I won't be bothering you with the details of my odyssey to get to the festival from Milan: lots of snow, wind, rain and typically-Italian-delayed trains involved, but that's another story!
So, back to the main subject, the 13th edition of Castelli Animati was hosted in Genzano, near Rome, and while it started on November 26th, my work duties allowed me to attend only the last couple of days, when luckily most of the festival's coolest events took place.
With its 12 hours of screenings a day, it would have been hard for anyone not to find something to enjoy among the hundreds of films, and it has been no exception for me.
The films were divided into several categories, including the Italian and the International showcases, and the contestants for the International awards.
Highlights included the retrospectives for several international artists, whose films proved to be the most popular with the audience, and that's no wonder when these artists are people like animation greats Bruno Bozzetto (one of my heroes), John Dilworth, and the lesser-known outside of the film festivals circuit Signe Baumane and Gil Alkabetz.
Bozzetto himself had to present the screenings of his works, but unfortunately he was among a bunch of guests that eventually couldn't make it to the event. He had to present a DVD collection of Signor Rossi cartoons, one of his most popular series (which by the way, at the moment has no plans of being released outside of Italy - sorry about that!). Some of them are receiving here the first proper release after years, all restored and remastered!
But first, a little bit of history: the character wasn't intended to be part of a series. It was created for the one-shot cartoon "An Award for Mr. Rossi
", and its origin dates back to the late Fifties, when one of Bozzetto's films got rejected from an Italian festival. His answer was this short, intended as a jab at film festival juries (and trust me, after attending this one too, I couldn't help but confirm how Bozzetto was right!). Anyway, like many other times in animation history, the character was popular with the audience, so it stuck and became part of a series. It became so popular that the artists of the studio even "killed" him in the feature "Allegro Non Troppo
", just like Avery or Crumb would have done! (with the exception that Rossi survived in comic form)
Wheew! Enough with the history lesson! Back to the main topic, to celebrate the aforementioned DVD set, two Signor Rossi shorts were screened, "Mr. Rossi Buys a Car" and "Mr. Rossi Goes Camping". They both were a laugh riot, and it's amazing (if not kinda scary) to see how true they are even after forty years.
Another short that killed the audience was John R. Dilworth's "The Dirdy Birdy
". After over ten years of it making the rounds at film festivals across the world and collecting awards, I think it's safe to say that there must be some sort of subconscious fascination with watching a bird's naked ass. Either that or the fact that, to put it in John's words, it's the love theme that makes it sort of timeless. Or maybe just because, no matter what you think, it is a genuinely funny cartoon.
Israel native Gil Alkabetz discussed three of his award-winning productions: "Rubicon
" offers an interpretation of the Arab-Israeli conflict through the classic "wolf, sheep and cabbage" riddle. "Morir de Amor
" originates from the concept of being reminded of a particular
moment of your life through a song: with this premise two parrots and their old owner start reminiscing over the past, leading to an unexpected conclusion. A nice little touch is the author's choice of showing the present and past parts of the film with two different visual styles. The last Alkabetz cartoon from the Saturday afternoon screening was the more children-oriented "A Sunny Day
", with a nice illustrated storybook feel.
Signe Baumane was the artist with the smallest amount of films that could possibly be shown during the festival's Saturday afternoon family-friendly programming. If you don't know what I'm talking about, let me just say that she came to Castelli Animati
to promote her newest production, "Teat Beat of Sex
", an outrageously funny (and
, to quote the disclaimer that introduces each episode) series of short films featuring a girl's narration of her sexual experiences. These films were part of the late night screenings on Friday, along with a documentary about the Latvian artist and the hilarious "Five Infomercials for Dentists". Two of her earliest cartoons were chosen for the Saturday afternoon selection, the twisted fairytales "Tiny Shoes
" and "The Witch and the Cow
" which, more than her later works, have a distinctive Eastern-european feel.
A pleasant surprise from the Saturday afternoon screenings was the premiere of Italian artist Marco Pavone
's full-length animated movie "ZeroZero
", produced by a small team and with a low budget. At first, I honestly didn't think that the semi-bidimensional computer animation could work well throughout an entire 90-minute movie (I often can hardly stand that kind of animation in a short film), but I was wrong: it was really enjoyable, and I think that the animation was functional to the general tone of the movie, creating some great scenes and atmospheres.
The story itself is pretty simple, it's about a child who learns to overcome his fears and finally makes his dreams come true. In this case, the narration takes place in 1940s USSR, and the child is none other than a young Yuri Gagarin. Try to guess what his dream might be! What I liked the most was the fact that the creator was aware of the limits of this production, and instead of even trying to come up with some pretentious Pixar rip-off, he used the obvious limitations to his advantage. The final result is far from perfect, but it sure proved to be an enjoyable view. I suppose the film is going to be shown at other film festivals worldwide, so if you hear about it, take my word and give it a chance!
That's all for now, stay tooned for the second part of my report!
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