AniMela Film Festival: Reviewing animated gems from around the world

Karishma Jangid
New Update

At AniMela, we watched animated movies from across the world - a Spanish dream, a Japanese animal story, and more. 

Last week, India had its first-ever 'AniMela' festival for animation, VFX, Gaming, Comics and Extended Reality (XR). The festival featured a diverse selection of animated movies characterized by vibrant colors, imaginative storytelling, creativity, and experimental elements. Movies from around the world were screened during the festival. We watched the Spanish film 'Sultana's Dream', Murakami-inspired 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman', the Polish piece 'The Peasants', the Japanese film 'The Concierge', and the Canadian production 'When Adam Changes'. Needless to say, the experience was fulfilling.

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Check out some of the reviews of chosen films from AniMela!

Sultana's Dream aka El sueño de la sultana

Based on Begum Rokeya Hossain’s short story of the same name, 'Sultana's Dream' revolves around a Spanish girl, Inés, who, upon reading the story, has set out to find a utopia for women. Ines travels across India from Gujarat and Kolkata to Vrindavan in search of a Ladyland, where gender roles are reversed - women are free, and men are secluded. The plot is a complex one that examines society as well as Ines’ inner dilemmas about womanhood. Along with a captivating and thought-provoking story, the film is a visual treat too.

The backgrounds in the film resemble watercolour paintings, and many scenes feature mehendi-like drawings. The aesthetic in some scenes also reminded me of rural or folk paintings. Even though the film is directed by the Spanish director Isabel Herguera and written by Gianmarco Serra, it reflects a deep understanding of various cultures in India without indulging in stereotypes. The music and poetry in the film enchant you, and the sound is so authentic that you can feel the mood and weather radiating through the screen. However, the most intriguing part of the film is its commentary on womanhood, dreams, revolution, and sexuality. In every aspect, the film is distinguished and experimental.

The Peasants aka Chlopi

This is arguably the best movie I watched at AniMela; every aspect of the film is remarkable. Based on the Nobel Prize-winning novel of the same name, The Peasants employs oil painting animation. First, they filmed actors, then they made paintings based on those shots, which became the frames. The film's visual appeal is particularly striking due to the vibrant colors and intricate costumes in the paintings. The plot of the film is almost Shakespearean. Jagna, a girl in rural Poland, falls in love with Antek. Although Antek reciprocates her feelings, he is already married. Complicating matters further, his father, Maciej Boryna, the wealthiest land owner in the village, shares a toxic relationship with him. The situation takes a dramatic turn when Maciej marries Jagna, leading to a tragic sequence of events culminating in a heart-wrenching and gripping climax.

The film is a riveting story of love, lust, revenge, and greed. The intimacy and romance portrayed in the film are outstanding, with enchanting choreography in the dance sequences. In the dance between Jagna and Antek, the sexual tension becomes a character in its own right. The music, too, is hypnotic, conveying tension, pain, love, and confusion simultaneously. The musical score plays a crucial role in conveying the ongoing war for love, land, and self-esteem. The film also comments on how we always put honour on women. No matter what the ill is, it is always the easiest to blame women. The Peasants is one of the most interesting movies I've seen recently. It grabs your attention and keeps you glued to the screen.


Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman 

Based on the works of Haruki Murakami, 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman' is an imaginative animated anthology. Following the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, Kyoko hasn't slept for five days. She watches the news continuously. Her husband, Komura, is distressed, and his job isn't treating him well. In Komura's office, there's Katagiri, an old but single and depressed employee. Katagiri is approached by a frog seeking his help to prevent another earthquake and save the world.

As evident from the plot, the film addresses loneliness using fantasy, creating an interesting mix. In true Murakami fashion, the film communicates more between the lines and conveys emotions rather than relying on words. However, it also exhibits sexism, consistent with Murakami's style. The animation is not very impressive either. Overall, the film is a decent watch, driven by its authentic and creatively portrayed complex emotions.

The Concierge aka Hokkyoku Hyakkaten no Concierge San

Adapted from the manga of the same name, 'The Concierge at Hokkyoku Department Store' follows Akino-San, a new concierge assigned to assist the store's customers. However, the twist is that the customers are VIAs - Very Important Animals. In Akino’s world, humans serve animals. The film is solely about how Akino struggles at her job but never gives up. Thanks to the support of her colleagues, she makes it through every struggle.

Although the story is straightforward, it remains wholesome to watch, catering to those who are giving their best effort, as the trailer suggests: “This is a story for those who are trying their best.” The visuals exhibit a classic anime style with expressions that are slightly exaggerated but mostly appropriate. This anime evokes a Studio Ghibli-like feel, delivering happiness and hope without appearing superficial. The Concierge offers a relaxing, light, and humorous viewing experience.

When Adam Changes aka Adam change lentement

The film initially appeared promising but ultimately disappointed. It centers around Adam, a teenager whose body changes every time someone comments on it. For instance, on her deathbed, his grandma says that he has a long torso, and his torso grows longer. Adam is weak and slow, endures bullying at school, and the girl he likes loves his bully. He has all the typical teenage problems. However, the film doesn’t do anything creative with it. It just shows his distress until he gives up. 

Throughout the film, you keep waiting for something interesting to happen, but it never does. Throughout the movie, anticipation builds for something interesting to unfold, yet it never materializes. The film falls short despite creating mystery and hinting at a significant climax. The visuals are also the kinds that I don’t really prefer. In summary, When Adam Changes is underwhelming.

As someone new to animated movies, AniMela opened my eyes. I got lost in the worlds of Jagna, Akino, Komura, and more. Sultana's Dream's poetic rhythm amazed me, and The Peasants had me so captivated that I hushed someone during the climax – I didn't want to miss a moment. For a movie lover like me, nothing beats the joy of watching, feeling, taking a tea break, and diving back into the theater for another film and more emotions. AniMela's best part? It happened at NFDC, Mumbai, with a statue of the legendary Satyajit Ray making you wonder how proud he would feel of these fantastic movies had he been here!

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