Ars Independent Festival 2016 is the sixth edition of the film, animation, video games and music videos festival. This year, it takes place between September 27 and October 2 in Katowice.
In previous years, they invited authors from all over the world to Katowice, including Béla Tarr, Nina Menkes, Phil Mulloy, Laila Pakalnina, Bruce LaBruce, Jakub Dvorsky, Mariola Brillowska, Piotr Dumał, Arkadiusz Jakubik, Bodo Kox, Łukasz Barczyk, Sos Sosowski and Andrzej Pitrus.
The festival is organized by the institution Katowice City of Gardens and City of Katowice.Its statute responsibilities among others involve cultural, publishing and educational activity as well as organising artistic events. The latter includes international festivals such as Katowice JazzArt Festival, Gardens of Sounds, Katowice Street Art Festival and Ars Independent Festival.
The Gentle Giant
“The Gentle Giant” is another animated document by Marcin Podolec, whose characteristic drawings turn the protagonist’s logorrhea into a series of expressive, black-and-white images. This time, the narrator is a poet – a verse-battler and veteran of poetry slams. The artist’s introspective story describes the tough beginnings, family relations and his struggle against one’s limits in both life and art. The director’s visual style perfectly blends with the protagonist’s words and complements them, giving an original form to his thoughts, feelings and memories, at the same time referencing to comic strip classics such as ”Peanuts” by Charles Schultz. Piotr Markowicz and Rafał Samborski – the men behind the soundtrack – made sure that the story flows with an appropriate rhythm.
70’s Venice Beach
The animation by Lucie Prigent, Vincent Gallut and Damien Deschamps could easily function as a music video for any given piece from the hypnagogic pop or chillwave genres. Just like in those musical movements, the authors swim in nostalgia for times they have no way of remembering – in this case the ‘70s. Their knowledge comes from pop culture, hence their hypnotic vision of Venice Beach consists of never-ending summer on the beach, palm trees and slo-mo skateboard rides in a drained pool. However, all of this has an underlying layer of anxiety, which slowly engulfs the blissful daydreaming.
A Coat Made Mark
“A Coat Made Dark” is an animation so dark that the viewer has to squint for most of it just in order to see anything. Jack O’Shea constructs his film from components borrowed from a noir film, such as iconography, music and voice-over narration. However, his vision is superfluous and oneiric, hence it almost ventures into surrealism. This story of two burglars who steal a ladies’ red coat with vague and mysterious properties is quite absurd, but the strange conflict between the two protagonists draws the viewer deeper and deeper into the void.
Simon Cartwright’s puppet animation is based on an idea that would make Charlie Kaufman excited. During a primal scream therapy, the protagonist who is turning and twisting from all his bottled up desires finally lets out a small, naked and hairy caveman – a miniature version of himself lacking any inhibitions. Together, they go into the city to spread chaos and destruction, give themselves over to their wildest instincts and fulfill all of their whims, even the most disgusting ones. “Manoman” is a loud, testosterone-powered, uncompromising journey to the heart of masculinity, during which burning cars is nothing out of the ordinary.
Sander Joon’s “Velodrool” takes place during a bicycle race, but it’s a race far from the ordinary. The competitors’ main motivation is a pack of cigarettes, a starting gunshot can be lethal and doping works by licking a rabbit out of a hat. In addition, during the race everything changes in surprising and sudden ways – bicycles mutate into monocycles on a whim of a jerkass fan, the track transforms into a dangerous river full of fish because someone pulled out a fishing pole, and the air leaves not only the tires, but the entire bike.
Katarzyna Kijek’s “Debut” can be approached as an auto-ironic comedy about the woes of creativity, but for everyone who has ever tried creative writing, this is a real horror. The incessantly blinking cursor, the empty page in the text editor. The banality, triteness and boredom echoing out of every sentence. The only savior lies in the “delete” key, but using it leads maliciously back to the starting line. Using the appropriate imagery, the director enters the mind of her protagonist – a screenwriter whose struggle to resist the various temptations and create something worthwhile seems alternately pathetic and heroic. When everything else fails, there is one final solution – write about one’s own process of writing.
“Mirrors” is a seemingly simple story of a father, a daughter and their evolving relationship. However, the film’s authors decided to tell it in an extremely minimalistic way. They’ve reduced the locations to just one – the inside of a car. Apart from the father and his daughter, there are no other characters. The whole story is told through tiny gestures, looks (also exchanged by the mirrors of the car), spatial relations and almost unnoticeable changes in decorations, which inform us about the passage of time. In this plethora of delicate forms of expression, one can be forgiven not noticing that there are no dialogues in this film.
