It’s a little appreciated genre of film but a festival in the countryside this week puts it centre stage says ALIX NORMAN
Animation – what’s not to love? It appeals to all ages, crosses all borders and speaks all languages. And yet it’s a film genre which – unlike documentary, features and shorts – has rarely been associated with Cyprus. But all that is changing, with the Countryside Animafest Cyprus, a festival based in Prastio celebrating animation with a series of screenings, workshops, masterclasses, concerts and competitions in the coming days.
“It began 12 years ago,” says Yiorgos Tsangaris, artistic director. In his early thirties, Yiorgos has been the power house behind taking the event from its early roots as a documentary festival to its current status as an internationally recognised celebration of all things animation. And it’s certainly a fitting career path in terms of character: Yiorgos himself comes across as a passionately animated, forward-thinking and highly motivated character, a superhero fighting the villains of lethargy and despair so prevalent in much of society.
With its roots in Platinistria, at the Hambis Printing School belonging to Tsangaris senior, the festival began when Yiorgos introduced the renowned director of the Thessalonica Film Festival – Dimitris Eipides – to the village. “He loved the location, and immediately suggested we start a documentary film festival in the village.” Thus began the International Countryside Documentary and Animated Film Festival Views of the World, which ran for four years before its conversion purely to the latter genre: “Gradually the festival changed to become only animation; it’s an underexploited area and the Ministry of Education has encouraged us to emphasise it because it’s an artistic and cinematic form with no tradition on the island.”
This evolution led not only to a change of name, but also to a change of venue, an increase in associated events, the formation of an NGO and the establishment of a Cyprus chapter of ASIFA, the Association Internationale du Film d’Animation. “We went international in 2007,” Yiorgos continues. “We started an associated NGO and began running workshops, which were very successful. And up to 600 people a night were coming to the screenings.”
By 2011, the festival had moved to Avdimou to accommodate the numbers of attendees, and an International Competition Section – complete with a jury comprised of celebrated international animators – was inaugurated. “This was a really big deal for Cyprus,” Yiorgos continues. “When these judges came to Cyprus and saw what was happening they suggested we develop workshops, lectures, screenings which would run throughout the year. This we have done, with the Festival in the summer being the highlight of the process. “
So successful was the evolution that last year the Animafest moved again, to Prastio its current location. This year, for the first time, organisers have introduced a Cyprus Competition Section to the festival, and among the many screenings will be five from local animators. With prizes courtesy of the Hellenic Bank, and supported by the Columbia Beach Resorts,
Yiorgos and his team of volunteers are kept busy all year round organising what has become an international event of astounding proportions.
As well as the many associated master classes, workshops, presentations, exhibitions and lectures, this month’s Animafest boasts the screening of a selection of the best animation film productions from around the world – a huge leap from the festival’s humble beginnings.“When we started, back in Platinistria, the environment was magic: we screened in a small garden under the stars and, due to the countryside location, hosted all walks of life. And because we’ve kept the countryside location, it’s still like that today.”
“Of course it’s tiring,” Yiorgos admits of a career that sees him flying from one country to the next between lecturing on traditional animation techniques at the University of Nicosia. “But it’s so rewarding. Above all, we’re providing the means to promote and inspire Cypriot artists who wish to expose their work internationally by taking advantage of the potential and power of this festival.” And with guests jetting in from all over the world to attend the events, the Animafest is also promoting the beauty of the countryside and the culture of our island. “It’s an exciting moment for animation – and also for Cyprus,” he concludes.
Countryside ANIMAFEST Cyprus
From July 18-21 including Masterclasses, Exhibitions, Presentations, Workshops, Screenings and a concert by Monsieur Dumani. For full details of the events, visit www.animafest.com.cy or contact [email protected]