Animation is an artificial method to create moving pictures, but there are other external fields too where this method reflects. The music, soundscapes and voices in animated films are not like in live-action films, although nowadays the live-action-like animated films are trending too.
Traditionally the audio side of animation is anyway different, more expressive, more experimental and often more interesting. The closest relative to animation in general film history is the silent film. So much is expressed with the images, gestures, caricaturized characters and designs, that the film does not even necessarily need speech at all.
Partly so that children globally understand the same film no matter what language they talk. Partly it’s the artistic tradition of especially short animated film. Tradition is based on illustrations’ ability to express things better than live-action.
The only Finnish film festival dedicated strictly to the animated films was held in 24.4.-26.4. One of this year’s themes in Animatricks, was animated film music. The other was crowd funding. Here’s a highlight from each.
Reino Niiniranta’s animated series of the Finnish National epic was made in the era of cut-out animation. Aesthetically silhouette-like cut-out animation looks easily a bit cheap today, but the series is full of nice illustrations and compositions, rough males and delicate maidens in the glorious tales of Kalevala.
Animatricks offered the audience a very special treat, a screening with live progressive folk band Stingpurée Band, playing a 29-string electric kantele, viola, bass and drums. The world is filled with beautiful music and artists, but I dare say hardly any would’ve been more fitting to this occasion. Simply a perfect combination, that sadly was witnessed by way too few (surely this was one of my favorites alongside with Cleaning Women playing live on Méliès’ Trip to the Moon a few years ago.)
If someday there was a traditionally animated Kalevala adaption based on Akseli Gallén-Kallela’s Kalevala-themes, I might be more interested, but this far this was the greatest cinematic Kalevala-experience there ever was. Without the band the animated series is still worthwhile screening, but certainly not as magical.
The festival also offered live dubbed screenings and a lecture about composing music to animated films by Mark Thomas. Animated film music is a timeless subject, but the other theme, crowd funding is something very present. Soon enough crowd funding will be essential part of independent art animated films.
The main movie of the festival was crowd funded Rocks in my Pockets. A series of crowd funded shorts was shown, including Academy Award winner Daniel Greaves’ wonderful Mr. Plastimime.
Crowd funding is the perfect counter-movement against greedy entertainment industry. It brings up projects from film lovers, to film lovers. It may just be composing the music and mixing the sounds for the otherwise completed film that the author needs money for, or the whole big picture.
Anyway, as a return to all the financiers around the globe, they not only get the film done and seen, but also get additional rewards for trusting and helping the project. It may be a digital copy of the film, the soundtrack, a sketch, stickers, dvd or whatever the author wants to offer depending on the amount of the pledge. Everyone wins. Especially the art animation.
Rocks in my Pockets (2014)
Probably not all think Signe Baumane’s Rocks in my Pockets is a graphically beautiful animated film, but the way Latvian-born author uses the medium is fascinating, striking and funny. Hand-drawn characters are combined with papier-mache sets and stop-motion quite skillfully.
Fun film about depression strikes with the way characters and settings are moved and used to tell a story, in a way similar to an educational film at times. Based on her own experiences and family history, the author can have a special therapy session with the play.
Ghosts of the mind and trauma processing have been recounted in animated films a lot, especially by female authors. From the deep end you can find likes of Karen Watson’s Daddy’s Little Bit of Dresden China, Monique Renault’s Hands off! or Marjut Rimminen’s The Stain or Blind Justice/Some Protection etc.
Baumane enters the world of family suicides, tragedies and self-esteem problems in a form of sinister comedy without hesitation.
Hand-drawn animation is really over-the-top personal way to tell a story. Every line in every frame is touched and created by ones own hand, so the presence is there by force. And when the story is about own mind, life story and family chronicles, plus narration is by Baumane herself, the intensity is very high at all times.
After all, the film is still hopeful. It might actually help people who are struggling with themselves. It also helps other people understand unwanted mind games, self-destructiveness and pain of someone close to them. Impressive, valuable, yet very funny film narrated in charming Latvian accent.
In addition to Baumane giving introduction to her film, she was together with Mark Thomas and Rovio entertainment’s sound designer Salla Hiltunen, part of the jury to award best foreign and domestic animated short films.
Matt Reynold’s Bottom Feeders won the prize in foreign category, and a student film Valvoja (The Guardian) by Pietari Bagge, Christer Hongisto, Elisa Ikonen and Inka Matilainen was awarded the prize of best domestic animated short.
The honorable mention went also to a student film, Balcony at the end of the World by Marika Laine, Markus Lepistö, Leo Liesvirta and Tommi Mustaniemi.
All in all, Animatricks remains a small intimate weekend festival with a good mood. It runs mostly with volunteer help, it’s located in one movie theater at the heart of Helsinki and the screenings usually gather just a few dozen viewers. Even at best roughly sixty or so. Hopefully it still keeps standing tall for a long time. Maybe it too could get stronger with crowd funding?