Welcome to another edition of Anibar. With every year passing by the competition is growing which means daily screenings are filled with critically acclaimed features from all over the world. Following the hype of the festival’s opening night, the premiere of Ari Folman’s (writer and director of the Academy Awarded Waltz with Bashir) new animated feature The Congress, Anibar continues the tradition with a vibrant first day schedule.
The first competitive programme, called Reality Check, kickstarts the festival with 7 short features, a total of 67 minutes. We start out with Simulacra, a dark story of a man lost in a cave searching for answers. Crowned as the best animation in Days of Croatian Film 2014 with a beautiful stop-motion work, it quickly immerses the viewer into the right mindset and sets a perfect tone on the things to come. In hallways filled with illusions and a loosening sweater on his body, our protagonist is desperate for escape, he only finds the answer when he is removed from the mantle the others have created for him.
While we are left with questions of self-discovery and reality or just simply amazed from the idea, we pave way for the second entry Father, a stop motion that brings us back in the post-dictatorship Argentina in the life of a solitary woman who devotes herself to the care of her bedridden father, a retired soldier. The precision of her day to day routine duties on nursing her father only serve as a form of withdrawal in her own little world. The film is filled with a lot of surreal references to one’s denial to move on, a hint on a world where the passive support for dictatorship has created irreplaceable scars.
Stop-motion is proving to be a favorite genre on this programme. This is confirmed by the following But Milk is Important which continues the pattern of its two predecessors with a beautiful technique. This Norwegian feature offers cute characters, often very humoruous while treating an often overlooked problem like social anxiety. But Milk is Important has a very Miyazaki feeling to it, not simply because it has fluffy creatures in it but because by placing the characters in comical, everyday situations the audience can relate to, we feel so connected to the story, making this a very enjoyable experience.
We move away from stop-motion for a while, to welcome In Her Footsteps, an 8 minute animation showing a relationship between a single mother and her daughter both dealing with individual struggles but ultimately reconciled by each other. Daughter’s saxophone practice is going horribly wrong and mother has an issue of primal anxiety. Its bleak environment and great soundtrack are necessary for immersing yourself into this relationship. In Her Footsteps has a central character in a teddy bear whose duality draws parallels between fear and comfort in this parental connection.
Foxed! is the 5th entry on the Reality Check, arguably the shortest film of the day with less than 4 minutes screentime, you’d be surprised how rich it is both technically and thematically. We are following Emily, a little girl kidnapped by foxes and sent out to work in a mine. She tries to run for her escape but she meets an unlikely end. The audience feels just as helpless as her and ultimately we are left with a lot of questions to ponder. Is this about parents misconception about their children? Or is it directing a finger to child labor and human right abuses? This is a riveting 3D stop-motion by the experienced James Stewart and it is not to be missed.
The program concludes with two French Films, The Third Eye and Anatolie’s Little Saucepan. In The Third Eye we witness a young boy named Theo constantly avoiding the manifestation of odd numbers, especially number 3 because he is very convinced a big curse is hidden in those numbers. Later it is shown he is following advice from a mysterious creature called Abra. His constant sense of protection from the curse brings a toll in the relationship with his mother and his teacher which results in a tragic end. Metaphors on this 2D film are quite subtle and this opens way for the last film of the night, Eric Montchaud’s Anatolie’s Little Saucepan. A frequent collaborator of the acclaimed film-maker Michel Gondry (The Science of Sleep, Mood Indigo), Montchaud brings to Anibar the story of Anatole and his saucepan which fell to him in mysterious reasons. Themes of prejudices and social acceptance are very presnt here giving a warm end to the first competitive programme.
It’s never easy to express individual struggles, they come in different forms and experiences and sometimes are very hard to relate to but seeing these excellent 7 short animations you’ll definitely leave the theater with a richer perspective on how people deal with their own demons. I strongly advise you not to miss it.