The Holon Cinematheque is only one year old, but it is already establishing itself as a premier player in advancing Israeli cinema. On Saturday, it will host the awards ceremony for the MaraToon Contest - a five-day competition for the best animated film running between 30 seconds and a minute long. The contest, which kicked off on December 16, is the cinematheque's effort to support the field of animation. "This is the first time we are doing it," Shira Carmi, the theater's managing director, said last week. "Because the Holon Cinematheque just celebrated [its] first birthday last month, we decided to do something besides our usual film screenings, and the animation field is something that is really growing in Israel and abroad as a main theme in cinema. We feel a lot of responsibility to bring something new to the world of cinema, and also to support this field, which really needed a push." Everyone, from beginner students to professional animators to complete amateurs, was given the chance to create cartoons for the competition, which was sponsored by FLIX, the Rabinovitch Fund, Project Cinema and JCS Studios. "We were surprised to see we got all kinds of people," said Carmi. "Even a family with children, who are not doing it professionally, are competing. But also students and professionals and all kinds of people from all over the country." FIVE JUDGES have been tasked with choosing the best film to win the NIS 5,000 grand prize, and two runners-up will receive grants from JCS Studios. The public could also vote for their favorites by visiting flix.co.il. With such hefty winnings at stake, there were some stringent rules for the nearly 40 teams competing. "The animators have to create original films within five days; they can't bring something they made before," Carmi explained. "And there are three things that have to go into their films so we know they made it in real time, and also to give them a frame for creation. They must, in their own way, use a telephone ring, winter and... 'three-and-a-half,' which they can use any way they want - as a number, as an hour, as maybe three-and-a-half characters, etc. The main thing is to have these films compete against each other and to have them in the same framework." Three teams, out of the 10 initially chosen to move on to the final stage, will receive the prizes. Describing the screening process, Carmi said, "The contestants will screen everything first. Afterward, we will screen the finals to the public, but I think later, throughout the year, we will show the work that's been done, even if it didn't go to the final stage." Following the announcement of the winners on Saturday will be a screening of the documentary Frank and Ollie, the story of pioneer Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. The two were responsible for some of the most popular Disney characters of all time, including Snow White, Pinocchio and Bambi - for which they earned the nickname "the two men who killed Bambi's mother." "Part of our goal is to be able to bring special and unique animated films to Israel, and this documentary is a great way to see these creators and how they worked in the days of the foundation of Disney. Because if we're speaking about animation, Disney can't be ignored," Carmi said. The film was made by Thomas's son, Theodore Thomas, in 1995 and has been translated into Hebrew for this one-time screening. As of last week, the contestants were all hard at work in what promised to be a stiff competition. "I just spoke to some of them, and they seem very in-control and totally into their films and didn't have any questions," Carmi remarked. Of course, that didn't mean it was a cakewalk, either. "Creating animation is very, very complicated work," noted Carmi. "Usually animators work for a year on a film that's only a couple minutes long. Making a half-minute film in five days is quite a challenge." And one that's sure to help give a voice not only to new animators in Israel, but also to the fledgling theater in Holon.