Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Reanimania Festival, Armenia

I've known Vrej Kassouny for about 10 years, I met him at the Comics Festival in Angouleme, France.  I've wanted to visit his festival, ReAnimania, for a long time and I was finally able to fit a visit to Armenia into my schedule, since I just finished the feature "Revengeance" and the new short, "Cop Dog".

I flew there via Moscow on Aeroflot Airlines - it seemed like there might be some kind of Yiddish religious gathering taking place, because the entire plane was full of Orthodox Jews. (there's a joke in there somewhere about everyone getting a kosher meal on the flight...)  I don't know if it was because of the celebratory atmosphere of some holiday or maybe the lax attitude of Aeroflot, but it was a big party all night long on this overnight trip.  I arrived in Yerevan with absolutely no sleep.

ReAnimania was celebrating its 8th year - and it seems to be a very successful festival - full cinemas, great programming, and very nice people.

One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to the Sergei Parajanov Museum - I'm a huge fan of his films "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" and "The Color of Pomegranates".  When you talk about Russian Cinema, you don't usually talk about surrealism and fantasy, but he was the master of it.

The museum showed a lot of his early paintings and sketches (some made when he was in prison for being gay) and a number of paintings were made from broken plates stuck on a canvas with painting on top, these were made around 1970.  If you've studied art, you may recall a New York artist named Julian Schnabel, who did exactly the same thing in 1985 and made a fortune from it!  I wonder if he was familiar with Parajanov's work.

I did a master class at this very classy building, on top of a hill overlooking Yerevan, where animation is taught to young students.  What a great way to get kids into animation!  I'm so jealous, I wish I'd had something like that.  There's a very exciting atmosphere in Armenia, everyone seemed so hyped up about animation as a business or career.

The night before I left, I was invited to dinner at a wonderful restaurant called "Wine Country", where I had a great dinner and drank too much wine - then I was asked to do a sketch on the wall and I couldn't say no.

The pretty waitresses all looked like Kim Kardashian (who is of Armenian descent) and they wore bib overalls, like something right out of "Hee Haw", and just like American students, they had large rips at the knees.  I've been told that any girl who wears jeans ripped at the knees symbolically looks like she spends a lot of time on her knees (that's just what I heard) so I wonder if Armenian waitresses are aware of this rumor.  Hell, they probably started it.

Another highlight was the opening ceremonies, where I finally got to see "The Red Turtle" (my review will follow) and I received two major awards - a statue for a prize I won at this festival in a previous year, PLUS a statue for a lifetime achievement award.

If you have an animated film, definitely enter it in ReAnimania - it's not a major festival like Annecy or Sundance, but you will be treated like a king or queen and you'll make memories that will last a lifetime.  Just don't take a plane there from Moscow.

I give ReAnimania an "A".

--Bill Plympton

P.S. - They even took my photo wearing traditional Armenian clothing!  Here it is:

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