A short history of the World Festival of Animated Film

In October 1979 in the beautiful Bulgarian town Varna, placed on the coast of the marvelous Black Sea, took place the First World Animated Film Festival “Varna ’79”. At the opening ceremony John Halas, the ASIFA President said: “For many years nothing dramatic has ever occurred in any other art but animation. Animation is the only free art which originated in our century. Also animation has the greatest future at all”.

At that time it seemed that Varna Festival would have great future too. The following five biannual editions classified it as one of the most important animated film festivals in the world organized under the patronage of ASIFA together with Annecy, Zagreb, Ottawa and Hiroshima festivals.

During the years Varna welcomed many famous animated filmmakers as for exemple Jan Lenica, Raoul Servais, Bretislav Pojar, Emanuele Luzzati, Paul Driessen,Yoji Kuri, Jean-Francois Lagionie,Yuri Norstein… Among the prize winners there were such great films as “Allegro non Troppo” by Bruno Bozzeto,”Interview” by Caroline Leaf and Veronica Soul, “Everything-nothing” by Frederic Back, “House of Flames” by Kihachiro Kawamoto, “The Vanished World of Gloves” by Jiri Barta, “Cow” by Alexander Petrov… It was the greatest animated film festival organized ever behind the iron curtain which likewise a magic window enabled many authors from the Soviet Bloc countries, who had no possibility to travel to the West, to have a look on the wide and wonderful world of moving drawings. Unfortunately after the political and economic changes in Bulgaria in 1989 Varna Festival interrupted its existence for a long period of time. That is why last year in Sofia there was created an association of animated filmmakers whose goal is to restore the festival. This initiative is supported by ASIFA Bulgaria, ASIFA International, the Union of Bulgarian Filmmakers, Ministry of Culture, Municipality of the City of Varna, the Varna Festival Center and other partners and cultural institutions.

The restoration of Varna Festival could help this city, whose inhabitants are faithful funs of animation, to come back in the big and wonderful family of world festivals and could contribute to the development and popularization of the great art of animation.

 Pencho Kunchev

 #President of ASIFA Bulgaria

Donyo Donev – Caricatures