The 33rd World Festival of Animated Film – Animafest Zagreb, one of the most important animation festivals in the world, will be starting soon, as the festival is from June 5th to 10th.

In this article, you can quickly grab the whole figure of this year’s Animafest Zagreb from Daniel Šuljić, the artistic director of the festival, for your preparation to get the best out of the festival.

Interview with Daniel Šuljić

Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Could you please let us know the highlights of Animafest Zagreb 2023 from your viewpoint?

Daniel Šuljić: Our main highlight every year are competitions – starting with our flagship, the short film competition – where we present what we think are the worlds best animated films made during the last year. It is kind of a world championship with so many talents from around the globe! Next to it, we have competitions for International Student Films, Croatian Films, Feature Films, Films for Children, and VR animation. All hand picked from almost two thousand submittions!

Additionally, this year is a very special year for us because the festival council decided to give the Lifetime Achievement Award to South-African artist William Kentridge, who has most impressive body of work at crossroads between animation, fine arts, theatre and much more! To invite him to Zagreb is an idea which I pursued for several years until a year and a half ago Paola Bristot from Italy organized his lecture at Venice Academy of Fine Arts. That was a sudden chance to go there and meet him in person, which I did, in company of the president of festival council Margit Antauer Buba. It turned into 2 days of strolling around Venice and talking about art and life. He turned out to be a very relaxed and generous person so we could invite him to come to Zagreb to personally accept the award. We will screen his retrospective, he will give a masterclass and he even proposed a performance which includes his animations and a Dadaistic poem Ursonate by Kurt Schwitters, which I am very excited about. And thanks to our festival producer Paola Orlić who joined us in Udine after Venice, we will even display a small exhibition courtesy of a private collector from Ljubljana in gallery Kranjčar in Zagreb.

To go back to strictly film programs: further highlights are the thematic program, with this year dedicated to Sci-Fi in animation and a big retrospective of Polish films, from historic examples to contemporary ones, including a program of Valerian Borowczyk in honour of 100 years since his birth. And of course, our traditional festival picnic where we invite all festival guests to mingle and relax together, because giving our guests a chance to meet and get to know each other is one of the most important things rooted deeply in our festival tradition.

HN: What do you think of the latest trends of the global animation industry? And how do the programs in Animafest Zagreb 2023 react on those trends?

Daniel Šuljić: It hit like a meteorite and stirred up lot of fog and dust – the entrance of A.I. applications into every computer! Nobody is really sure how to deal with it, to select those films or not. We did, two of them, and in our thematic program which I mentioned – sci-fi in animation – one slot called “The future is now” will show additional selection of A.I., machine learning, lidar and photogrammetry films – all very new technologies. We will stage a roundtable where a group of professionals from industry will discuss what are the challenges, concerns and thoughts on A.I. replacing artists and other professions, questions of copyrights and originality, predictions on which turn could art take in reaction to this new reality or the question of those films being equally valuable as the films done by “hand” from a small team during 1-2 years of dedication, and so on. We named the round table “Who is the artist here? Am I or the A.I.?”

HN: Could you please let us know your impression and opinion about the films Animafest Zagreb 2023 submitted for this year’s competitions and the nominated films?

Daniel Šuljić: Well, we got submitted all kinds of films. Vast variety in approaches, techniques, stories and themes, experiments, lengths… From very interesting stuff to terrible wastes of time for everybody. Luckily, not very many of the latter ones. I have to say there are more interesting works than we are able physically to include into one week of the festival and this is the biggest and most uncomfortable part of the selection, where to draw the line and who to leave out. The development in recent years doesn’t help exactly, because short films are becoming longer and longer resulting in a smaller overall number of films selected. And with the increased length, unfortunately in some cases the dramaturgy doesn’t follow. Sometimes the filmmakers are too much in love with their drawings, and insist on leaving them in the film, instead of taking care that the film (and the viewers) doesn’t suffer because of that. I will feel free to give some advice, if you are going to do a longer film, let’s say over 12 minutes, you better take care that it is sharp and compact!

HN: Do you have any messages for the general public and professionals who will attend Animafest Zagreb 2023? 

Daniel Šuljić: Same as always! Enjoy your stay, enjoy this beautiful and unique art form and Zagreb in June! Watch films, listen to masterclasses, make friends, look for new collaborations, be inspired, have serious discussions, have silly discussions, have fun! Be part of one of the nicest and most welcoming festivals of animation in the world! Viva la animacion!

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