Annecy 2024: The return of young talents

25 April 2024

Czech Film Publications

Annecy 2024: The return of young talents

Czech Film Publications

Annecy 2024: The return of young talents


This year’s convening of Annecy International Animated Film Festival (IAFF), the largest gathering of animation professionals in the world, welcomes a raft of young talents from the Czech Republic. Their presence not only underlines the country’s enduring legacy in the genre, but also highlights the filmmakers’ adeptness at melding diverse techniques with compelling storytelling. Amid this overall success for Czech animation, MAUR film studio confirms its reputation with a quintet of projects showcased at the prestigious French event.

written by Martin Kudláč for CZECH FILM / Summer 2024

Following the notable presence of Czech animation at last year’s Annecy IAFF, 2024 once again sees Czech productions feature prominently. Last year the festival showcased Filip Pošivač’s feature-length debut, Tony, Shelly and the Magic Light, alongside Daria Kashcheeva’s Electra, one of the standout Czech animated works of 2023, and five other short films. This year, amid a competitive selection process that attracted 3,277 submissions from 108 countries, Czech representation at the world’s largest animation festival features emerging talents and seasoned filmmakers alike.

Animator and illustrator Kristina Dufková will be unveiling her feature-length directorial debut, the puppet animation film Living Large, in the festival’s Contrechamp competition. Adapted from the novel La vie, en gros by French author Mikaël Ollivier, the story explores the sensitive and universally resonant theme of childhood obesity. Twelve-year-old Ben, a budding chef grappling with his weight, embarks on a transformative journey of dieting, driven by his crush on a girl named Klara and supported by his family and best friend Erik, ultimately regaining his zest for life and mending cherished relationships. With a script written by Petr Jarchovský, Dufková’s modern coming-of-age stop-motion film about self-acceptance, love, and friendship is produced by Matěj Chlupáček of Barletta and coproduced by Czech Television, NOVINSKI (Slovakia), and Marc Faye with Novanima Productions (France). Gebeka International has already managed to sell the film to several territories in advance of its premiere, including Japan, Spain, Portugal, and countries in the Baltics and the Middle East.

Another feature-length film coproduced by the Czech Republic, Diplodocus, will have its world premiere outside the competition at Annecy. Wojtek Wawszczyk’s 3D CGI animated adventure comedy with live-action sequences, inspired by the vibrant 1980s comic books of Polish author Tadeusz Baranowski, tells the tale of a young dinosaur on a quest to find his vanished parents. The film, primarily targeting children aged 6-9, also caters to adults with its nostalgic homage to an era characterized by bold colors and audacious humor. The narrative unfolds in a comic-book world, presenting a dual-layered story that oscillates between the author’s reality and the animated universe. The project showcases innovative camera techniques and a synthesis of CG animation with hand-painted backgrounds. Produced by Human Film of Poland and the Czech full-service animation and post-production studio PFX, coproduced by by the Polish public broadcaster TVP, DayHey and Mazovia Warsah Film Fund, Diplodocus shares a sales agent with Living Large. Gebeka has already sold the film to over 40 countries.

One of the Czech creators making a return to Annecy this year is Matúš Vizár, the celebrated animator and illustrator who clinched an award here in 2013, captivating audiences with his dystopian sci-fi short Pandas. Vizár’s latest work, Free the Chickens, has him appearing in the Short Film Competition once again, albeit this time in a satirical vein. The young animator takes a stab at animal rights activists with his story about a rescue operation that spirals out of control, leading to the group getting lost in a forest and grappling with ethical dilemmas concerning the animals they had intended to save. Vivid and expressive, characterized by bold lines, Vizár’s work is marked by the distinctive use of irony and abundant visual humor. The production of Free the Chicken is supported by the Czech production company nutprodukce and its Slovak counterpart, nutprodukcia. The two outfits have a history of producing notable animated projects, including the above-mentioned Tony, Shelly and the Magic Light.

