The 31st 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 7th to 12th.

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.

You can also find the programme highlights of Animafest Zagreb 2021, including the lists of the all nominated films from our news article linked here.

Interview with Daniel Šuljić

Hideki Nagaishi (HN): Could you please let us know the highlights of Animafest Zagreb 2021 from your viewpoint?

Daniel Šuljić: As with every year, the highlights are the short films competition programs! Those are the programs where we showcase what we think are the best films of the year in each category, presenting established masters of animation as well as emerging talents who are all competing for our festival awards – with the Grand Prix qualifying for the Academy award. On top of this, as always, the festival is full of side programs, screening, lectures and exhibitions. I can point out that the thematic program of this year is dedicated to the theme of love. And this year’s lifetime achievement award laureate is Ralph Bakshi, a master of adult, punky, feature film animation. Finally, the highest highlight – we are happening live, on site, in cinemas with something around 140 foreign professionals attending in person. Thanks to this lasting virus, it’s not as much as usual, but in these times of restricted travels it’s a huge number which shows that everybody is hungry to meet real people from around the world and to see films in their full beauty, on a big screen in a cinema.

HN: What do you think of the current trends of the global animation industry? And how do the programmes in Animafest Zagreb 2021 react on those trends?

Daniel Šuljić: There is a recording of a panel with Marcel Jean (Annecy), Chris Robinson (Ottawa), Koji Yamamura (Hiroshima) and me (Zagreb), where we are discussing these things. It was organized by the Japan arts and media festival and it will be screened online during the next Annecy festival and will be available for the whole year, so I would suggest you to look for it. We all agreed that the live buzz, energy and meeting people that happens at a “real” festival cannot be substituted by online screenings. But, I think some form of accompanying online materials, which will extend festivals and let people who couldn’t make it to Zagreb to be a part of it, will happen. I think masterclasses or making-ofs and interviews can be shown online. As for Zagreb in particular, last year when the pandemics started we organized a series of interviews with many talented filmmakers called Animafest Insights. I think something along that line is a great contribution to the community.

HN: Could you please let us know your impression and opinion about the films Animafest Zagreb 2021 submitted for this year’s competitions and the nominated films?

Daniel Šuljić: As always, there were so many great films submitted; the selection committees had a really hard task choosing what they thought is the best! The final selections are challenging, innovative, sometimes funny or intimate… all in all, very diverse! Everything you like about short animation. There is a new masterpiece by Joanna Quinn, one of the our biggest festival friends, then Taiwanese director Joe Hsieh showing his new, very atmospheric horror film, or Polish filmmaker Daria Kopiec who stood out with her puppet film Your own bullshit with very innovative soundtrack, to name just a very few examples from the main competition.

HN: Do you have any messages for the general public and professionals who will attend Animafest Zagreb 2021?

Daniel Šuljić: As always, enjoy and celebrate the art of animation in its full bloom, make friends, make new collaborations, and simply be a part of this fantastic and inspiring event. As we all know, the global plague is still around, official anti-corona measures will be applied on-site, so we will all have to follow them. Nevertheless, despite having half of the usual number of foreign guests and 1/4 of the available cinema seats, around 140 professionals from around the world will visit the festival despite all the difficulties, tests and restrictions with travelling. To me, that shows that everybody is hungry for live events, to watch films “properly” on big screens, to meet real people face to face and not through zoom, and to be part of everything a live event brings with it – energy, excitement, art, fun, dreams! In this sense, welcome to Zagreb!

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