28 January 2012

Nishikata Kids: Anna on Nausicaä

An interview with Anna
Age: almost 7
Film: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ, Hayao Miyazaki,  1984)

Tell me about Nausicaä.
Nausicaä is brave.  She wants to save the world.

What does she need to save the world from?
The bad fungus.
Most hysterical moment in the film for Anna. 
What is your favourite part of the anime?
I like Nausicaä’s fox squirrel Teto.  Actually, I like all the animals because they are interesting.

There is a lot of fighting in the movie.  How did you feel about that?
Bad.  They should be normal and nice to each other.

What were the most exciting parts?
For me it was exciting when the Ohmu came up from the water. 

The movie isn’t just serious.  I noticed that you were laughing sometimes. 
What did you find funny?
When the man said “She’s still alive. . . that was a short-lived dream”
[This is the moment when Kushana returns and takes control back from Kurotowa.  Anna thought he was hysterical.  We were watching the German dub, so my quote might not match the English dub/subs.]

What did you think about Kushana, the Princess of Tolmekia?
She was dumb.

If you could be any character in the film, which one would you be?
I would be all the insects and ummmmm. . .  the fox squirrel.
Let’s play Mama Ohmu, Baby Ohmu.

interview abruptly ends ;)

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ, 1984)

When I was a girl there were few heroines in animation with whom I could identify.  Snow White and Cinderella were too good and unattainably beautiful.  I was a bit of a tomboy, so I recall doing some Wonder Woman and She-Ra: Princess of Power role playing, but I found their sexy costumes a bit off putting.  It is such a shame that Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (風の谷のナウシカ, 1984) was not dubbed and released in North America in its original version, for I suspect my then ten-year-old self would have fallen in love with the gutsy young heroine Nausicaä.

My suspicions were confirmed when I watched the film on DVD with my two children.  Both Lukas and Anna loved the film, but my young daughter really warmed to Nausicaä.  Her heart melted in the scene where Nausicaä adopts her furry fox-squirrel companion Teto.  She cheered during the fight scenes and both children were excited by the dynamic animation of the scenes in which Nausicaä is flying her Mehve jet glider.  They had no great love for Kushana, the Princess of Tolmekia but warmed to the buffoonery of her aide-de-camp Kurotowa .

My children are also both nature-lovers and Nausicaä appealed to their interest in the environment.  The environmentalist message of Nausicaä is even more important today than it was in the 1980s, and is so well executed that it won the film the seal of approval of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).  Nausicaä is set in a future world in which is facing an environmental apocalypse.  Humanity clings to survival on a planet that is being taken over by the polluted “Sea of Corruption.”  The few communities (the Valley of the Wind, the Pejite, the Tolmekia, and the Dorok) that are left have begun to fight each other for the dwindling resources.  Nausicaä is one of the few who recognizes that in order for people to survive, they need to find a way to live in harmony with the other creatures of the world such as the Ohmu – giant crustaceans that resemble pillbugs – whereas others see violence and warfare as their only means of survival.

Flashback sequence animated in a different style.

This is not a film that one can just pop into a DVD player and leave kids to consume alone.  There is a lot of violence, including the murder of innocents / the defenceless both human and non-human, and challenging themes (senseless destruction of the environment, warfare, and so on).  I think the part that upset my children the most was the cruel torture of the Ohmu by the Pejites.  Although these are difficult topics, I found the film really invigorated my kids to talk about how the lessons of the film can be applied to their own everyday lives.  From discouraging their friends from harming insects and other small creatures to the day-to-day things we can do to better the natural world around us, Nausicaä inspired my children to stand up for what they believe in.

In addition to being a terrific story, Nausicaä is also a fine example of animation.  It won Miyazaki his second Noburo Ofuji Award for innovation at the Mainichi Film Concours.  Particularly notable are the exhilarating flying sequences with Nausicaä on the Mehve and the God Warrior sequence animated by Hideaki Anno (of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame).  My favourite sequence was the flashback / dream sequence of Nausicaä's youth (image above), which was animated in a completely different style than the rest of the film.

This review is part of Nishikata Film's series on the Noburo Ofuji Award.

