What Joined the Titanic Club?

10 06 2009
Competition short film, Life without Gabriella Ferri, by Priit Paarn
Competition short film, Life without Gabriella Ferri, by Priit Paarn

written by Johannes Wolters

It’s a tough job to be on a pre-selection committee. I had the opportunity to talk to Alexey Alexeev, who together with Vanja Andrijevic (Producer, Croatia) and Francis Gavelle (Journalist, France) had the gigantic task to select the programs for short films from thousands and thousands of films. They also had to put together the out of competition program. So Alexey told me about the big discussions they had, what to choose, what to select within the pressure to work for the most influential animation festival of the world. So he sought for something new, something bold, something sharp. Describing himself as a little bit cynical, he adores “South Park” and Andreas Hykade but also the old Hanna-Barbera “Tom & Jerry” cartoons. He tries to combine creativity and professionalism, which means less boring films, less long format, less is more. Alexey Alexeev himself is in the TV competition with his lovable “Log Jam” series produced by Andras Erkel and his Hungarian Studio BAESTARDS.

Titanic Club? Anyone? It is an inside joke for all who went to Annecy in the past years. There was at legendary screening of a short film in competition where you saw the ocean from an iceberg by night, the camera rolling with the waves. After unbelievable boring 30 minutes during which the audience began to get slightly upset, you finally saw a ship on the horizon coming nearer, very slowly by the way. You get it? But moments before the Titanic crushes into the ice, the camera went to the left and you didn’t even get the main event. The audience went mad! We all sang, “My heart will go on!” Some people swam literally across the stage in front of the big screen. It was hilarious. Afterwards Serge Bromberg admitted, that they wanted one film in the program that was provocative beyond any limit during the festival. So for insiders the title of the film “Titanic Club” is like a definition for a certain festival genre.

So yesterday evening was the time for this year´s provocation. Pritt Päärn, director of “Night of the Carrots”, presented his new film called “Elu Ilma Gabriella Ferrita  - Life without Gabriella Ferri.” It was the last film in Section One of the Short Film Competition. And there it was. The film every festival needs to have there in the program: 43 minutes and 44 seconds. You lived through a surreal nightmare of strange characters doing even more strange things. The film created a special kind of atmosphere, tranquillity which will be hailed by some, hated by many – the guy behind me fell asleep during the very first minutes and began to snore heavily. So the front row had the opportunity to watch the film with an additional sound design.

The wonderful thing about this film for me was the big discussions about good or bad animation afterwards: “You have to do it the Pixar way!” “No that´s totally boring!” “Pixar is big fast food!” It has to have atmosphere!” “It doesn´t need to be cleverly animated, it has to have a good story.” “A clever design!”

So Alexey and Serge did it again with the help of Prit Päärn. They destroyed for a while our own well built vision of how to do it and created an atmosphere, where you can reconsider your opinion. What more can a festival do?

Coraline was the first stop-motion feature originally created in 3-D.
Coraline was the first stop-motion feature originally created in 3-D.

For instance, conferences. I went to the conference about technical and narrative constraints in 3-D. Producer Didier Brunner, the famous producer of “Triplettes of Belleville,” Jeremie Degruson (nWave pictures, Belgium) and Guillaume Jallot (Antefilm France) talked about the experience with 3-D on the screen, while Guillaume Hellouin (TeamTo, France) and Gilles Marcellier (Alioscopy, France) explored the possibilities of 3-D on television. Marcellier and his team developed a television set that do not need glasses. Guest of Honor of this meeting was director Henry Selick, who talked about “Coraline” and showed how he used the new tool to enhance his story, which he described as a modern version of “The Wizard of Oz.” All the rooms of Coraline’s real house had to look claustrophobic, small and depressing, while in the other world, the same rooms had to look big, friendly and overwhelming. So Selick and his team played very cleverly with perspective lines, light and shadows and of course colors.

Didier Brunner had a very strong point in describing the difficulties he has to get the money for a European production. The average budget is 12 to 15 million Euros, now with the 3-D tools it is roundabout 15-17 million. That means a lot of big problems for the business model European producers have developed over the years. Jeremie Degruson showed a 13 minute clip of “Around the World in 50 Years,” a feature film that will be completed in October 2009 and hit the screen probably 2010. For all who liked “Fly Me to the Moon,” they will love this story about a turtle’s environmental journey around the world. Guillaume Hellouin and his TeamTo are currently working on a feature film called “Ocho Kochoi,” which is still in production.

Afterwards “Coraline “ went to the big screen in La Grand Salle at the festival center. The film isn´t released in France and Germany yet and the audience cheered the film and its director with big applause and standing ovations.



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