The graphic details

This year’s Animation Festival, held in Arad, ranges from lampooning PM’s wives to addressing the Holocaust.

Michel Kichka (photo credit: Tomohisa Ichiki 370)
Michel Kichka
(photo credit: Tomohisa Ichiki 370)
After 11 years, you could say that the Animation Festival, aka Animix – the Animation Comics Caricature International Festival, held annually at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, has become a staple of the Israeli cultural scene. But it seems there is growing interest in the field outside the hub of the country as well. Next week (Wednesday – Friday), the Animix Arad-Tamar Festival will set itself up in the north Negev town for the second year running.
All the usual suspects will be on board, such as leading cartoonists and caricaturists Zbeng creator Uri Fink, veteran illustrator-animator Noam Nadav, comics artist and TV host Nimrod Reshef, and celebrated caricaturist, cartoonist and comic strip creator Michel Kichka.
The festival program offers the public a wealth of visual goodies, as well as some intriguing discourses, such as the country’s first caricaturists’ conference with the central session, entitled “Nonsense, Paper and Scissors,” devoted to censorship of caricatures in the Israeli press over the years.
Music and animation have been close-knit bedfellows for some time, and festival curator Dudu Shalita has compiled a program of local groups that will play live against a backdrop of cartoons. The Tel Aviv festival has a thematic exhibition of caricatures each year, and next week’s Arad edition will follow suit, with a collection of humorous portrayals of Israeli prime ministers’ wives throughout the country’s history, from Paula Ben-Gurion to Sarah Netanyahu.
One of the more intriguing features of the festival is the Ten Fingers TED-style session in which 10 of the country’s leading caricaturists, comics artists and animators are given seven minutes to present some topic or concept that is central to their work. The Ten Fingers roster includes Nadav Fink; illustrator-animator and lecturer Itamar Daube; illustrator and comics artist Amitai Sandy; and Kichka.
Kichka will use the forum to present possibly the most personal and emotive projects he has produced over his long career to date. The Belgian-born Jerusalemite is the son of a Holocaust survivor, and he says he has had to cope with the second generation syndrome all his life. The French-language graphic novel is called Second Generation – Things I Never Told My Father, put out by French publishing house Dargaud. The author says it is about “my childhood in the shadow of the trauma of the Holocaust, and it ends today.”
Kichka says the book has been a long time coming and that his second generation baggage has been a constant feature of his life and work. “You live with it and, at some stage, you stop and try to make sense of it all,” he says. “That’s what I did with this book.”
While the Holocaust has been ever-present for him, Kichka says he had to wait until the time was right before he could come to grips with the issue in his professional capacity.
“I have engaged in the Holocaust for many years, but it took a long time before I could really address it. It wasn’t easy at all. It was a fascinating process.”
He had to dig deep to unearth at least part of his father’s story. “My father, who is still alive, never spoke of his Holocaust experiences. He was in all sorts of camps, including Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Buchenwald, and he survived a death march,” Kichka says. “We knew there was a story to tell, but we didn’t know exactly what. We saw the number on his arm but never spoke about it.”
For now, the book is only available in French, but Kichka is keen to make it more accessible to Israelis. “Dargaud is the biggest publisher of comics in France, and I would love to put it out in Hebrew, too. That’s very important to me,” he says, adding that it is not a matter of the sensitive subject matter that has deterred Israeli publishers from handling the project. “It is because there is no comics culture in this country that you can compare with the comics culture in the United States, France and Japan,” he declares.
That is a surprising observation, given the proven popularity of the Tel Aviv Animix Festival, the emergence of the Arad offshoot, and the existence of the Israeli Cartoon Museum in Holon.
“I am at the forefront of people trying to move the local scene forward,” states Kichka. “The festival and, of course, the museum are very important but, even so, in terms of the level of writing, producing and publishing, it is so limited here that you can’t describe it as a ‘culture’ per se.”
Kichka is not encouraged by the response to the publication of the Hebrew-language edition of Maus, A Survivor’s Tale, a graphic novel by American cartoonist Art Spiegelman, first published in English in 1991, in which the author interviews his father about his Holocaust experiences. “I am willing to bet it hasn’t sold well here,” says Kichka, adding that there are important educational benefits to be gained from such projects. “The first buyer of Maus should have been the Ministry of Education, to give to high school students. It is far more suitable for high school students to approach the topic via a quality graphic novel than through a textbook,” he says.
Kichka also says that, as comics are his natural channel of expression, it was the only way he could tell his painful story. “I grew up in the 1960s, during the heyday of comics in Belgium. That’s what I do.”
But Second Generation – Things I Never Told My Father is not all doom and gloom. “There is humor in the book, just as there was during the Holocaust – people who survived the camps and the ghettos have talked about that,” Kichka says. “I’ve been told by people who have read the book that they laughed until they cried. I use humor in my work, so it came into this work too.”
For more information about the Animix Festival in Arad: (08) 995-1666, and