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Getting animated – Of wonderlands, dystopias, and underworlds

Oliver Armknecht
Oliver Armknecht

Though often underrated, animated films are especially good at presenting a fascinating variety of themes and styles. The Munich International Film Festival is screening a particularly exciting selection from around the world. 

Getting animated – Of wonderlands, dystopias, and underworlds

THE HYPERBOREANS
Photo: Bendita Film Sales 

Most of us probably encounter animated films and series for the first time as children. This year, the Munich International Film Festival is featuring two films that will make children’s eyes light up — and not just theirs. The enchanting SIROCCO AND THE KINGDOM OF WINDS from France is bound to be an audience favorite. This fantasy adventure about two sisters who enter a magical world where they turn into cats earned the Audience Award at the world’s leading animation festival in Annecy. In FOX AND HARE SAVE THE FOREST, Fox and Hare take on a megalomaniacal beaver to protect their forest from being flooded. As in her debut film, OINK (FILMFEST MÜNCHEN 2022), Dutch director Mascha Halberstad has created lovable characters in a very entertaining way. 

Alongside these films for the young and young at heart, there are others that dispel the misconception that animated films cannot tell adult stories. In his debut feature film, SCHIRKOA: IN LIES WE TRUST, Indian artist Ishan Shukla takes us to a country where individuality is strictly forbidden and people are required to hide their faces behind paper bags, fixed expressions, and numbers. This film, based on a graphic novel, creates a most unusual future, something between a dystopia and a mythical wonderland. 

SATKOW Online2

Sirocco AND THE KINGDOM OF WINDS

Schirkoa Online1

Schirkoa: In Lies we trust

FAHSTF Online1

FOX AND HARE SAVE THE FOREST

The Polish film THE PEASANTS, by contrast, is a work of art that takes us on a journey into the past. This adaptation of the award-winning classic novel “The Peasants” by Władysław Reymont tells the story of a remote village in the late 19th century and offers an in-depth portrait of this rural community. The showstopper: DK and Hugh Welchman bring this story to life using 40,000 elaborately created and animated oil paintings — a feast for the eyes, as the two proved with their Oscar-nominated film LOVING VINCENT. 

THE HYPERBOREANS represents a completely different type of time travel. On the surface, this Chilean film tells the story of Miguel Serrano, a diplomat interested in esoteric subjects, who believes that Hitler escaped in a flying saucer and survived in an underground realm in the Antarctic. The film, however, mixes fact and fiction; genuine footage meets stop-motion animation and stage performances. The history lesson, which also explores Chile’s legacy, morphs into an experimental work that makes skillful use of all the techniques of filmmaking. 

Planet Magnon Online1

Planet Magnon

The Peasants Online1

The peasants
PHoto: Breakthru Films

PLANET MAGNON from Germany is similarly innovative. Here, the theater ensemble of the Münchner Kammerspiele uses computer simulations to transform a bizarre science-fiction novel by Leif Randt into a dazzling theatrical feature film. Its story about an AI-run totalitarian government illustrates not only how societies could develop, but also how the medium of animated film offers endlessly fascinating possibilities. 

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