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Highlights - 31/07/2009


Scandinavia - Profusion of bold animated films... but with little resonance in Southern Europe


Animated films from Scandinavia hold pride of place this year in Europe and in particular at the recent Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Benefiting from large-scale production and the support of local cinema centres, numerous films, for the most part European co-productions, are screened in Europe and in particular in the Europa Cinemas film theatres. Whilst Swedish films are receiving the acclaim they deserve thanks to international awards recognised by the European public, Denmark, Finland and Norway are also faring well too.



Sweden on a high in Europe
At the Annecy International Animation Film Festival last June, Swedish short film Slavar by Hanna Heilborn and David Aronowitsch won the Annecy Cristal and the UNICEF prize. Two major awards to add to those won in the other European film festivals to be dedicated to this account of two children seized by a militia of the Sudanese government.
Per Åhlin, Jonas Odell or Magnus Carlsson, to mention just a few, are today recognised internationally and their works are found throughout the world. Alternating between films for adults – Metropia and Lies – and films for children – Laban, the Little Ghost and Desmond and the Swamp Barbarian Trap – Swedish animated films today benefit from a wide range of directors of animated films. Swedish production also benefits from widespread distribution in Northern Europe. This applies to Laban and Desmond, which have been distributed in the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and Belgium. Desmond has also been distributed in France where it has attained a certain degree of success (58,000 admissions).

Metropia, an animated science fiction film essentially geared towards a rather more adult audience, was presented to the Cannes Market and will be screened in Venice to open the Critics’ Week. It will be released in Sweden on 6 November 2009.

Furthermore, in the context of current festivities to celebrate the Swedish EU presidency, screenings of Swedish films are organised across Europe. If, in France and the United Kingdom, the recent feature films hold pride of place – Millennium, Morse… –  Germany highlights the vitality of Swedish animated film during a mini-festival, in Berlin, in collaboration with the Gothenburg festival.



Barry and Niko, touring Europe, are symbolic of the significance of Scandinavian productions
Innovation in Sweden as well as Norway, Denmark and Finland too!
The Danish animated film Sunshine Barry & the Disco Worms by Thomas Borch Nielsen and the Finnish film Niko & the Way to the Stars by Michael Hegner and Kari Juusonen have consequently been the subject of prestigious launches in their respective countries.
With 84 prints, Sunshine Barry & the Disco Worms has topped 164,000 admissions in its country of origin. Sold by Sola Media, the film has been distributed in 8 countries, including Norway, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands.
With 66 prints, Niko & the Way to the Stars, for its part, has recorded 231,000 admissions in Finland. It was subsequently distributed in 11 countries, notably Turkey, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Norway… 


Danish production of animated films has seen a real boom since 2004 with annual production of 6 films for younger audiences such as Journey to Saturn (ranking among the top ten best films in 2008 with 401,000 admissions for 70 prints), The Apple and the Worm or even The Great Bear which will be released in October 2009 and January 2011.
Norway is not being outdone either: Kurt Turns Evil and Elias And the Royal Yacht have been holding their own at the national box office and have been distributed abroad.

09_journey to saturn

Princess plays on provocation
But animated films are not the exclusive reserve of young audiences, Princess being an enlightening example. With this film, funded by the Danish Film Institute New Danish Screen programme and presented at the Directors’ Fortnight in 2006, Anders Morgenthaler broached head on the question of the “pornographisation” of society. Playing around with the image, the Danish film takes a bold and shocking approach: in a provocative way, animation liberates the story from standard codes and norms.



A production relayed by several festivals
The development in the production of animated films owes much to the following launch pads: Cartoon Forum, Tampere Festival, Gothenburg Festival plus, of course, the festivals for young audiences – Buff Film Festival, Kristiansand International Children’s Film Festival and Buster Copenhagen Film Festival for Children and Youth. 
The downside: southern Europe
Whilst Scandinavian works very successfully do the rounds of the festivals of Northern Europe, animated films from the Nordic countries nevertheless receive little exposure in other European countries.
By way of example, note that the two films to have enjoyed success Sunshine Barry & the Disco Worms and Niko & the Way to the Stars were not distributed in southern Europe whilst they have made their way to South-East Asia and the USA. These two films do not, however, call on regional or local myths which would explain their limited distribution.
Moreover, in most cinemas, the Danish film Princess failed to get the audience acclaim it had secured in Cannes. So then let us await Metropia when it is launched in Venice next September!

Niko & the Way to the Stars
Sunshine Barry and the Disco Worms