27 January 2012

Isamu Hirabayashi’s 663114 wins the Noburo Ofuji Award

At the Mainichi Film Concours earlier this month, Isamu Hirabayashi (平林勇, b. 1973, Shizuoka) was awarded the prestigious Noburo Ofuji Award, which celebrates innovation in animation, for his latest short film 663114 (2011).  I was disappointed last year that no award was given out when there are so many innovative animators working deserving of recognition by their peers. Hirabayashi is a worthy winner and I am delighted that the Mainichi saw fit to honour him.

Hirabayashi is a graduate of Musashino Art University.  He initially worked as a graphic designer after graduation, but left his job to become an independent filmmaker.  His film Textism (2003) won the Grand Prix at the Image Forum Festival and his following short films have won prizes at festivals around the world.  A Story Constructed of 17 Pieces of Space and 1 Maggot 2007) made my list of Top 40 Animated Shorts of the Noughties.  His international profile was raised in 2010 when Shikasha was invited to the Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight and last September, along with Mirai Mizue’s Modern No. 2 (2011),   663114 was invited to the Biennale in Venice.

The 8-minute short was made in response to the devastating earthquake and tsunami which struck the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011.  The story is told by a cicada (セミ) which has been gestating for 66 years.  During the press conference at the Biennale (see video), Hirabayashi explained that he chose the cicada because they when they are nymphs (newly hatched) they must live for a long time underground (usually 2-5 years, but in some species even longer).  When the nymph metamorphosizes into a full-fledged cicada, it lives for only a week.  As we all know, the earthquake of March 11 triggered many more disasters including the tsunami and the nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima.  The cicadas of the region are now living in polluted earth, and Hirabayashi feels that they represent “the destiny of Japanese people.”

Hirabayashi, an interpreter, Watanabe, and Iijima at the 68th Biennale 

The music for the film was composed by Osaka-based sound producer Takashi Watanabe.  (渡辺崇, b. 1976, Hiroshima).  He explained that they approached the soundtrack as if it would be an offering at a temple.  He looked to Buddhism and Shintoism in his desire to create a new kind of sacred music.  Keitarō Iijima (Studio 301), the sound producer on 663114, explained that they used Japanese food for making the soundtrack including nattō (fermented soybeans), dried Japanese noodles and also cabbage.  He echoed Watanabe’s sentiments about the sacredness of the project for them, emphasizing that he tried to have a sense of respect for the food that they used throughout the production.

The title is made up of the age of the cicada ‘66’ and the date of the disaster ‘3/11’, but a member of the Biennale panel is confused by the number ‘4’ at the end of the title and asks Hirabayashi to explain the logic behind it.  It turns out that the choice of 66 was not random.  Hirabayashi points out that when the disaster struck on March 11th, Japan had been rebuilding its society for 66 years after the devastation of World War II, and the number 4 refers to the four reactors that were damaged in Fukushima.

Hirabayashi was also asked to explain the meaning of the newly formed cicada that appears the black rain in 663114 as well as about the language of the cicada.  He replies that cicada that is born after the black rain, 66 years later, is polluted by radioactive rain.  Thus, the cicada is altered by the radioactivity.  The language of the cicada is artificial, but they intended for it to have a spiritual, prayer-like meaning. 

The most important message that Hirabayashi wanted to get across with the film is about the saving of children.  The children whose lives have been dramatically altered by Fukushima should be our first priority.  “This is our first prayer: to be able to save children.”

(source: BiennaleChannel)

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2012

Check out Hirabayashi’s work on his YoutubeChannel, his official website, or follow him on twitter.

