Monstra Festival 2024 Report: A Party of Amazing Moments

Monstra Festival animation still collage

Monstra Festival  2024 took place earlier this year, between the 7th and 17th of March, with Ireland as the guest country, with several events involving the country's entertainment and culture (food, music, and dance) that were very enriching.

I managed to be present at many sessions, but as the festival has grown a lot and several of them take place simultaneously, it was not possible to be present at all of them. 'La Saison Pourpre' by Clémence Bouchereau was the winner in the international shorts category, while 'Chicken for Linda' by Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach won in the feature film category. 'Cold Soup' by Marta Monteiro was the Best Animation winner and was also awarded the Special Jury Prize and the Audience Prize for Portuguese shorts. However, the "classic" Vasco Granja Award for Portuguese animations went to 'Almost Remember', by Dimitri Mihajlovic and Miguel Lima, while 'Drijf', by Levi Stoops,  was awarded the Special Jury Prize, and 'Madeleine', by Raquel Sancinetti, the Audience Award for international competition.

Out of the five student sessions, I attended three of them, the very short sessions, all five short sessions, the sexually explicit Triplex session, two of the seven feature films, the partially attended Portuguese Projects session, and three master classes. So, I am going to give an overview of everything that impressed me most, films or not, regardless of the festival's award results.

Animation Meetings:

  • With Bruno Carnide, Mário Freitas, and Tiago Loureiro, they talked about 'Artificial Intelligence in Animation and Comics'
    Tiago Loureiro raises the issue of authorship when using AI to create animation. Bruno Carnide talks about comics authorship. Tiago argued that if an idea comes from a human, it does not matter if AI is used to realize the animation. Carnide affirmed that if the creator is a comics professional, he or she can use AI to do his or her job properly. However, if that is not his or her condition, this “creator” is not honest, and this work is not a good one since he or she does not know what it is making.
    That is a long discussion, but I think this is an important thing to all of us since, with AI possibilities, every creator must reflect on this technology, their work, their methodologies, and their art.
  • 'Monstra Summit: Freedom of Expression in Comics and Moving Image'
    Cristina Sampaio, André Carrilho, Nuno Saraiva, and João Miguel Tavares, moderated by Luís Salvado.
    They discussed another significant issue: the freedom to create and share our creations. After the sad situation at Charlie Hebdo, the issue of respect got hot. However, nowadays, we can also face resistance to sharing comics or strips, animated or not, about anything. Since it can be considered not “good” for "someone,"  regardless of whether it is correct or not (morally and ethically), I think that artist really needs to defend their space.
  • Georges Schwizgebel’s Approach 
    The veteran  Swiss animator generously showed the crowd his work method. That was fascinating since it was possible to understand how he planned his work before beginning the painting animation process so dynamically. I love his short 'Jeu' (2006), so that was a gift for me.

Animation Features:

I have already watched some of them, but I highlight:

  • 'Sultana's Dream' - Spain, Germany, India, 2023, 87’.
    Inés, a Spanish artist, lives in India and stumbles upon Sultana's Dream, a science fiction story written by Rokeya Hossain in 1905. It describes Ladyland, a utopia in which women rule the country while men live in seclusion and are responsible for household chores. 

    We had an interview with its director, Isabel Herguera, and it was very nice to see it on screen. For me, it is one of the best “feminine” films I have ever seen. It is an intimate one. Do not wait for an emotional rollercoaster but for a rich animated form with so many visual details and a well-done cut-out.

Animation Shorts:

  • 'Lulina and the Moon' - Brazil, 2023, 14’. Directors: Alois Di Leo, Marcus Vinicius Vasconcelos
    Lulina draws her greatest fears over the infinite white floor of the moon. Magically, her illustrations come to life and teach her that her problems aren't as monstrous as her imagination has painted them.

 Lulina and the Moon

This short is about a personal drama about a kid who has to face a brother. However, it was construed in such a poetic and seductive way that it surprised everyone in the cinema. Soon, we’ll have an interview with Marcus Vinicius.

  • 'Drijf' - Belgium, 2023, 15’, Director: Levi Stoops
    Two people adrift at sea are fighting a bloody battle for the survival of both themselves and their relationship.
    Drijf is a tragic-comic short, eschatological in some scenes, but tremendously good! Its design already warns that it is a mockery (but also a reflection) of relationships and partnerships. Some scenes astonish the audience. It is an animation in its structural form and concept. Remembering it won the Special Jury Prize.

  • 'Almost Forgotten' - Portugal, 2023, 10’, Directors: Dimitri Mihajlovic, Miguel Lima
    A woman wanders through the impermanence of her childhood memories, trying to rebuild the story of the house where her grandfather lived.

