StopTrik 2023 Festival Report: To Be Is to Speak Up

StopTrik Festival report 2023

StopTrik Festival (27 Sep - 1 Oct 2023, Maribor, Slovenia) had a fitting motto 'Exercises in Speaking Up'. Zippy Frames has followed this stop-motion animation festival from its very first steps and can attest that titles here are very much grounded in their reality. StopTrik Festival remains one of the few animation festivals, whose art of celebrating the animation form goes hand in hand with a sustained critical attitude on our mores of watching and showcasing films, artistically communicating, and living a culturally concerned life -potentially annoying the powers to be.

 In her opening statement this year, StopTrik festival director Olga Bobrowska stated: "There will be more questions than answers – and this is all right, this is fine. StopTrik has always been a place where freedom of speech and film and culture criticism are exercised to stop for a while, to celebrate those features of animated art-house which are neglected by the red-carpets festivals, unnecessary in pragmatic terms of industry, too disturbing for the official culture production".

Starting with the self-censorship of Daria Kashcheeva's 'Electra', animation and censorship (and a rich, 4-part retrospective program) developed during the five festival days, accompanied by activities such as a lively panel on animation and censorship. From Jan Švankmajer's banned 'Jabberwocky' (too surrealist, perhaps), curator Andrijana Ružić (in her 'Disturbing the Dogma') program made evident how 'cryptic' films were evaluated as subversive back in the days -no matter what their content would be. Perhaps Daniel Szczechura's 'Conflicts' 1968 film (a film within a film whose ending is being rewritten by censors) is the most evident -and brave- form of representation of state subversion; but everything was suspicious back then.


Back to the present, everything can seem too cozy and uninteresting to get reported; that's why crossing the boundaries in all artistic environments (and animation) is an issue heavily discussed, in the light of the #MeToo movement. Professor Mikołaj Lewicki (University of Warsaw) presented a cold-heartedly honest sociological report on 2021-22 findings from Warsaw's Academy of Dramatic Art (an event powered by the Keep Festive festival initiative). Mikołaj Lewicki isolated both the trigger warnings of discrimination and harassment (raised voice, ironical remarks in the former for instance), and the conditions (asymmetrical relations between teacher and students, lack of fixed rules of conduct, paternalism used as a result) as incidents that lead to an abusive experience. But he also warned against the strict introduction of incomprehensive syllabi of recommended behavior. Even though we need (as an artistic and festival community) to learn a new language -and we cannot keep postponing this forever, it should be absorbed step-by-step; otherwise, bureaucratization will only ensure. At least we now know the signs, and when your professor tells you that they yell at you because they need to 'educate you for the big bad world out there', you can feel the trick. If you decide to bury the feeling, chances are (as the survey tells us), that the reaction will not vanish -it will only be delayed, even for years to come.

Tal Kantor's films,  including her latest, the Holocaust-themed 'Letter to A Pig' talk exactly about this delayed reaction (review). Her StopTrik festival presentation made for a transparent account of her use of the rotoscope technique to blur the boundaries between memory and reconstruction. The creative space between a thing shown directly on your face and allegory; the thing you need to show needs to be also visually presented -everything else is just noise.

Related: 'Letter to A Pig' Film Review

All these notions resonate with the work of Piotr Chmielewski (of the vertiginous 'Crab'), who had to go through James Cameron's 'Titanic' film to isolate the elements he did and did not want to use. Sometimes, one of the ways to speak up is only a fleeing motion from being a casserole dish for the powerful. Géza M. Tóth's sticks, a fragile but ready-to-bent element, a stop-motion animation technique that has developed in all sorts of creative ways (shorts, series, merchandise) still look like a shiny surface; obviously, huge work lies underneath, even though he reports he's being 'fast'. His sticks at least are free, unlike the nails of the Macedonian animator Boro Pejćinov -whose 1978 film 'The Resistance' (shown in the Retrospective part) is an example of good-old resistance of a single person against the silence of the many.