Isamu Hirabayashi Filmography

Cockroach (2001, 2’)
Penis (2002, 3’)
Helmut (2003, 11’)
Textism (2003, 11’)
VS (2004, 11’)
Conversations with Nature (2005, 5’)
Doron (2006, 16’)
A Story Constructed of 17 Pieces of Space and 1 Maggot (2007, 14’)
BABIN (2008, 30’)
aramaki (2009, 26’)
Shikasha (2010, 10’)
5+ Camera (2011, 15’)
663114 (2011, 8’)

23 January 2012

Maya Yonesho’s Top 20 Animated Films

Ever since I got my hands on a copy of the published version of  Laputa’s Top 150 Japanese and World Animation (2003) in autumn 2010, I have been writing off and on about individual animators responses to the 2003 survey.  There were quite a range of responses, all of which tell us a great deal about the animators themselves.  The first generation of postwar "anime" animators - like Yoichi KotabeReiko Okuyama, Eiichi Yamamoto, and Takashi Yanase, were influenced by a wide range of both domestic and foreign animation both popular and artistic.  Animators who followed in the footsteps of this first wave of anime like Keiichi Hara, tend to be strongly influenced by domestic anime of the 70s and 80s.

Independent animators (ie. Keiichi Tanaami, Masahiro KatayamaShigeru Tamura) who practice what some in Japan call "art animation" tend to be influenced by both Japanese artistic traditions and the best of world animation.

The stop motion animator Maya Yonesho has one foot firmly planted in Japan and the other in Europe and her lyrically beautiful films explore the idea of animation as a universal language, as you can read in my 2008 profile of her as an artist.

In the 2003 survey, Yonesho lists a wide range of animation from around the world whose animation techniques are as varied as their cultural origins. Yonesho's selection could easily make up the course contents of an introduction to world animation.  If you haven't seen the films in her list, you have really been missing out on some pretty remarkable art.

You can support Maya Yonesho by ordering a DVD of her Abstract AnimationWorks from Anido today.

Learn more about her by visiting her official website.

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2012
Here is Yonesho's unranked list:

(クラック!, Frédéric Back, 1981)

(スワンプ, Gil Alkabetz, 1991)

(ディヴェルティメント, Clive Walley, 6 shorts, 1991-94)

Frank Film
(フランク・フィルム, Frank Mouris, 1973)

 The Magic Ballad
(おこんじょうるり, Tadanari Okamoto, 1982)

Briar Rose or the Sleeping Beauty
(いばら姫、またはねむり姫, Kihachiro Kawamoto, 1990)

Words, words, words
(コトバ、コトバ、コトバ, Michaela Pavlatova, 1999)

The Mitten
(手袋, Roman Kachanov, 1967)

Kirikou and the Sorceress
(キリクと魔女, Michel Ochelot, 1998)

The Fantastic Planet
(ファンタスティック・プラネット, René Laloux, 1973)

Hotel E
(ホテルE, Priit Pärn, 1992)

Study No. 7
(スタディNo.7, Oskar Fischinger, 1932)

Begone Dull Care/Caprice en couleurs
(色彩幻想, Evelyn Lambart/Norman McLaren, 1949)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
(真夏の夜の夢, Jiří Trnka, 1959)

Black Dog
(ブラック・ドッグ, Alison de Vere, 1987)

Linear Dreams
(Richard Reeves, 1998)

The Cowboy’s Flute
(牧笛, Te Wei, 1963)

(ピノキオ, Gianluigi Toccafondo, 1999)

Hedgehog in the Fog
(霧につつまれたハリネズミ, Yuri Norstein, 1975)

Nightangel / L'heure des anges
(ナイト・エンジェル, Jacques Drouin/Břetislav Pojar, 1986)

Source: Laputa Top 150 World and Japanese Animation

On DVD in Japan:
Mitten / Puppet Animation
Puppet Animation
Shanghai bijutsu denei sakuhin shu / Animation
Shanghai bijutsu denei sakuhin shu Vol.1

Note: this post was corrected in July 2016

Sway (ゆれる, 2006)

Is all that we see or seem
But but a dream within a dream?
- Edgar Allen Poe

The human mind loves to try to bring order to chaos.  That is why readers are drawn to classic detective fiction like that of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie where we marvel at the ability of Sherlock Holmes or Hercules Poirot to solve the mystery conclusively by bringing together threads of clues and witness testimonies.  The modern detective; however, will tell you that such eyewitness testimony is often not very reliable.  Not only can it be coloured by prejudice, but the human mind can sometimes play tricks on us.

