Anča 2020 in feature films: an animated Hiroshima classic and Švankmajer’s Alice

Fest Anča 2020 starts in just four weeks – so it’s high time to unveil the programme! While the international animation festival focuses on short films, it also includes an animated feature-length section  – which will be a huge hit with this year’s viewers. The 13th festival’s theme and Fest Anča 2020 feature film selection is truly relevant during these times: The Day After.

The four selected feature films include Jan Švankmajer’s live-action/animated Alice (1988), , the Japanese classic anime about Hiroshima – Barefoot Gen (1983), and American films for all ages Iron Giant (1999) and Rango (2011).

Four takes on The Day After

The feature film that most encapsulates this year’s theme is Barefoot Gen: the Japanese animated film based on Keiji Nakazawa’s childhood experience of the nuclear strike on Hiroshima as described in the I Saw It comic book (1972). He subsequently explored this theme with the Barefoot Gen manga series on which he based the feature film’s screenplay. The story’s protagonists are a little boy named Gen and his family, living in Hiroshima before the end of WWII. The film captures the weeks before and after the bomb drop on 6 August 1945. The impacts are depicted in an iconic, simplified, colourful manga aesthetic – from a child’s perspective and in the background the insight of an adult looking back on surviving one of human history’s worst tragedies.

Another take on The Day After theme is Švankmajer’s live-action Alice, which uses unique puppet techniques and tricks. It’s based on the Lewis Carroll classic, as previous film adaptations fell short of Švankmajer’s expectations. His understanding of the material resulted in a dark, almost dreamlike fantasy with unique esthetics, capturing experience on the borderline of normalcy. “Such voyages beyond our world affect the main character and the viewer – we all return altered, and somehow have to come to terms with reality, which is also a Day After,” observes Ivana Sujová, Fest Anča programme director. Alice was Švankmajer’s feature debut and was awarded best feature film at Annecy in France, 1989 at the “animation Oscars”.

The other two films in this year’s Fest Anča feature selection – Rango and Iron Giant – offer a new and more chilled perspective on the festival’s theme. These U.S.-produced films will entertain viewers of all ages.

Iron Giant is a Cold War era animated science fiction story. Produced in 1999 yet underappreciated at the time, its themes and style remain truly timeless. It tells the tale of a friendship between a boy and a 30-metre-tall space robot that’s just landed on Earth. With the government seeking to destroy this extra-terrestrial visitor, our young hero tries to protect his new friend. This leads to a deeper understanding of friendship, sacrifice, human qualities, and misunderstandings of the unknown and feared. Iron Giant was Brad Bird’s directorial debut, going on to make Ratatouille and the popular multi-award-winning Incredibles. Yet upon release – despite marvelous animation and a stellar cast (Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston) – the film remained a sleeping giant, yet signalled the way ahead with high-budget animated films championed by the popular Pixar studio post-2000.

Rango (2011), on the other hand, was an immediate critical success (winning the best animated feature film Oscar) and box office sensation. The Day After is explored in the story of Rango, a domestic chameleon who gets drawn into the post-apocalyptic Western town of Dirt that is riven by draught and ecological disasters. He becomes a hero and saves the town and residents. Around the start of this millennium, the film’s director Gore Verbinski had broken through with The Ring, a classic supernatural horror, before setting sail with the three Pirates of the Caribbean films. Rango speaks to audiences of all ages.

Fest Anča 13th edition will also showcase the popular thematic focus of short animated films, as curated by Czech film theoretician Eliška Děcká. This depicts The Day After from the perspective of global and personal apocalypses, losses and new beginnings – using humour, optimism, and a spirit of overcoming. The programme contains screenings of competition/non-competition animated films, presentations, concerts, exhibitions, and workshops.

Fest Anča International Animation Festival – held at Žilina’s New Synagogue and Stanica Žilina-Záriečie cultural hubs – is the only Slovak multimedia festival that focuses on animated films for adult audiences. This popular annual festival presents contemporary progressive animated films and classic gems of the genre – by so doing it aims to increase awareness of animated film as an art form and educate audiences on the diverse forms of animation.

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Fest Anča 2020 International Animation Festival is financially supported by the Slovak Audiovisual Fund and LITA Fund, and supported using Slovak Arts Council public funds. The festival is held under the auspices of Mayor of Žilina, Peter Fiabáne.