The short animation by Elior Ziegelwax tells the story of a tough friendship between the protagonist and his girlfriend’s pit bull, the aforementioned Pavlov. The man’s story is told at a breakneck pace through voiceovers: the beginnings of a relationship, college, working on a book. The most important, however, are the subsequent walks with the dog, full of bizarre, wild adventures. The tale slows down once the protagonist suffers a breakdown and lands in the hospital, where he is diagnosed with depression. In his fight for mental health, Pavlov remains a faithful companion. The metaphor-rich style of Ziegelwax turns the seemingly weird story into a clever tale of depression and the benefits of dogotherapy
The story of Cypria Donato’s “Putain” takes places on the bodies of our main characters – female sex workers. From the very beginning, the author provokes the viewers, drawing them in and entangling in a world where female bodies are constantly objectified, judged and treated like products. While the film presents its heroines from a certain distance, the director’s rich visual imagination gives us a direct window into their internal lives. Complex feelings are presented through strong, multifaceted metaphors portraying the consequences of the male gaze. “Putain” makes one realize that women treated as sexual objects are not just passive components of this process
In an overdrawn world that looks like a combo of the darkest corners of Las Vegas and the dystopian future from Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner”, stress-free parenting is pretty much a mission: impossible. “Pokey Pokey” shows the absurd stage of the efforts of overeager parents to shield their babies from all demoralization and harm – both real and imagined. Instead of changing the degenerate world around them, the adults in Zhang’s animation are merely absorbed in covering their kids’ eyes. An additional help arrives in the form of an intensely advertised soda called “Pokey Pokey”
Hi, Its your Mother
Daniel Sterlin-Altman’s short animation begins like a family sitcom or a TV movie from the ‘50s, only to transform into a horror, then a black comedy, and finally return to its starting point. “Hi, It’s Your Mother” not unlike David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” reveals the dark underbelly of the idealized life in the suburbs, but the animation’s ultimate purport is surprisingly optimistic and family-friendly. It turns out that bottled-up stress simply needs an outlet, even if it features a small wound and temporary, bloodloss-induced hallucinations. The film also shows that mother-child relationships are always rather twisted.
Beer by Charles Bukowski
This animation by the Nerdo collective is an adaptation of Charles Bukowski’s famous poem, titled simply “Beer”. The film contains most of the elements important in his prose and poetry: alcohol, women, cigarettes, shady bars and neighborhoods, relationships falling apart and the jaded internal monologue of the monothematic author. While Bukowski’s works are usually quite down-to-earth, the animation allows itself to paint a psychedelic, vivid, detail-obsessed illustration of the text. This way, the authors try to take a peek into the decadent, beer-drowned mind of the brilliant writer.
The urban noise of a clogged city is the natural habitat of kebab-eaters, the usual visitors of a bar ran by an old married couple. The gaze of the customers and the older lady switches between the plates and another talent-show, where their own dreams get projected on the contestants. The owners’ mundane life changes when the wife decides to perform in one of her beloved TV shows and present her very own kebab sculptures. The beautifully animated “Gyros Dance” portrays the mindset of the middle class, their dreams and prose of life splashed with color by the seductively glamorous TV broadcasts.
“Serpentine” is a sensual impression of a woman’s erotic experiences told through animation. Bronwyn Maloney portrays the intensity of touch and orgasmic pleasure with pastel colors and the intangible pictures imagined the moment one closes one’s eyes. The editing pulsates to the rhythm of uneven breathing, speeding up together with the character’s growing satisfaction. Her animal side is unleashed in the ecstatic motions of her self-serving body. A rabbit – white and pure, but constantly in motion – becomes the symbol of her untamed sexuality
What does a woman think when she takes a shower after waking up, or applies makeup with acute precision? Martina Scarpelli shows that in this moment of absolute focus on her own face – the body part which claims to portray our identity best – she thinks of her own existence in the face of the whole universe. In “Cosmoetico”, the ascetic cinematic form makes for a great counterpoint for the animation’s overwhelming topic. The metaphysics of everyday activities is confronted with the enormity of what’s outside of humanity – the reality that cannot be grasped by reason. However, she wants to think that if the world cannot be understood, one can at least try to understand their Being-in-the-world.