The first sign in Sway (ゆれる, 2006) that Takeru Hayakawa (Joe Odagiri) is not a reliable witness comes when he returns to his home town for his mother’s funeral. The self-anointed black sheep of the Hayakawa family, Takeru barges late into the funeral services dressed head to toe in red, inciting his father (Masatō Ibu) into a rage over his lack of filial piety.  The root of the bad feeling appears to be Takeru’s decision to reject joining the family business – a non-nondescript gas station – to become a big shot photographer in Tokyo.  Yet, Isamu Hayakawa’s extreme reaction to his son suggests the strife runs even deeper into the family’s history.

The older brother Minoru (Teruyuki Kagawa), tries to bridge the yawning chasm between them by giving Takeru their mother’s Fujicascope projector and old 8mm home movies she took when they were little.  One of the 8mm reels contains footage of a family outing to Hasumi Gorge, where Minoru recalls fondly fishing there with their father.  Takeru does not remember ever going to the gorge and Minoru teases him, telling Takeru prophetically that he has selective memory made cloudy by the Tokyo smog.

The camaraderie between the brothers sours when Takeru decides to seduce his old girlfriend Chieko Kawabata (Yōko Maki).  Chieko has been working for the Hayakawas since the company she used to work for went under.  She had a friendly, flirtatious relationship with Minoru and he’d been hoping she might take a fancy to him.  Chieko joins the brothers on a trip to visit Hasumi Gorge, and her shocking sudden death at the old suspension bridge is the mystery that sets into motion the remainder of the film.  However, whether or not Minoru was responsible for Chieko's death is really just a red herring.  The true question is whether or not this tragedy will bring the brothers closer together or tear their tenuous relationship apart forever.

Director Miwa Nishikawa has a deft hand for creating dramatic tension in her screenplays.  Whereas the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, would create it by showing the audience more than what the characters know, Nishikawa creates suspense by withdrawing visual information from us.  We only see as much of the events on that fateful day as Takeru can remember, and we are drawn into his struggle to find a way to help his brother avoid being sentenced to prison for murder while remaining true to himself.  We share Takeru’s frustration at not knowing all the details of what led to Chieko falling from the bridge.

Sway is an extraordinary film which at turns recalls the themes of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashōmon (1950), the mysterious beauty of Peter Greenaway’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), and the withholding of information narrative structure of Atom Egoyan’s Exotica (1994).  The colours in Sway are muted, but beautifully done and like Hitchcock and Kurosawa one has the impression that every frame of the film was carefully composed ahead of the filming.  It’s the type of film one needs to watch more than once in order to appreciate the subtle nuances of expression and meaning. 

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2012

The Japanese DVD release of Sway has excellent English subtitles for the feature, no subs for the extras.  The film was so well received at festivals that it also got a US release.

Directed and Written by Miwa Nishikawa

Cinematography by Hiroshi Takase

Original Music by the Cauliflowers


Joe Odagiri as Takeru Hayakawa
Teruyuki Kagawa as Minoru Hayakawa
Masatō Ibu as Isamu Hayakawa
Hirofumi Arai as Yohei Okajima
Yōko Maki as Chieko Kawabata

22 January 2012

Japan in Germany 7: Oshima (大島, 2010)

“This story makes no sense,” a frustrated German police officer says at the beginning of Lars Henning’s dark tale Oshima (大島, 2010), and asks the Japanese language interpreter to have the haggard and bruised-looking salaryman before him to repeat his story one more time from the beginning.  The man introduces himself as Taburo Oshima and says that he just arrived from Tokyo on business.

The opening credits are positioned over the clouds and a girl’s voice tells us that this is the story of her father, who in October 2002 came to Germany on business with plans of continuing on to the United States.   The tale that he told to the police is the last official record of his existence.  He disappeared without a trace.  The girl mysteriously goes on to explain that while her mother never told her what happened that night, she nevertheless knows what happened that night.

Oshima, played by Japan-born/Germany-raised actor Yuki Iwamoto, arrives in Germany in a haze.  In addition to jet lag, Oshima may be experiencing extreme side effects from the depression medication Opipramol that he consumes on the flight.  He passes out upon arrival at the airport, and is looked after by an airport employee (Hakan Orbeyi).  He somewhat recovers and stumbles out of the baggage retrieval area into the arms of an eager-to-curry-favour German businessman, Herr Kleinschmidt (Devid Striesow), and his interpreter, Frau Izumi (Nina Fog). 

