Anima Biriki.

Animacrea also offers Open Screen, where it will be possible to see a retrospective of Kovalyov’s commercials, TV productions created by Media for TV3 that approach the figure of scientist, writer and thinker Ramon Llull, films for teenagers and much more. Kids Space and a series of animation-related stands complete one of the best known parts of Animac.

 

Networking & Pitch

Networking & Pitch is once again a reference for emerging professionals thanks to activities that create a bridge between young talent and established professionals. Indeed, in 2017, 12 projects have been selected for the pitch incubator, which will be assessed by an expert panel of producers like Paco Rodríguez, Belli Ramírez and Iván Miñambres. Moreover, Portfolio Sessions offers the possibility of face-to-face meetings between animation professionals seeking to make their way in the industry, producers and new talent.

Market Pitch will also welcome 12 schools that will present their special services. Animac has received around 70 requests to be part of this professional section.

In collaboration with Europa Creativa Desk - MEDIA Catalunya, there will be a script training session led and created by Jordi Gasull, the scriptwriter of Catch the Flag and The Adventures of Tadeo Jones.

 

Educational Animac

Deputy Mayor Montse Parra has stated that “Animac once again strengthens its educational vocation with courses in collaboration with organisations from the city, led by professionals.” One of the most important examples in this area is the course that will take place at Lleida’s Public Library led by The Color-Lab on the morning of 25 February. Following successful initiatives from past years, during the festival the 2nd Seminar for Primary and Secondary School Teachers will take place, in collaboration with El Segrià Educational Resource Centre, led by Laura Ginès. Under the title “Co-animated Exercises” she will share experiences, thoughts and examples of her career as a teacher of animation courses. This seminar was created as a response to the need for students to acquire tools to approach animation cinema as an art.

Other courses and activities include: "Water is life: Imagining a world in which water is the scarcest and most valuable resource", led by New York artist Catya Plate at the Leandre Cristòfol Municipal Art School; a course organised by the Council Department of Policies for the Rights of People and La Panera Art Centre under the title "Fitting In", also led by The Color-Lab; a course at Magical Media about stories and characters created by students from the Vocational Training Programme in 3D Animation, Interactive Games and Environments at ILERNA Vocational Training Integral Centre; the educational approach to cartoons by Laura Ginès and her “Toy Films” for the children at the Hospital Universitari Arnau Vilanova Paediatrics Unit; and "Characters with Character", led by creator Guillermo García Carsí, which will take place on Wednesday 5 April during the Week of Communication organised by the UDL’s Faculty of Audiovisual Communication.

 

2 March: Animac opening

The official opening will take place at 8.30 pm on Thursday 2 March at La Llotja in Lleida. There will be screenings of a representative selection of short films, plus a secret performance. After the opening event, the feature film Historias de amor y masacre by Jordi Amorós will be screened in the evening and he will receive the Lifetime Award, which Animac has given for the last two years, on the last day of the festival. The cartoonist, in Carolina López’s words “represents the spirit of ‘Against the Wind’ thanks to his subversive humour and more than 50 years of work.” Amorós produced the first Catalan animated feature film, Despertaferro, and the animation film for adults Historias de amor y masacre and has contributed to magazines such as El Papus and El Jueves and currently Mongolia, among others.


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