Limbo Limbo Travel
8 women decide to abandon their current lives as mothers, wives and lovers in order to go to an island where they hope to find their ideal man. “Limbo Limbo Travel” is a tale of women trapped in the patriarchal desire which imposes on them the necessity of defining their identity solely through their relationships. The comic book aesthetic and the intense soundtrack aim for a campy externalization of the masculine optics and destruction of social structures. It turns out that even Mother Nature favors men and won’t allow women to free themselves from the limiting thoughts of an ideal, happily-ever-after relationship.
It’s a quiet night and a married couple lies calmly in their bed. They both have secrets, though. She leaves the house at night and goes to the zoo, he follows her stealthily. What the wife is doing there is beyond all understanding. The husband decides to have his revenge. The animation invokes “Sin City’s” unique aesthetics and the stereotypical noir voiceover to take on the topical matter of vegetarianism and veganism in a grotesque manner. Yu-Fei Kao brilliantly plays around with conventions, which despite the short running time allows him to build audience expectations and then let them down. However, the punchline is so subversive that all that is left at the end is to smile.
Ink Meets Black
In “Ink meets black”, Tymon Albrzykowski invokes the best traditions of both international and Polish animation. Birth and decay are shown through geometric abstractions – a bold reference to the first animated cinema experiments. At the same time, the unsettling music and the worn-out film tape aesthetics bring to mind the best works of Polish animators from the ‘60s. The film’s formalism, also apparent in the hypnotic rhythm of its editing, is the best proof of Karol Irzykowski’s theory that animated cinema is the most worthy of calling it cinematic art.
Yul and the Snake
Yùl’s older brother is a small-time thief who delivers the purses stolen from older ladies to a stronger thug. The thug terrorizes the boys with a scary dog and puts constant pressure on them. The youngest of the lot treats stealing as good fun, like chasing a colorful snake around the fields. The snake becomes a messenger of karma and a symbol of nature’s justice, ready to punish a man for his crimes. The monochromatic animation by Gabriel Harel is a short parable about growing up, gaining awareness and about character flaws that become a force against hate.
In the silence of the outer space, planets and stars uphold their mute coexistence. One of them is marked by absence and a longing for something to complement its existence – an angst felt by its every guest. The cosmos answers the gray giant’s pleas and sends a monolith – full of life and covered in plants – to reinvigorate the planet and give it some character. But what will happen when this happiness has to move on to its next destination? In her animation, Réka Bucsi presents the cosmogony of love, subtly portraying emotions and masterfully playing with form. The trajectory of love that comes and goes is expressed both universally and substantively. Therefore it is impossible to look away from “Love” and not be impacted by its story.
This is not an animation
A group of self-proclaimed artists decided to join forces and create an animation, in which all of them retain absolute artistic freedom. Unfortunately, one’s freedom ends where another’s begins – and in this case this means character, methodology and vision. The project is falling apart as every creator has a different, unique approach to work. This amusing and ironic animation by Federico Kempke is a genre roulette. The film taps into the poetics of documentaries and reality shows, utilizing various animation techniques. At the same time, it strips down the artistic pretensions of the pseudo-authors and makes fun of itself.
A day with no coffee is a day lost. Coffee enthusiasts are often prudent not to ruin the taste of their favorite morning espresso by adding milk or sugar, quickly downing their coffee shot. There are also those who cherish the drink – and simply call the waiter for another cup with no other care in the world. However, the protagonist of “Espresso” can’t wait to be serviced and kills time with some chair gymnastics. Alexander Gratzer utilized the film-within-a-film motif and spins an ironic tale about the ludicrousness of giving extra meaning to everyday situations – the ones which are nonsensical and simply happen, only occassionaly getting attention.
“Foreign Body” uses humor and feminist undertones to tell a story about one’s slow reconciliation with their own body, the feeling of self-acceptance and acknowledgement that “different” not always equals “ugly”. By utilizing horror conventions and absurd humor, Marta Magnuska spins a tale of a girl whose body changes suddenly after an unfortunate accident.
The story of a lonely man who tries to reach his old friends on the phone. A humorous and apt metaphor of how we present ourselves when viewed from a distance and how neglecting a relationship can create a rift between once close friends. Thomas Kneffel utilizes a simple 2D animation technique resembling Flash-made Internet shorts. He’s also not averse to slightly distasteful humor, both in the audio and the visual side.
