Animation is a specific imaging technique that is increasingly applied within a wide range of audiovisual forms of expression, such as cartoons, music videos, special effects for movies, motion graphics on TV, visual art, performances, games, web design and mobile telephone applications.
Animation is much deeper embedded in the fabric of society than most of us are aware of; we all get into contact with it in our daily lives.
Many people are potentially interested in animation, but they find it hard to place this form of visual art in a context. Animation combines elements of many forms of art: painting, sculpture, photography, film, music, etc. Few artists have to be as versatile as an animation director. The label “animation film” covers a wide variety of productions ranging from vulnerable artistic films to commercial box office hits. The medium lends itself to the most diverging subjects and appeals to both younger and older audiences, regardless of sex, educational level or cultural background.
The Holland Animation Film Festival (HAFF) provides an (inter)national platform for this special art form. The festival, which was founded in 1985, takes place over a period of five days at several locations in the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands. The festival started as a biennial festival and became a yearly event in 2009 so it can offer an even more up-to-date programme and really monitor developments as they unfold. In 2012 the festival dates moved from the beginning of November to the end of March to fit even better in the international festival calendar.
The festival highlights the latest developments and new talent, shows theme programmes and retrospectives, and organizes activities like talk shows, master classes and lectures. Main programme sections are The Cutting Edge and the competitions. The Cutting Edge presents the often exciting and pioneering interplay between film, fine art, games and the internet.
HAFF organises international competitions for animated shorts, feature films and animation for internet. HAFF organises also a European competition for student films and a competition for the best Dutch animation. Attendance figures confirm that screening animation in competition is an attractive format. The competition programmes are screened in the largest theatres, often drawing a capacity crowd.
In HAFF’s programming and other activities several highlights are worth mentioning. In 1992, after the archives in the Soviet Union opened up, the festival was able to present a unique historic overview of animation film from the former USSR, making HAFF the first festival that showed a retrospective of animated propaganda films. The festival now closely follows developments in current Japanese, Korean and Chinese animation, which stands out for its unique imaginary power. Unique examples of animation at the crossroads of visual art, architecture, high and lowbrow art are Intra Muros, an animated installation on the windows of the Utrecht city hall by American-Canadian artist Rose Bond in 2008 and the artist-in-residency of Chinese artist Sun Xun in September - November 2010 who combined animation and site specific art which resulted in an exhibition of artwork in Centraal Museum Utrecht and the animated short A Clown’s Revolution.
HAFF is known for its idiosyncratic approach and its choice for quality and innovation. The festival closely monitors the developments within the medium and stimulates an ongoing debate. Its programming is ambitious, yet intimate and accessible. Hospitality is always a priority.
HAFF occupies a prominent position on the international festival calendar. The festival shows a growing attendance by filmmakers, producers, programmers, and students and teachers from art and film academies from both the Netherlands and abroad. And, at least equally important: the festival makes the diversity and quality of animation accessible to a wide audience. It is an event where everyone can become acquainted with the various aspects of animation filming and gain more in-depth knowledge of what is current and innovative as well as study the medium’s heritage. The festival is a festive event, celebrating the shared enjoyment of seeing animation on the big screen.
HAFF is part of an active international and national network of organisations in the field of (animation) film and works together with various institutes in order to optimally follow, promote and present the developments in animation film. Both internationally and nationally HAFF has the ambition to play a pioneering role in this.
These collaborations vary from exchanging information to jointly organising programmes and exhibitions. The festival's programmers scout foreign festivals, film organisations and archives, promoting HAFF with them and through them. Because of its special expertise in the field of animation, HAFF regularly advises other festivals and cultural organisations in the Netherlands and abroad and acts as curator for guest programmes. Likewise, the festival attaches great value to guest programmes by international experts who contribute to HAFF by presenting themes that fill in certain blanks in film history, shift the emphasis or contribute to a lively debate.