A Place in the Sun for Animation
The Animattkon Project is an animation festival held in the beautiful sunny city of Paphos on the island of Cyprus. Organized by the Kimonos Arts Center, it is under the direction of Charalambos Margaritis. In 2017 Paphos was the European Capital of Culture and The Animattikon Project began as part of that event.
The first project conducted workshops, lectures, and some screenings. Now in its third year, the festival continues to grow and expand its horizons. For the first time this year, there were competition screenings in five different categories vying for the Golden Hat Awards, each with a separate jury. The categories were: International Short Films, Student Short Films, Animated Documentaries, Music Videos, and Cypriot Animated Films.
I had the pleasure of being on the International Short Film jury with Vassilis Karamitsanis, President of the Animasyros Animation Festival in Syros, Greece and Paschalis Paschalis, Associate Professor of Design and Multimedia at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus.
We watched 32 films and after careful consideration awarded the Golden Hat to How and Why Don Jose Dissipated by Israeli animator Moshe Ben-Avraham. The quirky film begins with a bee who is disturbing the peace and quiet of vacationers on an island holiday. The bee falls into Don Jose’s drink and he saves it from drowning. When the freed bee is eaten by a duck, Don Jose begins to chase the duck in order to save the bee, and thus begins his very strange adventure. Although I thought that the film was a little long at 12 minutes, it was well animated with an entertaining story that makes you laugh a lot.
Our jury also gave two Special Mentions. One went to Fuse by Shadi Adib. Based on an Iranian folk tale, it is about a group of men heatedly discussing how to kill a little mouse that they have trapped in a box. Each man tries to outdo the last man’s sadistic method of death to kill the poor little creature, but in the end, everyone including the mouse suffers the same fate when they all die. The nicely animated film featuring the voices of Nick Cave and animator Andreas Hykade.
The other Special Mention was given to Kitwana’s Journey by Nigerian animator Ng’endo Mukii. The film uses cutout animation to deal with the tragic occurrence of child trafficking. Although we felt that the artwork was not strong, the story was well told and the subject very important so we wanted to encourage her to continue animating and tell stories that are relevant to her country.
Along with the competition screenings, there was a program of films from the Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark. The feature films Chris the Swiss by Swiss animator Anja Kofmel and The Tower from Mats Grorud from Norway were also shown. These are both films that deal with political situations and make strong statements.
I particularly enjoyed A Magic Lantern Life: The Story of the American Magic Lantern Theatre. The 51 minute documentary by Marcin Gizycki and Peter O’Neill follows performances by The American Magic Lantern Theatre. Founder Terry Bonton keeps the 19th-century art of magic lantern shows, the live projected events that proceeded the advent of cinema by over 100 years, alive. Based in the state of Connecticut in the United States, the company has been performing for 20 years and is one of only 3 existing professional magic lantern theatres in the world today. Whether you are familiar with the art of magic lantern theatre or not the film is fascinating and the viewer will come away with a thorough understanding of how the process works.
One of the main aims of Animattikon is to reach out to the community. Toward this goal, there were numerous workshops throughout the city. The workshop for children held at the Almyra Hotel had so many children show up that a second unplanned session had to be scheduled. I was impressed to learn that the special program of films for children screened at the First Lyceum of Paphos was attended by more than 300 young students. There were also special screenings for children at the Almyra Hotel. The program that I attended was full of young people and their parents. From all of the laughter and oohs and awes it was obvious that young and old alike enjoyed the show.
A special workshop on stop motion puppet construction attracted teenagers and adults alike. At Neapolis University, Greek expert on Shadow Theatre Giorgos Nikopoulos gave a presentation on Shadow Theatre and Animation: Two Related Art Forms. Giorgos did his doctoral studies at Ionian University’s Department of Audio and Visual Arts working on a thesis about the affinities between animation and shadow puppetry.
On Halloween night ANANAS 8 bit Coffee Cafe was the site of a night of animated horror films. The films ranged from the scary to the absurdly funny. One of my favorites was Don’t Feed the Animals by Portuguese animator Liliana Ramires. The star of her film is a lobotomized bunny who lives in a research lab. One day the bunny brings a carrot to life by accident and creates something evil. Now he must undo the thing that he has created, but how? The screening was followed by a party.