Jan Saska, another Czech animator who previously garnered attention at Annecy—in 2016, with his black comedy Happy End, a short film that made it to the Oscar shortlist—returns to the Short Film Competition now with his latest project, Hurikan. Saska’s new work dives into the hard-boiled genre with a distinctly Czech twist, featuring the pig-headed protagonist Hurikan, on a quest to deliver a keg of beer to a small shop run by a barmaid he is trying to impress. The action-driven story, filled with humorous mishaps, unfolds over the course of a single night. Unlike the visual style of Happy End, Hurikan is made in monochrome, adopting a 2D, comic book–like noirish animation style the director says is inspired by Katsuhiro Otomo, Hayao Miyazaki, and Sylvain Chomet. Hurikan is produced by Martin Vandas of MAUR film and Kamila Dohnalová of Last Films in coproduction with Laïdak Films (France), Artichoke (Slovakia) and AEON Production (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

MAUR film has established itself as a key player in the Czech animation industry, earning a reputation as one of the most prolific studios, with works like The Crossing, by esteemed French painter and animator Florence Miailhe, gaining international exposure. MAUR’s prominence is underscored by the selection of not just one, but five of its short films for this year’s Annecy IAFF, including the latest project by Martin Smatana, who, along with codirector Veronika Zacharová, previously won the Young Audience Award at Annecy, in 2019, for the widely traveled animated puppet film The Kite. Smatana this year revisits the esteemed French festival with the 2D animated short Hello Summer, a vibrant film merging stop-motion with hand-drawn animation techniques to tell the story of a family vacation that unfolds in unexpected ways. The choice of mixed media and the exploration of family dynamics in less-than-ideal circumstances showcase Smatana’s continued innovation and ability to connect with audiences through relatable narratives as he did in The Kite. The film is produced by the director’s Slovak company Studio Bororo, Kamila Dohnalová (Last Films), and Martin Vandas (MAUR film), together with the French firm Vivement Lundi !.

Another MAUR-produced film at this year’s Annecy IAFF is I Died in Irpin, an autobiographical ani-doc by Ukrainian animator Anastasiia Falileieva, selected for the Perspective Short Films program. This compelling 11-minute film presents a true story of survival and escape from the Russian-invaded city of Irpin. Falileieva incorporates a wealth of archival materials from her childhood, enriching the narrative’s authenticity and emotional depth. Crafting the story through a blend of photographs, video footage from her time in Irpin, and stop-motion and cut-out animation, the director succeeds in drawing viewers into a deeply personal journey of love, loss, and survival. Her unique utilization of the rare technique of charcoal animation on paper, paired with her long-standing passion for collage and traditional animation, enable her to skillfully navigate and articulate the turmoil and absurdity of war. The Czech Film Fund provided support for the project, prepared by MAUR film in collaboration with the Slovak production outfit Artichoke.

In the Graduation Films in Competition section, yet another project from the MAUR film studio, Weeds by Pola Kazak, will appear. This short film employs the distinctive technique of oil painting on glass to tell a story without dialogue. As a Gardener works her small plot in an overgrown field of weeds, what starts as a peaceful activity escalates into a desperate struggle to maintain the status quo against encroaching forces. Conceived by the young Kazak during the height of the 2015 refugee crisis, Weeds explores the universal fear of change and the unknown, symbolized by a myth in which chaos challenges the ordered world, suggesting that embracing the new can enrich society.

Screening in the same competition as Weeds will be the Czech student film Rising Above, by Natálie Durchánková, presenting a harrowing first-person narrative of sexual assault, attempted murder, and the subsequent journey toward recovery. Produced by the Czech Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU), Rising Above has already won international recognition, named as one of just two European films to the shortlist of the 2023 Student Academy Awards. Durchánková’s film fits in with the current trend of blending live-action, animation, and documentary elements, offering a poignant exploration of the aftermath of sexual violence through stark and impactful visual storytelling.

Rounding out the Czech showcase at Annecy IAFF this year will be Joko, by Polish animator Izabela Plucińska, a coproduction with MAUR film joining Poland and Germany. Plucińska, awarded a Silver Bear at the 2005 Berlinale for her clay animation Jam Session, in Joko presents another claymation work, based on the absurdist novel Joko’s Anniversary by French author Roland Topor, from 1969. A grotesque, Kafkaesque narrative of exploitation and domination, the film focuses on family breadwinner Joko, who faces humiliation when forced to carry city notables on his back, leading to a struggle between dignity and the lure of money.

Czech Film Center
division of the Czech Film Fund promoting Czech cinema worldwide



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