I have already seen it, but this time, I could be touched by the strong and complex animation. 'Almost Forgotten' was presented in a project session two years ago, but now it is better than I thought it would be. I have talked with its directors, who told me some details about its production. For instance, they drew and painted each frame on the computer in black and printed it. Following, they added water and alcohol to dissolve each image, and over it, they painted again with acrylic and crayons. Which resulted in an aesthetic aligned with its narrative. That resulted in many pieces of art, which together created an ambiance of mystery, surrealism, and terror at the same time. I loved it. 'Almost Forgotten' won the principal award in Monstra (Vasco Granja Award).

  • Premiere: 'Bedtime - Alices's Diary', Director: Diogo Viegas
    Producer: Sardinha em Lata, RTP, Alice A.I.E., HAMPA, RTVE, Gepetto Films, Lightbox, Parrocha Studio
    Alice and Emile organize a pajama party with exciting stories and no one sleeps.

'Bedtime - Alices's Diary' series is debuting on Portuguese TV and talks about Alice, a 5-year-old girl, and her world. She is very expressive and relates her day dynamically and creatively. Every episode mixes 2D and stop motion with a colorful visual and is aimed at children. It is a production that involves Portugal, Brazil, and Spain.
The director made a fast presentation on 'Family Program Competition 1' showing how the animation process works that enchanted the children.

Alice's Diary:  Monstra 2024 Presentation / Photo: Claudio Roberto

Student Shorts:

  • 'Minus Plus Multiply' - United Kingdom, 2023, 5’
    Directors: Chu-Chieh Lee
    With containers as a motif and a metaphor for a safe place, the story surrounds the protagonist's self-searching and healing journey, exploring the relationship between emotion and space. The film attempts to construct a poetic narrative and psychological self-portraits through experimentation in 2D animation, stop motion, and sound. It reflects sensibility, fragility, and fragmentation of identity by applying pottery and clay.

    This animation mixes drawings and stop-motion with ceramics that get out of the ordinary. The materiality of the elements was used in a metaphorical sense to talk about identity, relationships, and places.
  • 'Are You There Mr. Wolf?' - France, 2023, 7’
    Director: Louise Laurent, Alizée Van de Valle, Emma Fessart, Jeanne Galland, Célina Lebon, Annouck François
    A little girl named Mischa lives in the suburbs of Moscow. She has just made a beautiful violin out of paper. She wants to play for the big monsters who live in the apartment. But the less they listen to her play the violin, the more the wolf dangerously prowls near her.

This puppet stop-motion short shows a hard subject without a happy ending. It is very interesting how this technique always works effectively when the animator wants to show complex emotions and tragedies, such as pedophilia. With its suspenseful and dissimulate design, the short has an objective and reaches the audience.

Super Short Film Competition

  • Crosswalk: Russia, 2023, 2’
    Director: Daria Volchok
    The story of the difference in the perception of time. The main character is rushing forward while the crowd is frozen, waiting for the green traffic light.

    Here we have a break from hard issues. It has an intelligent and critical narrative, a view of collective life in big cities. This is an “animation” with absurdity, a good drawing, and a caricatural angle about simple contemporary things.

Triple-X Session

  • 'She and Her Good Vibrations' - Singapore, 2023, 11'
    Directors: Olivia Griselda, Sarah Cheok
    A celebration of female sex-pleasure and sex-positivism. She And Her Good Vibrations is an animation comedy short film that follows a stressed-outs, middle-age woman who discovers the wonders of a vibrator, but she soon becomes addicted to solo pleasure sessions and loses touch with reality.

Another animation to refresh the mind. Despite showing a very complex and bad situation for many women—to try to get pleasure by themselves—it is very comic. Colorful and very well animated, the audience can identify all the protagonist's emotions. And after losing her shame, she falls in love with the vibrator, creating many comic situations. I recommend this one.

Check all the winners of the Monstra Festival 2024

Portuguese Animation Projects

From the projects I had the opportunity to watch, the project short that caught my attention was 'Limbo' by Patrícia Figueiredo, a production of Animais.

A film about 'Limbo' is told in the first person. With an introspective and humorous tone, the narrator goes through Limbo in her sketchbook, looking for its manifestations and for the ones who got stuck there.


The presentation itself was a show because Patrícia was very relaxed and talked about her creative process, which made the audience laugh. She puts together many religious questions from her mind, and it seems to create a critical but reflexive short about God, life, and death. Using animated drawing with cartoon design. I got curious to see it on screen.

Other curiosities of the Festival were the presence of birds of all types in many animations and the non-happy ending in many short films. The festival director announced the commemorative poster for the 25th festival edition, which was carried out by Portuguese animators Regina Pessoa (for Monstra) and Abi Feijó (for Monstrinha), with Austria as a guest country for the next edition.

Monstra 2025 Poster unveiled / Photo: Claudio Roberto

Once again, the Monstra Festival was a period of enormous pleasure for animation lovers.

Monstra Festival took place from 7-17 March 2024 in Lisbon, Portugal 

contributed by: Eliane Gordeeff

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