Anima, the Brussels International Animation Film Festival, will open its 42nd edition with the premiere of José Miguel Ribeiro’s first feature film, Nayola. The director and the Belgian co-production teams will be present at the opening ceremony on February 17. Anima 2023 will then run through February 26.
For his feature directing debut (co-produced by Belgian studio SOIL), Ribeiro tells the profoundly affecting story of a family torn apart by the Angolan Civil War. Moving between the present and the past, the film gives voice to three generations of women marked by the war while also leaving room for the love that continues to bind them.
Presented in the official selection at the latest Annecy Festival, Nayola won the award for Best Feature Film at the Manchester Animation Festival and is continuing its tour of international festivals.
Synopsis: Three generations of women hit by the war: Lelena (the grandmother), Nayola (the daughter) and Luana (the granddaughter). Two narrative moments that come together to reveal their undying love. In the past, Nayola sets off in search of her husband after he goes missing in combat and finds herself on a mysterious, devastating and never-ending trail. In the present, Lelena and Luana face a double threat, as a masked intruder breaks into their home and the police come to arrest Luana on the grounds of fomenting political unrest.
Nayola will kick off 10 days of rich animated programming, comprising more than 200 short and feature films. The recently announced Short Film Selection was winnowed from more than 1,700 film submissions down to 154 shorts, including 99 in the international competition, 23 new Belgian titles in the national competition and 32 out-of-competition films in the animated documentary program, Queer Stories program and inaugural Women’s Perspective program.
Many of this year’s films reflect the desire to use animation, regardless of the format, to get a message across. Besides documentary films, Anima curators say inclusive films also stand out and are making their presence felt in 2023: the Queer Stories program, which celebrates LGBTQIA+ love, is returning while the new Women’s Perspective program makes its debut to showcase a range of short films that amplify women’s voices as they speak frankly about love, intimacy, the body, motherhood and more.
Coming from 25 different countries (including 16 European ones), the films in the international competition demonstrate the richness of contemporary animation. Some of the films selected have already won awards at many festivals around the world: Bird in the Peninsula by Japan’s Atsushi Wada (Grand Prize for best short at Ottawa), Ice Merchants by Portugal’s João Gonzalez (Cannes Critics’ Week prize winner) and Persona by Korea’s Sujin Moon (Annecy Graduation Film Cristal). In an unexpected show of force, there is also a contingent of five student films from Hungary in the mix.
Belgian animation continues to put itself forward in the animation landscape, with 32 films selected out of 108 submissions (23 of which are in national competition). Among these local talents, Noémie Marsily, director of Autour du Lac, returns with Ce qui bouge est vivant (What Moves Is Alive), a subtle tale about motherhood, while Eternal heralds the return of Gerlando Infuso, winner of the Magritte for best animated short film in 2019 for La Bague au doigt.
In addition to the national competition, the Belgian panorama also offers a good overview of the latest domestic films, particularly co-productions with Canard (Duck) by Elie Chapuis and Le Chant du Cachalot (The Song of the Sperm Whale), co-produced by the studios Beast Animation and Zorobabel, respectively. It also marks the return of Belgian animation pioneer Raoul Servais with Der Lange Kerl (The Tall Guy), a partially animated short film co-directed by Rudy Pinceel.
The jury for the international short film competition will be made up of Gaëlle Grisard (illustrator and teacher), Pablo Pico (composer and multi-instrumentalist specializing in animated films) and Yiorgos Tsangaris (director and head of Animafest in Cyprus).
The national competition jury will be made up of Laura Almantaite (producer and director of the BLON Animation and Games Festival in Lithuania), Jean-François Bigot (producer at JPL Films) and Pascale Hecquet, illustrator and director of a dozen short films for children that have been selected in festivals around the world.
The other three official juries (young audience, feature films and virtual reality) will be revealed later, as other selection announcements are made.
The complete program of Anima 2023 will be announced January 24. For more information and to register to attend, visit animfestival.be