Blog from Pamela Cohn
Time works differently in the animated world. In just five minutes’ time (or less),
we can travel through wide swaths of space, live many lifetimes, extract the essence
of a complicated emotion or event, or unravel a deep human mystery. These stories
are mostly told nonverbally with sound effects, music and glorious image replacing
traditional narrative styles. With abstract images, absurdist plots, and a very liberal sense
of time and space, a distinctive universality emerges that transcends culture.
In just five days’ time in tiny Peja, Kosovo, the 3rd Anibar International Animation
Festival does the same thing. For many reasons this is true, but mostly for the artistic and
narrative diversity on display in its program, which is truly first-rate in its selections this
As well, the international jury for this year’s festival is an especially impressive one
and they have come this year to experience the only animation festival in the country
of Kosovo. The small city of Pejë multiplies itself many times over when the Anibar
organizers showcase an international star lineup of animated works of all varieties to
share with the town. As equally as vital and generous as this act is, it is also the fine art
of choosing your international guests to come and experience something that is all-too-
familiar to them, but perhaps in a place they never expected to find it. From talking to
the international jury here, they will help disseminate their positive experiences here in
Kosovo to their own communities in Europe and North America.
Every day from 16.00 to 18.00, the festival hosts a series of talks with filmmakers and
special guests to discuss our common love and passion for animation. Yesterday, my
guest was Nancy Denney-Phelps, producer and journalist, who runs the world-renowned
animation company, Sprocket Productions, with her husband, composer Nik Phelps in
Ghent, Belgium. Phelps and Phelps work as a team composing and producing music
for animated films. And for the festival this year, Nancy curated a fantastic program
called Toons N’ Tunes, taking the audience on a journey through time by showing
seminal works from all over the world where the powerful combination of highly artistic
animation and music is displayed (animation and music being a marriage made in heaven,
we both agreed).
Denney-Phelps also hosts an amazing animation blog, http://
www.sprockets.animationblogspot.com, where she writes extensively on the international
animation scene from the biggest most important festival of its kind, Annecy in France,
to well. . . Anibar in Pejë, Kosovo. I already know she will have many positive things to
say since she has told me, and others, many times how impressed she is with Anibar and
the town of Peja.
In fact, Nancy is a true champion of small festivals in small places. She told me and the
audience gathered at the Exit Café, that while Annecy is the biggest and most important
festival for people involved in the business of animated film to attend, she approaches
it with mixed feelings. As she states on her blog: “On the one hand it is an opportunity
to see so many dear old friends from all over the world, along with special programs
that won’t screen at any other festival. But over the past few years it has become very
commercial and shifted the emphasis away from short, independent animation to feature
films. With over 7,000 people attending the festival it has become harder and harder for
people to get tickets to screenings that they want to see, and if you don’t book a room
very early you could end up staying miles from the festival.”
From all accounts, she is having quite a different experience here and as much as we
talked about the various aspects of business and production in making and distributing
animation, the bulk of the conversation centered around community and the ways
in which a festival like Anibar must be supported, for it is the only way artists and
appreciators of the arts in a small community can gather steam and create a viable
creative industry in their own backyard that benefits the entire cultural life of a small
country. This year, the only other Kosovar cultural entity that showed active support for
Anibar was the QKK in Prishtina, which hosted a wonderful dinner at the Camp.
Join me today at the Exit Café as I talk with Gjon Marku, who is serving on the
international jury with Nancy and Luuk van Huët, one of the founders of the KLIK!
Amsterdam Animation Festival. Anibar programmed a unique retrospective of
Marku’s works, one of the very first Kosovar animators to have significant commercial
breakthrough in the commercial sphere.
Other guests joining us will be Marija Jacimovic, the co-director of Michael Pollan’s
Food Rules one of the selections in the Balkan competition. And Marvina Çela, director,
writer and composer of Besa e Konstandinit / The Promise of Constantine (Albania
2011), another film selected for the Balkan competition.
Written by: Pamela Cohn