Oshima’s wooziness continues in the car journey to the hotel and over the course of this half hour dramatic short, he passes in and out of consciousness due to a mixture of over-medication, alcohol consumption, and just plain exhaustion.  Oshima seems disinterested in his business dealings with Herr Kleinschmidt and barely even aware of his surroundings for most of the film.  In an off-hand comment to Frau Izumi, which she curiously does not translate to her boss, Oshima reveals that he has lost his entire family in an accident.   Izumi is drawn to him, but at the same time suspicious that this man may not be who he says he is.   Are we witnessing the mental collapse of a salaryman or is there something more going on here?  Oshima’s vision of a white unicorn on the darkened streets of this anonymous German city suggest deeper layers to this man’s story which the viewer must unravel for him/herself. 

The ambiguity of the storyline could have been disastrous if not for the sensitive and subtle acting performances of Iwamoto and Fog.  Their faces are very expressive and hint at a deeper emotional story than is implicit in the dialogue and narration.  Lars Henning (b. 1976, Hamburg) is the director of the much acclaimed short Security (2006) which won prizes at the Avanca Film Festival and Lübeck Nordic Film Days.  He pursued a postgraduate degree in television and film at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln) between 2006 and 2010.  This is his fourth short film.  It is a melancholic tale with beautifully executed transitions.  The cinematographer, Carol Burandt von Kameke, and crew have done a remarkable job of lighting these very dark night scenes with great skill.  Many scenes have a masterful chiaroscuro look. With most young filmmakers today opting to go digital for budgetary reasons, it is a real delight to discover a short film shot beautifully on 35mm funded by cultural institutions.  Oshima is a rare gem that showed on arte before Christmas and at Japan Week in Frankfurt in November.  Looking forward to seeing more work by this director.  

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2012


director: Lars Henning
screenwriter: Lars Henning
cinematographer: Carol Burandt von Kameke
production company:  Radical Movies  / Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln
producer:  Ulrich Otto
34 minutes / 35mm
shot on location in North Rhine Westphalia


Yuki Iwamoto                    Taburo Oshima
Nina Fog                            Frau Izumi, the Interpreter
Devid Striesow                    Herr Kleinschmidt, the Businessman
Karolina Porcari                 Laika, exotic Dancer
Hakan Orbeyi                     Momo, man in airport
Jens Wachholz                    Police Officer 1
Markus Haase                    Police Officer 2
Remo Hofer                        Night Porter
Tanja Desen                       Airline Staff
Rosa Bergmann                  Girl with Wings / Naoko / voice over narration
Melanie Kühn                     Exotic Dancer
Pia Passion                         Exotic Dancer
Marie Iguchi                       voice over

Lars Henning Filmography

2005   Koslowski (15‘)
2006   Security (13‘)
2009   Driving Elodie (19‘)
2010   Oshima (35mm, 34‘)

16 January 2012

Mirai Mizue’s Tatamp (2011)

“One living thing.  One sound.  Becomes chaos.  Becomes melody.”

“This living thing has one sound but a thousand forms.”

Mirai Mizue continues his experimentation with music and movement in his latest “cell animation” Tatamp.  Not to be confused with the animation technique of “cel animation”, Mizue’s unique style of “cell animation” is hand-drawn and coloured on paper then scanned onto the computer for editing.  The name refers to the fact that the creatures that he draws resemble amoeba and other minute organic creatures one might find under the lens of a microscope.

As the onomatopoetic title Tatamp suggests, sound designer twoth (aka Shinichi Suda) employs a number of different percussive sounds (shakers, synth, snare drum, etc.) in this piece in addition to harp, whistle, loon calls and other experimental noises.  As with Jam (2009), the film begins in a minimalistic fashion with one sound being represented by a moving shape or shapes.  The cells splash onto the screen and disappear like fireworks exploding in the sky.  The appearance and movement of the shapes is directly related to the timbre and duration of each sound. 

