Ten months into the pandemic, we’ve seen all kinds of models for virtual animation festivals. Each has its merits, but none has quite the impact of an online event that’s open to the whole world, free of charge.
That’s the approach of Best Austrian Animation Festival, the online incarnation of the Vienna-based 2 Days Animation Festival, which showcases cutting-edge Austrian animation each year. A change of name was required for the online festival, as it will last for a full two weeks, starting on Monday.
The festival is presenting 100 shorts by filmmakers from (or based in) Austria. Some were already available online; others weren’t. In any case, they have been carefully arranged into 13 themed programs by the curators Sabine Groschup, Laura Egger-Karlegger, and Thomas Renoldner.
The programs will be streamed on a fixed schedule during the first week (January 18–24). The bulk of the films will then move to a video library (January 25–31), where viewers will be able to watch them on demand.
On February 1, this set-up will be replaced by Best Austrian Animation’s brand-new online database — the culmination of years of archiving. Ultimately, every film ever shown at the festival since 2013 will have an entry containing information, visuals, and in some cases the entire film. The database will be aimed at researchers, curators, and anyone else with an interest in contemporary Austrian animation; one of its main purposes will be to help Austrian filmmakers find international distribution for their works.
Ahead of the event, we spoke to Renoldner, the festival’s founder and a renowned filmmaker in his own right (his short Dont Know Whatrecently qualified for the Oscars). He told us that the online edition’s format — free and accessible in all territories — was settled on after consultations with all the filmmakers. “Also,” he adds, “since this festival is also intended to promote the [database], we thought with free access we reach a larger audience.”
Having studied other online festivals, Renoldner and his colleagues decided against webinars and Zoom Q&As. “We discussed [and concluded] that many people, ourselves included, are tired of online meetings of all kinds,” he says. “All of us attended some filmmaker meetings at online festivals, and we were not convinced that we have to offer that option as well.” Instead, the event will feature video statements pre-recorded by the filmmakers, as well as a text-based group chat feature.
Last April, Renoldner told us that he thought the amount of travel generated by the pre-pandemic festival circuit was placing a burden on the planet. That said, he hopes to restore his festival’s real-life edition as soon as the pandemic allows, as there is no substitute for in-person networking and socializing.
But he adds: “Of course this online edition opens new perspectives. For the first time, a huge number of Austrian animated films are presented internationally, and we will certainly analyze the outcome of our initiative. It is thinkable to continue ‘something like that,’ but then I would rather have a smaller selection of films in a payable on-demand version.” He notes that this kind of hybrid approach takes time to prepare, and would thus require a bigger budget going forward.
For more information on the festival and its programs, head to its website.
Image at top: Sigmund Hutter’s music video for Rakisquad’s “Karantina”
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