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Kaboom Animation Festival - all corners of creative imagination

Is animation the most versatile film form? There is something to be said for that. Especially when you see the kaleidoscopic range that it Kaboom Animation Festival gathered for us again. The kick-off is also rather unusual. For the official opening on 5 April in Utrecht, you don't have to be in a cinema. At 20:30 join the (free) entertainment walk A Wall is a Screen. That one takes you past all sorts of places where animation films are projected on walls around the city. Given my experience last year, I would definitely recommend it.

As mentioned, the Kaboom kicks off in Utrecht on 5 April. The Amsterdam part opens 11 April with the Annecy and Cinekid award-winning Chicken for Linda. More on that later. Part of the programme is also online. The press release promises us 'The most creative, innovative and daring (inter)national productions'. Much of the work in the programme has already won awards at several other festivals in the past animation year. I was allowed a glimpse of it in advance, enough to get a good impression of the great versatility of animation art.

Oil paint

The Peasants

Rather unique, for example, is the style of oil-painted animation that the makers of Loving Vincent (2017) now applying for the second time. This time with The Peasants. This is the drama based on a Polish literary classic about a peasant girl trying to find her own way in a village full of envy and patriarchy in 19th century. DK and Hugh Welchman first shot the film with actors, only to have an international team of some 100 collaborators paint over it frame by frame in oil.

You can be surprised at Kaboom by quirky hand-drawn work alongside computer animation that is yet different from what you are used to. There is a kind of performance alongside an unusual documentary. Sometimes it is pure graphic art, sometimes a gripping story. In fact, Kaboom shows everything possible with animation, except the already over-familiar work by Disney-Pixar.

Dutch contrast

To get a first idea of the breadth of the animation spectrum, you only have to put two recent feature-length Dutch productions side by side. The first is Fox and Hare save the forest, the new film by Mascha Halberstad (Knor). The child-friendly and highly entertaining adventures of Fox, Hare, their colourful forest friends and the highly conceited Beaver. A comedy with an ecological message. Although the animals are computer-animated, they are far from the slick cliché characters that often roll out of animation software. Still, this is very reminiscent of stop-motion. As with the earlier Fox and Hare-series, the figures were first modelled from clay and then scanned into the computer. This successor to Knor premiered in Berlin's youth section this spring and will hit cinemas here on 24 April.

The second is Mechanisms Common to Disparate Phenomena #59 by Joost Rekveld, a Dutch artist fascinated by the interaction between man and machine. You experience this experimental film as a largely abstract immersion in a hypnotic swirl of lines. All generated by old-fashioned analogue computers. Here you see so-called chaos theory come to life. That's a bit too complicated to explain here in two sentences, but it doesn't make the experience any less fascinating. Especially with the addition of dialogue fragments from classic science fiction films as a soundtrack. Mechanisms is one of seven titles in the international competition long animation.

The free drawing pen

Chicken for Linda

Very diverse animation forms, stories and styles there too. Chicken for Linda, the Amsterdam opening, is a delightfully quirky, seemingly off-the-cuff story full of pace and jokes. A guilty mother and her mischievous eight-year-old daughter find their mutual bond again during a silly yet very recognisable adventure. The use of colour is striking. Chiara Malta and Sebastian Laudenbach gave each character their own colour based on their personality.

Much more ferociously drawn is the out-of-tune western surrealism of Bill Plympton's Slide. Nice contrast to the minimalist 2D drawing style of the movingly authentic coming-of-age When Adam Changes By Joël Vaudreuil.

From game docu to Indian henna art

I have not seen all the league titles, but intriguing I certainly found Knit's Island. A documentary set in the parallel reality of survival gaming DayZ. The creators roamed around there for 963 hours and met the avatars of various players. And sometimes such an avatar would also reveal something about its creator in the real world.

Very charmed I was by Sultana's Dream by Isabel Herguera. Her main character Inés is also a Spanish animator. Looking for inspiration, she discovers by chance a utopian fable written in India in 1905 about Ladyland. A place where the male and female roles are completely reversed. For the different parts of the story, Herguera created different animation styles. Partly with austere figures set with a few lines that are nevertheless very lively and expressive. But also with very richly designed scenes, in beautiful graphic cutout technique after the tradtitonal henna art. It fits together very organically and is a wonderful way to enhance the character of this philosophical, and never moralistic story.

The signature of De Beijer and De Nooijer

Artists can bend animation to their will in many ways. Especially short work, which is abundant at Kaboom, gives a lot of freedom. To illustrate, two Dutch names that Kaboom makes special room for: Evert de Beijer, and the father-son duo Paul & Menno de Nooijer.

The Characters

De Beijer, who died in January this year, was one of the most inspired Dutch animators. He himself called his working method a design adventure. "I always want to try something new. I think the graphic design for an animated film is part of the entertainment." Indeed, the joy of design radiates from all his work. Whether it is the amorous couple in The characters is, which becomes embroiled in a bizarre round dance with letters and texts coming to life, or the delightfully whimsical figures in Lucy, about an adolescent who descends a staircase in a museum into the caverns of prehistoric times. The characters was named best Dutch animation film of the 20th century by Holland Animation.

Heaven Blue

Completely different, but with an equally clear personal signature, is the work of Paul de Nooijer and his son Menno. Short films in which they often perform themselves, blurring the boundaries between film, photography, animation and performance. Full of energy, challenging traits, humour and, in their latest work, melancholy. Paul was diagnosed with prostate cancer several years ago. In particular, the Is Heaven Blue is a creation that is at once experimental and very intimate and personal. It breathes in everything an atmosphere of farewell. With Paul himself, his wife and son, in their shared imagination of all kinds of aspects of life. Still with a kind of mixture of surprise and stubbornness, sometimes raw and poignant, other times very playful. A kind of creative dance working towards a final image that moved me deeply.

The Kaboom Animation Festival is from 5-14 April in Utrecht, Amsterdam and
online. Besides the items mentioned in this article, there will also be a competition of short films, a VR programme, several specials including Polish animation and animation of Iranian women, several talks, a master class by Irish animator and cartoonist Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells), a panel together with Broadcasting Black around the visualisation of motherhood, a children's programme and more.

Three titles releasing in cinemas during April after Kaboom are Fox and Hare Save the Forest, The Peasants and They Shot the Piano Player.

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Leo Bankersen

Leo Bankersen has been writing about film since Chinatown and Night of the Living Dead. Reviewed as a freelance film journalist for the GPD for a long time. Is now, among other things, one of the regular contributors to De Filmkrant. Likes to break a lance for children's films, documentaries and films from non-Western countries. Other specialities: digital issues and film education.View Author posts

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