The owner of ANANAS 8bit Coffee, Charalambos Charalambous, is an animation teacher and a master of the art of drinkology, and has filled his café with fascinating art and plants. Unfortunately, that night was the last time that this lovely place would be open because he wants to pursue other projects. Charalambos also served on the Animated Documentary Jury along with Maria Anestopoulou, Festival Director of Anima Syros in Greece and Michael Kalapaidis, founder of Zedem Media in Cyprus.
Technopolis 20 is a cultural center that presents concerts, live performances, screenings, and exhibitions. During the summer there is a large outdoor screen in the back garden. Built in the 1920s as housing for British army officers its most recent incarnation before becoming a cultural center was as a television station. At the end of the rear garden is a now defunct soundproof broadcast studio. That was where Nik and I presented Toons and Tunes to a packed audience. It was a pleasure to screen some of our favorite animations and talk a bit about why each film is important in the history of animation to such an appreciative audience.
Following our screening, we were invited to a party around the corner at the Kimonos Art Center. Housed in what was one of Festival Director Charalambos Margaritis’ grandparent’s home, he along with three other artists have transformed the house into a workspace for the four of them. They also teach the art of animation, printmaking, and comix to local students as well as hosting exhibitions. We all spent a lovely evening sitting on the wide front porch talking, listening to Nik and Giorgos play music and enjoying an array of delicious food and wine.
One of my favorite places in the city was the Craft Bar. Owner Christakis Panayiotou has created a charming place full of plants and artwork. He also played a great selection of music on his sound system. Sadly Nik and I missed opening night of the festival because we were still in The Republic of Georgia so we were not at the opening night party at the Craft Bar, but we were there for the closing night party at the bar and it was a very fun time.
The heart of the festival was the historic Attikoskes theatre located in the old part of the city. The festival takes its name from the name of the theatre. Opening in 1938, it is one of the first theatres in the city. In early 2000 the theatre closed and remained abandoned until the 2017 Year of Culture when the building was renovated. The beautiful historic building is now a multicultural center.
The building next door, which was formally the city electric plant has also been converted into a multiuse space. The festival had an exhibition located there called Off Screen which consisted of screens showing various loops of animated films that the public could come in and watch. Some workshops were also held in that location.
Starting a festival is difficult under any circumstances but Paphos presents even more challenging circumstances. At the present time, the festival attracts primarily the Greek Cypriot population of the city. Reaching out to the Anglophile community is quite a challenge. Paphos is the Anglicized name of the city, while locals use the English spelling Pafos directly translated from the Greek. That is just the beginning of the differences. The island of Cyprus is partitioned into a Northern third, which is run by a Turkish Cypriot government and a Southern two thirds, which is administered by the Greek Cypriots. The city is also divided between the British residents and the native Cypriots, a situation that has its roots in the two countries long and complex history which is too complicated to go into in full. Suffice it to say it dates back to 1878 when the British Empire occupied the island. When the people of Cyprus demanded self-determination from the British administration in 1914, the dispute shifted from a colonial matter to an ethnic dispute between the Turkish and Greek-speaking islanders. Many British citizens winter in Paphos, owning beachfront condos, which is raising the price of buying a house or condo in the modern beach area of the city, forcing local residents to move further inland.
Although the beautiful beachfront Almyra Hotel hosted a children’s workshop and screenings, I did not see any posters or fliers about the festival in the primarily English speaking area as I walked past beachfront shops and restaurants. Charalambos is to be commended for the work that he and his staff do to bring the festival to the city and especially in their efforts to educate young people about animation. This is their future audience.
Charalambos is not the only talented member of his family. His brother, Kyriakos, is a writer and editor who wrote his first novel at 16. Now, in his 30’s, he has published more than 15 books. Some of his short stories have been translated into English and German. Kyriakos, who lives in Athens, returned to his home city to visit his family and attend the festival and is also excellent company. One day Kyriakos took us on a tour of the historic island. The first stop on our tour was the archaeological site of Kato Pafos. It contains the major part of the ancient Greek and Roman cities located on this site dating back to 30 BC. The sites and monuments date from prehistoric times through the Middle Ages and are still under excavation.
Among the most significant finds so far are four large, elaborate Roman villas: The House of Dionysos, House of Aion, The House of Theseus, and the House of Orpheus. All four houses have intricately constructed mosaic floors. As I looked at them it was hard to grasp how old they are and that people walked on them daily because they are so well preserved. I was told that the House of Dionysos was built at the end of the second century AD.
