The first edition of BAFICI Animado, a downsized version of the regular Buenos Aires film festival that features exclusively animated films, came to a close last week. The four-day festival included several premier screenings of well-known animators, a retrospective of the history of Argentine animated films, several award-winning foreign movies and even a chance to get an insider’s peak at a short excerpt of Metegol, the much anticipated 3-D film directed by celebrated Argentine filmmaker Juan José Campanella. Below is a brief overview of some of the most outstanding and outlandish shorts, feature-length films and filmmakers included in the latest festival and featuring on the busy Buenos Aires cultural agenda:
One of the most exciting programs in the festival was undoubtedly ‘Animación Clásica Argentina’. Although a lot of early Argentine animation seems to be mimicking Disney productions, there are some notable exceptions, like the short animated film ‘La Caza del Puma’. In this film, the wild feline is an allegory for the indigenous people of Argentina which is tricked into drunkenness by the criollo’s horse; the criollo trims its fingernails and ties it up to parade it behind him. “The puma won’t bother anyone ever again,” marks the happy ending of this rarity in national cinema.
Moving forward in history, the Homenaje Luis Bras offered a retrospective of this radical Rosario native, including Bongo Rock, a film which Bras ”animated” by using a phonograph needle to scratch his stick figures onto the film frame by frame. That’s one way to make your mark on film history!
In terms of what Argentine animators have been doing nowadays, the section ‘Los Autores’ included some highly humorous shorts based on the characters of the cartoonist Liniers, including one about the adventures of an olive. A new 3-D animated film by Esteban Echeverría, ‘La Máquina que Hace Estrellas’, also premiered during the festival—and quickly sold out.
Finally, viewers were invited for a sneak peak at the upcoming and much awaited Metegol. Based on a story by Fontanarrosa, it is about a foosball player who believes he is actually a football star. Although this is a little reminiscent of the plot line of one of the most beloved Pixar films, it promises its own local flair at the very least. In any case, this was only an advance, as Metegol will not reach theaters until sometime next year.
One exciting foreign film included in the festival was Arriety, a feature-length production by the mythic Japanese studio Ghibli and based on the beloved children’s story ‘The Borrowers’. This film has all the trappings of any Miyazaki film — friendly little insects scattering about, big luscious drops of tea or rain — but it also presents the viewer with an extremely pleasurable change in perspective as we view the “real world” from the eyes of the tiny Borrowers. A needle can be wielded as a dangerous sword and a food jar can become a glass prison. If you didn’t get a chance to see it during the festival, rest assured that most of Miyazaki’s creations make their way onto the big screen in Argentina and the Spanish language dubs fit strangely well on these timeless creations.
In terms of the animated short films for adults, if you didn’t get a chance to see the Mundo Exterior or Basuritas program, a lot of the shorts and others by the same filmmakers can be found on youtube. Mundo Exterior included the ‘Wonder Hospital, a sensual but terrifying take on hospitals and plastic surgery, a world of warped mirrors and ominous surgeons in old 3-D glasses.
As for the Basuritas program, it is all about that morbid fascination with twisting the usual connection between animated films and their usually innocent topics. Here the animated medium is used to explore the outlandish and sordid: there is a wave of dismembered bodies, zombies, drunken creatures, 1980s horror and even edible tampons in what one of the films warns to be “content offensive to some viewers.”
Another renowned animator featured in the festival was Bill Plympton, in a program that includes several of his farcical but often chilling shorts along with an entertaining documentary (I suspect partly “mockumentary”), where a supposed “film critic” declares on screen, “I love Disney. You know, Cinderella, Lady in the Tramp… Those are beautiful Films. Plympton does this sex and violence… nobody wants to see that!”
For those looking for that Disney side to animation, the Cortos BAFICITO program included several amusing shorts which met with the oohs and ahs of the children present, along with a few feature-length films like ‘Freddy Frogface’, which had won the public’s award at the BAFICITO in April of this year.
Finally, the festival came to an end on Sunday with the screening of the film Ted, directed by Seth MacFarlane. In this oddball buddy film, an animated teddy bear takes the place of the “buddy” who is always butting his way into the relationship between his best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) and his girlfriend (Mila Kunis). If you missed it at the festival, don’t worry, it seems highly likely that this kind of commercial Hollywood film will find its way into local theaters sometime this year.
All in all, the BAFICI Animado succeeded in getting cinema onto the usual winter holiday agenda and also expanded BAFICI beyond its sole appearance in April each year. In addition, the festival marked the debut of Marcelo Panozzo as the new Artistic Director of BAFICI, in what was certainly an auspicious start. If the regular BAFICI is any indication, we can only hope that BAFICI Animado will also become a classic annual event.