Annecy International, France The Animated Film Festival celebrates Swiss animation, which turned 100the anniversary in 2021, with a host of retrospectives, screenings and special events.
In its Official Section, Switzerland is represented through 13 films divided into different sections. The festival has collaborated with various institutions in the tribute, including the GSFA, the Swiss Animation Filmmakers Association, the Swiss Film Archive and the Animatou and Fantoche festivals.
Meanwhile, says art director Marcel Jean, the Focus tries to express the variety and scope of the films.
“There is no technique associated with that country, there is no style. I would say that the main feature is the fact that there are not so many feature films,” she says.
Even so, “Max & Co” by Sam and Fred Guillaume, “Red Jungle” by Zoltán Horváth and Juan José Lozano will also be screened, as well as the Oscar-nominated “Mi vida de zucchini” by Claude Barras, awarded with the highest award in Annecy in 2016 and now accompanied by the photography exhibition by Charlotte Desigaud.
Considering that without international co-producers it is “impossible” at the moment to go on to performances, Swiss artists like Marina Rosset or Jonathan Laskar enjoy expressing themselves in a shorter form.
“There’s no real market for short films, but that’s the point: because there’s no market, we can do whatever we want,” says Laskar. “In Switzerland, we are free.”
Laskar’s “The Record” is shown in the official short film competition along with Noah Erni’s “The Invention of Less”, in which a polar bear moves to Zurich and works as an “Uber driver”, and “Lucky Man” , Claude Luyet’s version of the American dream.
“I had to go back to my own story, my family’s story,” says Laskar of a film that revolves around a magical, soul-reading record. As a man listens to her, old memories return. Including those from World War II.
“I have a Jewish background. When I was 20 years old, I went to Germany. i could see buchenwald [concentration camp] from my window. At first, I didn’t want to talk about this topic. But this man remembers the truth: that in itself is a positive thing. It is our duty to speak of hope.”
While the festival wanted to highlight recognizable names, from sand animation masters Gisèle and Ernest “Nag” Ansorge to 2017 Annecy Honorary Cristal winner Julius Pinschsewer and Georges Schwizgebel, it also welcomed “new blood.”
“These authors with strong personalities, it’s something we know about Swiss animation. But we also wanted to focus on a younger generation,” says Marcel Jean. Varietymentioning characters like Marcel Barelli, behind 2021 “In Nature” (“Very interesting, a very underrated filmmaker”) or Isabelle Favez.
The latter, which focuses on stories for a younger audience, will also show its latest television special “Giuseppe” about a little hedgehog who wants to discover winter.
“This is my second film made especially for children after ‘Zibilla’ [about a zebra adopted by a family of horses] and the more I do it, the more I love it,” he says.
“As a hedgehog, Giuseppe has limitations. He has to accept that in winter it is too cold for him. We keep telling our children that they can do anything, but we must not lie. Sometimes, we have to accept our limits. And it can actually be a good thing.”
Marina Rosset will also have a younger slant in “The Queen of Foxes,” focusing on “the saddest of all foxes.” As her minions continue to bring her discarded love letters that humans were too shy to send, she remains unmoved. After all, where are the compliments on furry ears?
“Someone was writing me love letters that I didn’t want to receive. He was writing love letters, which he didn’t send. I started thinking about all of that,” she says. Admitting that their united community does everything possible to reflect the cultural and linguistic identity of their country.
“The Swiss animation scene can easily be defined with one word: diversity,” agrees Marcel Müller of Swiss Films, mentioning various techniques and themes.
“It is strongly linked to the specificity of our small country where four different official languages are spoken,” he adds, noting that Swiss short films tend to be more auteur-oriented and less commercial than their French or American counterparts.
“Even the Swiss ask us: ‘Why do you want to focus on Swiss animation?’ But when I look at the Annecy selection in the last 10 years, Switzerland has been among the countries with the most films. It’s important, it just goes under the radar a little bit,” says Marcel Jean.
Isabelle Favez adds: “We’re a small country, but you can’t really say, ‘That’s a Swiss film.’ And I like!”