Ivana Bošnjak Volda & Thomas Johnson Volda ('Simulacra', 'Imbued Life') continue their explorations of personal reconstruction in the emotionally and physically shaky 'Remember How I Used To Ride A White Horse' (effects made with sets set on wheels). The in-camera effect process results in an experience that hangs on to the confusing present (instead of offering a neat future solution). Yet this is much better than denial, a fact that the winning (and much eloquent) film 'Skinned / Écorchée' by Joachim Hérissé presents. The two Siamese twins sisters who need to untangle themselves showcase both an insecurity about what the future will bring (the empty boat on the river that always passes them by) and their inability to speak up; framed within the horror genre, and within the confines of a time which goes between reality and dreaminess, it uses the puppet threads to hush things up. This is a very pertinent reminder of what you should not be doing.

The opposite goes for the third edition of the 3-phases workshops for concept, script-writing, and stop motion filmmaking (Workshot 2.0) conducted during the StopTrik Festival activities. With the participation of 7 European University schools took place with the mentors (Urska Breznik, Kaja Fiedler, Vassilis Kroustallis, Tal Kantor, Piotr Chmielewska, and Urszula Domańska), it unfolded a process that aims to bring all creative aspect of stop-motion animation together, from technique to scriptwriting to theory. This is a cultural process in the making.

Yes, the future needs to be qualified. Judging from the employment relations handled in various films, such as the failure of the employer-employee contract ('Apart' by Oved Poran, 'Interns' by Marina Donderis, Núria Poveda, Marina Cortó), make for poignant and sad stories. A fact that gets its apotheosis in the on-your-face puppet/hamster film 'Money and Happiness' by Ana Nedeljković and Nikola Majdak Jr. ('Rabbitland', 'Untravel'). The Serbian directing duo used Hieronymus Bosch's hell depictions for our modern economic work, and their sardonic humor is served perfectly by their plasticine puppets -with the narration to bring us the latest from the GDP increase front.

Watch the official, censorship-aligned festival trailer by Titouan Tillier

And there are people to remember: Polish animation filmmaker and Animator Festival director Marcin Giżycki (1951-22) and UK filmmaker Paul Bush (1956-2023) had their commemorative moments at the festival (also a Giżycki exhibition curated by Piotr Kardas). But there are also works addressed to young audiences (apart from the main children's competition), like the 'Degrees of Freedom' Ukrainian animation program -and screenings from partner festivals, such as Kaboom, Linoleum Animation Festival, Mediawave Film and Music Festival. Guests like Andrea Martignoni offered the much-needed sound equivalent to the image component of animation. 

Two events opposed show the joy of speaking up: Croatian Kata Gugić & Polish Karina Paciorkowska were part of the erotic, 18+ Animation Battle, a program that showed that animation directors don't have to be sober to be groundbreaking. Olga Bobrowska's book presentation ('Chinese Animated Film and Ideology, 1940s-1970s. Fighting Puppets') showed that researchers can still freshly research state propaganda -and, at least, become understandable and communicated to a larger international audience. Not so much because of historical curiosities, but showing the need to guard against religiously-based, homogenized 'founding myths' of countries and states -leaving the individual aside.

There were a lot of other worthy events and films and an always vibrant, cozy audience under the auspices of the warm Pekarna Cultural Center atmosphere. Some other films that really stood out: 'Such Miracles Do Happen' by Barbara Rubik, 'The Family Portrait' by Lea Vidakovic, 'The Old Hag and the Crow' by Maria Lucia Bayardo Dodge, 'Her Dress for the Final' by Martina Mestrovic. And the two stereoscopic films, the psychologically adventurous ' In Side' by Anita Kwiatkwoska-Naqvi & Piotr Matysiak and the urban building atmosphere of s 二〇二〇 by Max Hattler.

In its 13 years of festival existence, StopTrik Festival has managed to speak up and constantly renew its agenda, heading along with the times. While it is sad to talk about subtle forms of state censorship in the 21st century, it is promising that some people and institutions take the lead and start the discourse. That's what the best animation works have already done in their own way, and that's what StopTrik Festival now does.