The tale of a young man and his lonely travels through space. The longing for other people and the touch of human skin pushes the astronaut towards fetishes and experiments. Levi Stoops combines aesthetical minimalism with surreal humor, aptly portraying some of the aspects of human life. In his universe, man is a simple being whose actions often end up funny and absurd.
POMBO Loves you
A single father, very successful as a TV star Pombo in the ‘80s, tries to escape the past and his emotional problems. One day, his daughter finds a prop which reminds the man of the days gone by. Steve Warne’s stop motion puppet animation deftly references ‘80s aesthetics. It is a storytelling beauty and a technical treat.
A group of strangers meet at a train station to embark on a journey together. Soon it turns out that some of them share possessing extraordinary powers. Andrea Cabral paints a story filled with unexplained events and supernatural powers. In her universe, even a mean cat can turn into a hero. “Ento” is a simple animation created entirely with Photoshop.
The story of a young man with OCD. Every time he leaves home, Ruben tries to convince himself that he managed to leave the house in perfect order and that nothing bad will happen when he’s away. With a real mastery of the language of animation, Frederic Siegel portrays the protagonist’s emotions, combining mundanity with surreal visions of doom.
Frankfurter STR. 99A
A minimalistic and picturesque tale of a Berlin garbageman who paints a warm portrait of the slow city days, his responsibilities and well-earned breaks. One of the few non-fiction animations in this year’s competition. “Frankfurter Str. 99a” is the next animation by Evgenia Gostrer shown on Ars Independent. She was already nominated in our competition for “Framed”.
Anna O is a young mother, who suffers from a phobia of water. Even the tiniest drop can turn into a flood which will separate her from her baby. Anna can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality, which in turn makes her feel overwhelmed with her own mind. Rotem Yarakchi paints an intimate picture with the typical aesthetics of Bezalel. His animation is filled with anxiety and a slightly spiritual atmosphere.
A Long Holiday
Louise with her parents move to a summer house at the French Riviera for their vacation. Each day her dad, an archaeologist, tells her stories about Elga – a siren who was better at causing storms with her voice than seducing sailors. Caroline Nugues-Bourchat aptly tells a family story in which fantasy blends with everyday mundanity and adult problems.
When a young fisherman named Hoon accidentally catches a siren, he tries to view her as a normal trophy. However, it quickly turns out that the sea creature is only seemingly harmless on land. The siren – captured in a golden cage – follows the tradition and begins to try to seduce the young man. In his diploma project, JiHyeon Kim utilizes anime-like aesthetics, setting it in a typically rural Asian environment. He does not forget about a pinch of fantasy.
A simple family story in which every character embodies a stereotypical role of a father, mother or daughter. A humorous tale of everyday routine, frustration and a teeny bit of desires.
The Adventures of Prince Achmed By Lod 9
The first feature-length animation ever which survived to this day after its theatre premiere 90 years ago. Based on The Arabian Nights, it tells the story of a prince who travels around the world on a flying horse thanks to a certain wizard. The cutout animation – of which Lotte Reiniger and previously uncredited Carl Koch are unwitting pioneers – took three years to make, with the support of such personalities of German silent cinema as Walter Ruttmann (“Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis”) and Bertold Bartosch (“The Idea”). On our festival, we will screen the version restored by the British Film Institute. The soundtrack will be played live, masterminded by the band Lód 9.
Pragure in Kato: Famu
70 years ago, with the beginning of the Winter semester of 1946 the first classes at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague took place. A couple of years later the Film Department opened. And to this day, it remains a factory of artists, directors and animators. FAMU graduates include such names as Emir Kusturica, Věra Chytilová, Agnieszka Holland, Petr Zelenka and Jan Švankmajer (who studied at the Theatre Department). Today, it is widely known that the division into separate institutes and departments does not properly highlight the added artistic output of the Czech school’s graduates. This year’s set of the best diploma animations will be just a small dose of the said output, hosted inside the new building of The Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice.
Delicate Lines: Visegrad
“Delicate Lines” is a project of the Visegrád Animation Forum – an association which promotes animations from East-Central Europe. This set of animations travels around the world, shown both to open audiences and producers at those screenings, where financial decisions are made. What connects the ten chosen films is their sensitivity, often difficult to grasp with words. From adaptations of Czesław Miłosz’s poetry to a series of unfortunate events coated in a paint of black humor, despite the different styles and stories viewers will definitely recognize the gentleness in form and storytelling, possible only with a great idea and a perfect understanding of the language of animation.