Inside Encounters #3- Cartoon d’Or 2013: The Best of European Animation

I am Tom Moody by Ainslie Henderson

Let it be known: European animation is in good health. Europe has brilliant schools, including RCA and NFTS in the UK, KASK and La Cambre in Belgium, La Poudriere and Les Gobelins in France we could cite a dozen more from several other countries. It has major festivals, renowned studios and exciting new feature films released every year. Export sales in animation are the best of any in the European audiovisual sector.

Yet, if you need any more evidence that Europe is a productive talent pool, just head to the Cartoon d’Or screening on Sunday.

Cartoon Forum was created in 1990 to connect creators, producers and broadcasters. The Cartoon d’Or is a special guest screening offering you this year’s best animation short films, selected from a list of thirty awardwinning films. Needless to say, it is ‘la crème de la crème’, brought to you on a silver platter.

The jury, who had the difficult task of watching thirty masterpieces and  choosing only six, was composed this year of three big names in international animation. Didier Brunner is a French producer responsible for two big hits: Kirikou and the Sorceress in 1998 and The Triplets of Belleville in 2003. Enrique Gato is a young Spanish filmmaker and creator of Tadeo Jones, an anti-hero adventurer appearing in two short films and one feature film, Tad, The Lost Explorer, released in 2012. The third juror, Anca Damian, is a Romanian animator. She directed Crulic, the Path to Beyond, the heart-rending (and true) story of Claudiu Crulic, an innocent man who went on hunger strike and died in prison, after he was convicted of theft. With its mix of handdrawn and cut-out animation, it is a must-see for any curious film lover. Their selection favours puppet animation with four films out of six using this technique; a confirmation, after the competition programmes ‘ANI 1: Power to Puppets’ and ‘ANI 5: No strings attached’, that handcrafted creation does not lack inspiration.

In Women’s Letters and Betty’s Blues, the story meets history. The first film, by Augusto Zanovello, plunges us into World War II. The soldiers are fighting  on the front and the only comfort comes from the letters of their ‘war godmothers’, women who send them thoughts from a more civilized world. The letters, soul healers, become real plasters in this metaphorical film, which opposes the inhumanity of the men’s actions to the tenderness of the women’s words. Betty’s Blues, by Belgian Remi Vandenitte, uses puppets and hand-drown animation to take us back to 1920s New Orleans. A story of love, racism and revenge… Lively and colourful despite its serious subject, this musical journey will take you along.

I am Tom Moody and Kali the Little Vampire deal with the delicate but crucial moments in life when you realise you have to grow up and leave your childhood fears behind you. The little vampire imagined by Portuguese animator Regina Pessoa suffers from loneliness; hidden in the dark, isolated from the rest of the world, he tries to find his place in this dark, dreamlike tale.

Tom Moody, Ainslie Henderson’s character, struggles with low self-esteem and his childhood memories, standing in front of the audience of a live music bar wjo are waiting for him to play. The film, awarded the Best of British Jury (Animation) prize at last year’s Encounters strikes a very intimate chord. Funny and highly sensitive, Henderson succeeds brilliantly, sharing his demons and deepest thoughts with us.

If this film does not make you want to cry, maybe Head over Heels will. Another short film from the UK, this beautiful portrait was nominated for an Oscar in 2013. An old man and his wife live together… upside down. His ceiling is her floor. They meet but do not talk anymore. Will they find each other again, after years of shared loneliness? Can love be saved from the passing of time? The subject has been explored again and again, but is rarely treated with such delicacy.

Are European animators conspiring to make us feel sad? You might be wondering. Not so, suggests Rocio Alvarez’s Off the Tracks, the hilarious worst-case scenario of a girl taking her driving test. The childlike drawings use felt pen, bringing a charming innocence to this light-hearted work.

If you did not have the chance to see these six films play at any European festivals, this is the perfect opportunity to catch up and to honour the creativity of the old continent. Memorable moments guaranteed.

By Lucile Bourliaud