Japanese animation and amateur films focus of this year’s Anifilm

The annual Anifilm festival of animated films kicked off in the north Bohemian town of Liberec on Tuesday. Over the next six days, dozens of films, as well as music videos and computer games, will be screened in numerous venues all over the town. I discussed the event with programme coordinator Radek Hosenseidl and I started by asking him why they decided to focus on Japan this year:

“Actually, we had been considering focusing on Japanese animation for some years now, because Japanese animation is one of the most prolific and most important productions in the world.

“I think many people know a lot of Japanese anime but not so many people know the independent part of Japanese animation. That’s why we decided to show both the independent section and some anime classics.

“We compiled six programmes of short films, starting with pioneers from the 1930s until the present day. We also have feature films like Akira or Howl’s Moving Castle by Hayao Miyazaki, Neo Tokyo and experimental films like Belladonna of Sadness.

“So these represent a bit more mainstream, but not so mainstream part of anime, but we also have an extensive programme of shorts from independent authors.”

One of your main guests will be the famous Japanese animator, director and illustrator Koji Yamamura. What films will he present?

“We are very happy to have Koji Yamamura here. He will present several short films and also his feature film Dozens of Norths. The screenings will be accompanied by a master class, where he is going to talk about Satie’s Parade, Muybridge’s String and Mt. Head.

“He also has a programme for children, where he is going to show Kid’s Castle and The Elevator, as well as a short for adult audiences called Dream into Drawings. So it’s a very rich programme, I believe.”

One of the highlights of this year’s edition will be Czech amateur animation made before 1990. Where did you acquire these films?

“This programme is curated by film researcher Tomáš Hubáček, so we have been in touch with him and also with the National Information and Consulting Centre for Culture and the Czech National Film Archive. These two institutions, along with Tomáš, helped us a lot in acquiring the films for this section.

“There were a lot of films done by non-professionals before 1990, so we are presenting them in several programmes ⁠— those for grown-up audiences and also for children. So I believe there are really dozens of films that are really worth watching.”

There are several competition sections presented at Anifilm, the animated shorts and animated feature films but also music videos and computer games. Are there any Czech entries this year?

“Actually there are several Czech productions or co-productions in these sections. For instance we have the Slovak and Czech co-production The Websters in the feature film competition. We also have Czech student films Dede Is Dead or Rising Above in the International Competition.

“I should also mention the VR film Darkening, which was presented at the Venice film festival, and many others, so this is also an important part of the programme.

Who will decide about the winners? Who are some of the members of the jury?

“The festival has several juries. For example in the feature film category we have animator Kim Keukeleire, who worked on Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio and we also have John Stevenson, who worked on Kung Fu Panda. These two may be known to broader audiences.

“We also have Marta Pajek, a very important Polish filmmaker and also from Japan we have two jurors Sarina Nihei and Mirai Mizue, who will also present their programmes, so I believe the visitors really have a lot to forward to.”
What are you particularly looking forward to this year?

“I am really looking forward to the Japanese programme, especially because I am a great lover of Miyazaki’s films. But I guess everybody is. It is Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle and all the classics like Akira or Belladonna’s Sadness, all these I dare say jewels of Japanese animation that I am looking forward to, along with Koji Yamamura’s programme of course.”