The more full the soundtrack, the more full the screen is with shapes, and as the tempo increases, so too the movement of the shapes.  The score follows a pattern of rising and falling with the screen alive with abstract shapes and a chaos of movement at each peak.  The grand finale is an explosion of colour and movement with the individual “cells” layered densely on the screen.  Another fantastic film from Mizue in the tradition of visual music. 

Learn more about Mirai Mizue and order his DVD from CALF.  The DVD is also available from British Animation Awards.

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2012

Lord of Chaos: The Cinema of Sono Sion (2011)

Lord of Chaos: The Cinema of Sono Sion

In December, the 29th Torino Film Festival (TFF, 25 November – 3 December 2011) honoured Sion Sono by featuring his oeuvre in their Rapporto confidenziale (Confidential Report) section.  This annual programme aims to take note of emerging auteurs, genres, and other trends in international cinema. 

In honouring Sono, TFF describes him as an “eccentric and mesmerizing Japanese poet, novelist and director” whose works had never before been screened in Italian cinemas.   They go on to call him a “visionary” and a “provocative and dynamic filmmaker.  .  .  [who] mixes mixes psychoanalysis and Grand Guignol, melodrama and pop culture, horror and politics, serial killers and dark ladies.” (source)

In addition to presenting almost all of Sono’s films, TFF teamed up with the Italian blog Sonatine: Appunti sul cinema giapponese contemporaneo (Sonatine: Notes on contemporary Japanese cinema) to publish a book of essays and film reviews called Il signore del chaos: Il cinema di Sono Sion (Lord of Chaos: The Cinema of Sono Sion).

The book is edited by Dario Tomasi and Franco Picollo and features the writing of not only the editors but also Claudia Bertolè, Matteo Boscarol, Luca Calderini, Giacomo Calorio, Emanuela Martini, Grazia Paganelli, and Fabio Rainelli.  The cover features a photograph of the director taken at TFF.  The book includes a complete filmography with titles in Japanese/romaji/English/ Italian

For non-Italian speakers, I recommend checking out the Sonatine website using Google Translate.  As Italian sentence structure is very similar to English it is quite readable – unlike the bizarre world of Google JP to EN!!  Check out the following reviews on Sonatine:

1984   Rabu songu (Love Song)
1985   Ore wa Sono Sion da! (I Am Sono Sion!)
1986   Ai (Love)
1986   Otoko no hanamichi (Man's Flower Road) 
1988   Kessen!Joshiryō tai danshiryō (Decisive Match! Girls Dorm Against Boys Dorm)
1990   Jitensha toiki (Bicycle Sighs) 
1992   Heya (The Room)
1997   Keiko desu kedo (I Am Keiko / It's Me Keiko)
1998   Dankon - The Man (Dankon: The Man)
2000   Utsushimi (Utsushimi)
2002   Jisatsu sākuru (Suicide Club)
2005   Yume no naka e (Into a Dream)
2005   Kimyōna sākasu (Strange Circus)
2006   Hazard (Hazard)
2006   Noriko no shokutaku (Noriko's Dinner Table)
2006   Kikyū kurabu, sono go (Balloon Club).
2007   Exte (Exte: Hair Extensions)
2009   Ai no mukidashi (Love Exposure)
2009   Chanto tsutaeru (Be Sure to Share), 2009
2010   Tsumetai nettaigyo (Cold Fish)
2011   Koi no tsumi (Guilty of Romance)
2011   Himizu (Himizu)

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2012 

13 January 2012

Yuri Norstein’s Animation Top 20 (2003)

The great Russian animator Yuri Norstein (aka Yuriy Norshteyn, b. 1941) is widely admired in Japan by both mainstream and independent animators alike.  His works The Hedgehog in the Fog (1975) and The Tale of Tales (1978) topped the Laputa Top 150 Japanese and World Animation poll done in 2003.  His work is so beloved that even his unfinished adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s short story The Overcoat entered the list at #92.  Norstein himself participated in the 2003 poll and his picks are listed below. 

