By SHERIF AWAD
Varazdin is a city in nortern Croatia, north of Zagreb, whose center is near the Drava River. It is mainly known for its baroque buildings, music, textile, food and IT industry. For 26 years, the non-profit organization VANIMA existed in Varazdin with the main activity that of teaching animation to children. VANIMA started as a small activity focusing on classic animation techniques like Stop-Motion, it has since matured to host tens of children and youth who are creating their own animated films with the help of professional animators. VANIMA’s current leadership is presided by Sandra Malenica and Hrvoje Selec. They continued to hold animated film workshops until 2010 when they decided to also launch VAFI, the International Children and Youth Animation Film Festival in Varazdin in order to host animated films made by children and youth under eighteen years of agecoming from throughout the world.
VAFI was founded with the desire to make Varazdin a place where children and professionals could exchange their experiences and be a safe place for new friendships to be nurtured beyond their own countries and where children and young people enjoy films while learning to interact and associate with one another at the same time. VAFI engages one Varazdin school in partnership with one country, this year it is France. In so doing, tolerance, friendships and learning are initiated between disparate cultures, languages, what have you, among young people, bringing about a festival for films and children; not just about prizes. VAFI JUNIOR has three competitive categories divided by their authors’ ages; VAFI MINI for children under ten; VAFI MIDI for children from 11 to 14 years of age; and VAFI MAXI for youth from 15 to 18 years. Each category has one first and four equal second prizes. Back in 2010, when this concept was initiated, VAFI Festival got the first prize for the most innovative and creative project in Croatia. In this year’s 5th rendition, conducted from April 22-27, 2014, VAFI will continue to screen animated films by professional artists made for children and youth in a special section called VAFI SENIOR that will be initiated for the first time. It will also have three categories divided by the ages of the recipient: MINI for children under ten, MIDI for children from 11 to 14 years, and MAXI for youth from 15 to 18 years old. Juries of VAFI JUNIOR in the 5th VAFI include Animator, Professor Anastasia Dimitra, from Greece; Animation Director Darko Krec, from Croatia; and Film Critic and Curator Sherif Awad, from Egypt. The prizes for the new VAFI SENIOR will be given by a jury of children and youth, all members of VANIMA.
VAFI has many other activities, such as exhibitions, lectures, and workshops. “This year, VAFI will have two animation workshops”, advised Sandra Malenica. “One workshop will be led by Studio DA from Russia, and another will led by a Croatian animator. There will also be a comic workshop, and an illustration workshop – both led by famous Croatians in the field. We will also see how to make 3D animation and infuse animation with puppets. A Roundtable on Pedagogical aspects of working with children on animation will also be held. I think that VAFI SENIOR and VAFI JUNIOR are interesting initiatives where children’s animation is qualified by adults and professional films are qualified by the children who act like the colleagues of grownups”.
Besides the promotion of children’s creativity, VAFI also presents different aspects of animation through partners like the Borivoj Dovnikovic Bordo, the Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival, Japan, and MTV Croatia. This year, VAFI presents French animation through a program dedicated to the children and adults. “Let’s say only that we will see the classic King and the Mocking Bird – one of the best films ever made from which Miyazaki gained inspiration and Logorama, the short film which received the 2010 Oscar”, continued Sandra Malenica. “VAFI will also be presented by AAA Studio, from France, the oldest club in the world dealing with animation and children. A short animated movie on France will also be made during VAFI”.
“The jury are also quite impressive”, explains Sandra Malenica. “Anastasia Dimitra, is the president of the ASIFA Workshop Group and Jury President of VAFI 5. AWG is part of ASIFA organization, the oldest organization of animators in the world, which was founded in Cannes in 1962. AWG gathers leaders from all over the world who work with children and youth on animated films. We will also be receiving Nicolas Bougère, the representative of AAA Studio and Owen Chan from Hong Kong, a regular guest of VAFI who will lecture about making 3D with children”.
Animation in Croatia has a long tradition, Croatia got the first Oscar in 1962 which was the first given outside of USA”, remembers Hrvoje Selec. “It was for the animated movie Ersatz made by Dusan Vukotic in 1961. Vukotić was part of the Zagreb Animation School which was very popular at the time. Nowadays, animation is getting back on the old tracks. We have a Department of Animation at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, one of the biggest animation festivals in world – Animafest Zagreb and a lot of studios for professionals and amateurs including the ones for children”.
Born in Cairo, Egypt, Sherif Awad is a film / video critic and curator. He is the film editor of Egypt Today Magazine ( www.EgyptToday.com ), and the artistic director for both the Alexandria Film Festival, in Egypt, and the Arab Rotterdam Festival, in The Netherlands. He also contributes to Variety, in the United States, and is the film critic of Variety Arabia ( http://varietyarabia.com/ ), in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Al-Masry Al-Youm Website ( http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/node/198132 ) and The Westchester Guardian (www.WestchesterGuardian.com ).