RIGA - Latvia was firmly put on the world map in animation circles when the partially Latvian drawn animation feature "Les Triplettes de Belleville" was nominated for an Oscar.
With the upcoming Bimini Latvian International Animation Film Festival (April 1 - April 4), the event's organizers hope to create even more public awareness of this time-honored art form. Some 180 of the world's best animation works will be showing at the Kino Riga, offering a dizzy array of films for animation lovers to enjoy.
The festival is a tribute to the exiting world of animation, and its goal is to help inspire young animators to get into professional animation filmmaking, as well as to help promote the increasingly growing Latvian animation industry.
"Latvia doesn't know what is happening in the animation industry at all," according to Zane Dzene, the festival's director. She explained that the festival was the best way to make Latvians aware of international animation films, and of the fact that Latvian animation also has a lot to offer in terms of originality and skill.
There was considerable interest in the festival when it opened its doors for the first time last year.
"We presented 34 films, and 5,000 people visited the festival," Dzene said. "This year we hope for many, many more." And there is good reason to believe that a lot more will show up as Bimini will be showing six times as many films, from a total of 34 different countries.
The festival derives its name from a 1981 short film called "Bimini" made by the festival president, Arnolds Burovs, which he based on the fantasy poem by Heinrich Heine.
The films on show will range in length from two minutes to one-and-a-half hours and are made in a wide range of styles, such as with puppets, in 2D or 3D, with pencil on paper, in clay or sand.
One of the films that Zane Dzene is especially proud to see in the program is this year's Oscar winning short animation film "Harvie Krumpet." The Australian film is a 22-minute story about an incredibly hapless character called Harvie. The Oscar nominated American/ Canadian short "Nibbles" will also be shown, which is about a father who takes his sons fishing in the Canadian forests.
Sticking to the plan of making Latvians see Latvian animation films, Dzene is happy that the festival line-up includes, among several Latvian films, the premiers of two Latvian works, "The Poem of the Threshing" and "Listen Rabbit...Daddy Goes to London."
The festival's jury consists of members from the U.S.A., Estonia, Hungary, Russia and Latvia, who will give out prizes in six categories (for films of less than five minutes, films of five minutes to 10 minutes, films of 10 minutes to 30 minutes and films over 30 minutes).
In addition, a prize for the best experimental film and for the best debut will be handed out. A jury of Latvian children has been selected to judge in the children's film category.
Only films from 2002 and 2003 are appearing in the competition programs, but the festival also includes films that are out of competition, and offers retrospective screenings that include older, artistically prominent works.
It will be impossible to get bored at this festival. Hard-core animation fans can watch films till their eyes bleed, for four days in a row, from morning till night, and the uninitiated will be able to take a sneak-peak into the amazing universe of both Latvian and foreign animation.