Vassilis Kroustallis

All awarded films of the 13th StopTrik Festival


Skinned / Écorchée, dir. Joachim Hérissé, prod. Komadoli Studio, 2022, France, 15'

In an old building, lost in the middle of the swamp, live two strange women, Siamese twins by one leg. At night, the Flayed has terrifying nightmares in which she sees her sister's flesh covering her own body…


Our Uniform, Yegane Moghaddam (Jalil Moghaddam),  2023, Iran, 7'
An Iranian girl unfolds her school memories on the folds and fabrics of her old uniform.


Stop motion award

Skinned / Écorchée, dir. Joachim Hérissé, prod. Komadoli Studio, 2022, France, 15'

Jury’s statement: For the convincing nightmarish story in which a nightmare comes true through the skillful animation that allows the scenes to convey the horror that develops in the characters.

Borderlands award

Her Dress for the Final / Haljina za finale, dir. Martina Meštrović, pod. Kreativni Sindikat, 2023, Croatia, 8'45''
One day my granny dyed her wedding dress black. She wanted to be buried in it.

Jury’s statement: For the great portrayal of a senior woman who accepts death in longing for her lost love which is amplified by sound design and music that reflects her inner world and for fluid transitions from stop motion to hand-drawn technique.

Stop motion special mention

The Miracle, dir. Nienke Deutz, prod. Lunanime, Keplerfilm, 2023, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, 14'58''
The Miracle, a place where the sun always shines, with endless opportunities to relax and food in abundance. But how do you relate to a place that constantly confronts you with the things you don’t have?

Jury’s statement: We appreciate the two well-combined and well executed different techniques, which show in a light-hearted and humorous way how to deal with unfulfilled desires.

Borderlands special mention

Our Uniform, Yegane Moghaddam (Jalil Moghaddam),  2023, Iran, 7'
An Iranian girl unfolds her school memories on the folds and fabrics of her old uniform.

Jury’s statement:  We appreciate the rich array of uniforms used in a thought-out animation that’s connected with good storytelling.

MARIBOR YOUNG AUDIENCE GRAND PRIX (group age 6-8 years old)

Battery Mommy, dir. Jeon Seungbae, prod. Toyville Studio,  2023, South Korea, 8'35''

Battery Mommy works at various stuffs such as soap bubble guns, cameras, and thermometers in the nursery. During the children's nap time one winter day, Battery Mommy finds out the Christmas tree in the nursery is on fire.

MARIBOR YOUNG AUDIENCE GRAND PRIX (group age 9-11 years old)

The Goose / L’Oie du plus fort, dir. Jan Mika, prod. Animation People, 2022, Czech Republic, France, 12'30''
A boy fantasizes about becoming a famous footballer, playing in big stadiums - but first he has to win a match in a small backyard against a goose.

MARIBOR YOUNG AUDIENCE GRAND PRIX (group age 12-14 years old)

Mum's Spaghetti / Mamini špageti, dir. Lisa Kenney, prod. NFTS, 2022, UK, 10'53''
MC mastermind Poppy and her beatboxing border terrier Snoop are the new kids in town – and they’re ready to make their reputation known. Straight As and bubble baths are their way of life – but when confronted by an older crew en-route her first day at school, Poppy quickly changes her tune.


Urška Breznik, director of Pekarna magdalenske mreže, head producer of StopTrik IFF (Maribor, Slovenia)

Movement / Mouvement, Sur Le Toit De La Ville Béton, dir. Valentine Moser (Helium Films), 2022, Switzerland, 7'30''
They have a job that suits them, enjoy their colleagues and take time to enjoy the simple things around them. They wake up every morning next to their loved one. Yet they no longer enjoy anything…

Statement: My special mention goes to Valentine Moser for Movement/ Mouvement sur le toit de La Ville Beton for the heartbreaking depiction of the society under capitalism where constant rush, stress and worries disintegrate relationships of various kinds.

StopTrik Festival 2023 (photo: Andrej Firm)

The 13th StopTrik International Film Festival takes place 26 Sep - 1 Oct 2023 (Maribor, Slovenia) & 8-10 December 2023 (Lodz, Poland).

Related Articles



Zippy Frames is the premier online animation journal promoting European and Independent Animation animation since 2011

[email protected]

Zippy Frames

Quick Links