The site also contains the Agora, both the Medieval and Ottoman baths, the forum, the Odeon, and the lighthouse. You could easily spend an entire day exploring the Kato Pafos and on my next visit to Paphos I want to visit again.
Our next stop was the Panagia Chrysopolitissa Church which was built in the 13th century over the ruins of the largest early Byzantine basilica on Cyprus. It is the site of Saint Paul’s Pillar where according to tradition, Saint Paul received 39 lashes for teaching Christianity before the Roman governor Sergius Paulus was converted to Christianity.
Saint Solomoni’s Catacombs is a small underground Christian shrine carved into the rock formations, one of which contains fragments of 12th Century frescos. It is thought that the catacombs were originally used for burials and later became a refugee for Christians who were being persecuted.
Near the steps down to the catacombs is an old pistachio tree where pilgrims and tourists have tied colored ribbons, each one representing a wish. From an open space in the catacombs, you can see the massive trunk of the ancient tree growing through the rock.
Our tour continued across the inland region of the island where I discovered that Cyprus has massive banana plantations. Our afternoon of sightseeing ended with drinks at a lovely hilltop restaurant with a magnificent view of Paphos at our feet.
Festival activities did not begin until early evening so we had plenty of time to explore the city. Animattikon was a perfect mixture of film and fun. Between days spent sightseeing and lying on the beach and nights full of good animation and excellent company. Our luxurious room at the Annabelle Hotel, complete with an ocean view from our balcony, was perfect. A big thank you goes to Elena Michael, Sales Manager of the Thanos Hotel Company, for providing such lovely accommodations for festival guests.
I cannot thank Charalambos Margaritis enough for his warm hospitality along with everyone connected with the festival who went out of their way to make us feel so welcome. Last, but certainly not least, a special thank you to Kyriakos Margaritis for being such a great tour guide, teaching me so much about the history of the island, and being so much fun to hang out with. When we left, Charalambos told us “You have a home here now”. I do feel like Animattikon and Paphos are a second home and I look forward to our next visit.
As of now the 2020 edition of the festival is scheduled for 30 October to 8 November. You can learn more about the festival and how to submit your film at Animattikon.com
GOLDEN HAT AWARDS 2019
BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM
Jury: Vassilis Karamitsanis, Greece; Paschalis, Cyprus; and Nancy Denney-Phelps, Belgium
Golden Hat Award: Como y porque se ha esfumado Don Jose (How and Why Don Jose Dissipated), Moshe
Ben-Avraham, Israel, Spain
Special Mention: Fuse, Shadi Adib, Germany
Special Mention: Kitwana’s Journey, Ng’endo Mukii, Nigeria
BEST STUDENT INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM
Jury: Christos Panagos, Greece and Nicos Synnos, Cyprus
Golden Hat Award: The Tree, Basil Malek and Han Yang, France
Special Mention: Grandpa, Ellis Kayin Chan, Tena Galovic, Zoxo Jhen, Yen-Chen Liu, and Marine Varguy, France
Special Mention: Deepness of the Fry, August Niclasen, Denmark
BEST ANIMATED DOCUMENTARY
Jury: Maria Anestopoulou, Greece; Charlambos Charalambous, Cyprus; and Michael Kalopaidis, Greece
Golden Hat Award: Carlotta’s Face, Valentin Riedl and Frederic Schuld, Germany
Special Mention: Egg, Martina Scarpelli, Denmark/Italy
BEST ANIMATED MUSIC VIDEO
Jury: Yiannis Athanasopoulos, Greece; Alexandros Yennaris, Cyprus; and Nik Phelps, Belgium
Golden Hat Award: Snow, Raman Djafari, Germany
Special Mention: Strings, Satori Yamaguchi, Japan
Special Mention: Jerusalem, Shimon Engel and Ofer Winter, Israel
BEST CYPRIOT ANIMATED FILM
Jury: Thomas Kunstler, Italy and Giorgos Nikopoulos, Greece
Golden Hat Award: Raid, Varak Mouradian, Cyprus
Special Mention: Brainwatch, Antonis Theodosiou, Cyprus
BEST EXTRA-CINEMATIC ANIMATION
Golden Hat Award: Too Tame!, Rebecca Bloecher,
Special Mention: Flora, Chaein Im
Special Mention: Wetware, Martin Sulzer
BEST HORROR ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Unter Druckk, Elizabeth Weinberger, Lukas Wengorz, and Niklas Wolff, Germany