Arab animated films resist despite a lack of resources

The third edition of animation film festival Beirut Animated ends today

Events and Festivals, Lebanon

Arab animated films resist despite a lack of resources

The third edition of animation film festival Beirut Animated, which began June 14, ends today. Within its international selection, a session was dedicated to screening animated short films from the Arab world. Here is an overview.

The conclusion is clear. Professionals repeatedly said it during a conference on animated films in the Arab world. Animation lacks resources.

"In Lebanon, there is experimentation, but no real production," stated the organisers of Beirut Animated, Rabih El Khoury and Sara Maali. "Unfortunately, there is no school that has a programme dedicated solely to animation, although many universities offer courses related in one way or another with it. The resources are very limited. Animators work alone on their respective projects and support themselves. And the situation in the rest of the Arab world is not better than in Lebanon."

The Arab animated films screened at the event were made of very low budgets, but required time. The techniques used varied. There was compositing, motion graphics, stop motion, traditional drawing, and film.

Their animators had countered limited resources with ideas to innovate. Their themes were universal, personal or political, but often pessimistic. Even the humour was either dark or cynical, as in short plasticine filmThis Is Not a Video Game or even in Hiffili-berber Wedding, both from Tunisia.

Also highly acclaimed was Syrian animator Jalal Maghout's Canvas on Mixed Media, a short film that plunges us into the horror of war. Maghout was one of the three winners of Euromed Audiovisual's short film contest MADE IN MED earlier this year, and as such had the opportunity to promote Canvas on Mixed Media at the Cannes Film Festival's Short Film Corner.

But other animated films were also inspired by current events, such as Marayet (Tunisia) and Tour de Burj el Murr (Lebanon).

Whether revolution, war, song and Arabic calligraphy, a majority of the short films screened were marked by a strong sense of identity. This is perhaps to be expected as many of these animators studied abroad in Europe or North America, as such training is almost non-existent in their countries of origin.

The event's organisers added that, beyond schools, employment opportunities were also needed for new graduates and independent authors. In Lebanon, for example, animators must go through commercial and advertising studios to be able to work on projects close to their hearts.

Professionals also pointed out the importance of media literacy from a young age. By educating its youth and counting on the perseverance of its animators, the Arab world could perhaps one day see the creation of feature-length animation films.


Anaïs Renevier

Translation: Ymá de Almeida

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