If your idea of animation is limited to a cat and mouse doing their best to off each other in comic style, get ready to expand your horizons - by a long way.
By BARRY DAVIS
If there was ever an event tailored made to entertain, and bring out the lighter side of the public, the annual Animation Comics & Caricature Festival is it. Now in its ninth year, the event has proven to be a success with people of all ages and from all walks of life. And why not? Most of us, presumably, thumbed our way excitedly through all manner of comics in our childhood, and possibly - though some of us may not readily own up to it - much later too. That's not to mention perennial rib ticklers the likes of Tom and Jerry, and a whole host of Disney gems.
This year's festival will feature all the, by now, staple items. Over the four days (August 19-22) a large part of the piazza in front of the Tel Aviv Cinematheque will be occupied by a giant tent packed with stalls peddling comics, books and more high-tech oriented wares.
On the screen front, every festival to date has offered the public a rich and varied selection of animated films, using a wide range of techniques. This year's program is similarly bejeweled, and covers some intriguing thematic areas. Music naturally lends itself to animated film, and there is plenty of it to be had at the festival next week. The This Jazz Sound (Kol HaJazz HaZeh) program (August 20, 10:30 p.m. and August 12, 5:30 p.m.) includes gems from the 1930s and 1940s by such cartoon icons as Tex Avery and Norman McLaren, with the former's I Love to Singa from 1936 and McLaren's 1949 classic Begone Dull Care. Jazz lovers should certainly dig the latter, which is accompanied by the silky grooves of the Oscar Peterson Trio.
There is a plethora of classical music-supported material on offer too. Bugs Bunny, no less, gives his all to decimate Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody in Rhapsody RabbitÂ¸ while Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue provides the backdrop for an animated excerpt based on the dreams of four New Yorkers. On a more contemporary musical theme, veteran pop singer Danny Robas will play a selection of Beatles songs and talk about animated portrayals of the Fab Four's work.
Serious subjects are tackled at the festival too. Birth, for example, by envelope pushing Latvia-born New Yorker Signe Baummane is a highly intriguing and sensitively crafted vignette on the trials and tribulations of adolescence, femininity and motherhood. The short film depicts the predicament of a 17-year-old who discovers she's pregnant, and how the people closest to her react.
For 44-year-old Baumanne, Birth, is close to her own reality. "I had my son when I was 22 but in my mind I was still 17," she says, "and it was still the Soviet Union in 1987. The nurses and doctors were very tough. While I was pregnant I was scared to death because I wasn't sure what is going to happen and I heard all kinds of wild stories about what happens in the delivery hospitals."
The main idea Baumanne says she tries to convey through Birth is our fear of change.
"You do something - have sex, leave your country, fall in love - and all of sudden you can't stop a process of change, the change accumulates slowly, but you can't stop that process, and you know when the change will take place you'll never be the same. I started the film in 2004 when Bush was re-elected and I felt the USA was afraid of change. But, of course, the film is not political, it is only about fear of change."
Baumanne says public response to Birth has been mixed. "Some audiences have been enthusiastic, but some people tell me that now they don't want to have children," she sighs. "Actually, maybe that's not bad - with the current problem of overpopulation."
If you fancy having a word with Baumanne about Birth, or about her other work she'll be around for the festival, as will several other high profile guests, including Emily Hubley, whose film The Toe Tactic addresses themes of memory, loss, and renewal, and George Griffin, who brings You're Outta Here, a musically enhanced story of feminine independence, to the festival.
Besides bringing in some high powered entertainment from foreign climes the Animation Comics & Caricature Festival also provides an opportunity to showcase some of our homegrown product. One of the more intriguing items in this category, is the multi award-winning The Happy Duckling, by Gili Dolev. Hadera-born Dolev made the film on a shoestring budget with the help of a slew of British film school students. At the festival, Dolev will pass on some highly practical advice on how to put together animated film projects without a budget.
For more information: www.anicomfestival.co.il
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