But first, a bit of background information:

Yuri Norstein has close ties to the Laputa International Animation Festival.  The festival began in 2000 and semi-annually presents the Yuri Norstein Award (ユーリ・ノルシュテイン大賞) – with, I believe, Norstein himself acting as the head of the jury. The prize was jointly awarded in its inaugural year to Hiroyuki Tsutita for his film Mutate and to Hiroshi Okuda for Prisoner.  Oscar-winner animator Kunio Katō won the Yuri Norstein Award twice:  first in 2001 for The Apple Incident and again in 2004 for The Diary of Tortov RoddleHosokawa Susumu won the award in 2005 for Demons and Yusuke Sakamoto won in 2006 for The Telegraph Pole Mother.  In 2008, the award was given to a non-Japanese for the first time.  Latvian animator Vladimir Leschiov took the prize for Lost In Snow.  It was my understanding that the award would be given out again in 2010, but I have been unable to find any evidence of this happening – though they did show a retrospective of Norstein’s works at the festival that year.  The next festival will have an activist theme as they put out a call for “Fukushima Animation” last autumn.  It is unclear when the 11th festival will take place.

2007 saw the establishment of the Laputa Art Animation School – a “small school” where they teach the art of making animation by hand (puppet, cutout, drawn, etc.).  The school creation is credited to Norstein’s insistence that Japan needed its own school of animation in the vein of the great Eastern European centres for  training animators.  The school even uses Norstein’s iconic hedgehog as their logo.  At Laputa, indisputed masters of the art of animation including Fumiko Magari and Sumiko Hosaka – puppet masters who worked for Tadanari Okamoto and Kihachirō Kawamoto – and the avant-garde legend Yōji Kuri teach students the tricks of the trade. 

There are no surprises in Yuri Norstein’s top 20.  He lists a cross-section of some of the very best in world animation with nods to both early animation pioneers (Ladislaw Starewicz, Alexandre Alexeieff, Claire Parker, Mikhail Tsekhanovsky, Norman McLaren, David Hand, Jiří Trnka) and terrific contemporary work (Nick Park, Aleksandr Petrov, Michael Dudok de Wit).  He even gives a nod to his Japanese hosts in recognizing the work of Osamu Tezuka and Kihachirō Kawamoto.  If you were teaching a course on world animation of the 20th century and could only show 20 films – this list would suit nicely.  Though you would be hard-pressed to find a copy of Frantisek Vystrcil’s The Place in the Sun.

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2012


Night on Bald Mountain / Une nuit sur le Mont Chauve
(禿山の一夜, Alexandre Alexeieff/Claire Parker, 1933)


The Street / La rue
(ストリート, Caroline Leaf, 1976)


(クラック!, Frédéric Back, 1981)


(バンビ, David Hand/Disney, 1942)


Hand / Ruca
(, Jiří Trnka, 1965)


Blinkity Blank
(線と色の即興詩, Norman McLaren, 1955)


Father and Daughter
(ファーザー・アンド・ドーター, Michaël  Dudok de Wit, 2000)


Ali Baba
(アリババ, Giulio Gianini / Emanuele Luzzati, 1970)


The Substitute / Surogat
(代用品, Dušan Vukotić, 1961)


The Cow / Корова
(雌牛, Aleksandr Petrov, 1989)


De Facto/ De fakto
(デファクト, Donyo Donev, 1973)


The Lady and the Cellist / La demoiselle et le violoncelliste
(お嬢さんとチェロ弾き, Jean-François Laguionie, 1965)


 Post / Почта
(郵便, Mikhail Tsekhanovsky, 1929)


The Island / Остров
(, Fyodor Khitruk, 1973)


The Place in the Sun / O misto na slunci
(太陽の下の場所, Frantisek Vystrcil, 1959)    


Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers
(ウォレスとグルミット〜 ペンギンに気をつけろ!, Nick Park, 1993)


(タンゴ, Zbigniew Rybczyński, 1980)


(ジャンピング, Osamu Tezuka, 1984)


Dōjōji Temple
(道成寺, Kihachirō Kawamoto, 1976)


The Cameraman’s Revenge
(カメラマンの復讐, Ladislaw Starewicz, 1912)

Norstein's complete works is available to order from Japan:
Yuri Norstein Sakuhin shu (collection) / Animation
Russian with Japanese subs


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