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KLIK – Boys, girls & beyond

// Reviews (Festival)

Lots of festivals have a theme.

Sometimes that means a themed screening or two, even perhaps a themed speaker or some special themed artwork.

How quaint.

When KLIK! Amsterdam Animation Festival do a theme, they go all out. And when that theme happens to be ‘Boys, Girls and Beyond‘ it’s going to involve smut, androgyny, strip-tease, stereotype smashing, terribly inappropriate gender fucking animation and more vaginas than you can shake a stick at.

KLIK! embraced it’s theme in it’s entirety. From art installations depicting the vast differences in toys targeted at girls and at boys, to seminars from GayPride Amsterdam’s LGBTI-emancipation director Irene Hemelaar, this was a fun and kooky look at how gender and sexuality define and divide us.

Why does the sexuality of Bert and Ernie intrigue us so much? Why are we determined to make characters such as Barapapa either male or female? Why are Merida from Brave and Elsa from Frozen often considered ‘secretly’ gay just because they don’t end up with Princes or conform to standard ideals of animated females? Why are we expected to conform to a one size fits all mold? And perhaps most importantly, why are these gender ideals so prevalent in the mass media, and what impact does that have on the audience?

Big questions, and no simple answers, but the ongoing struggle of identity has consumed and inspired countless filmmakers, and I can now tell you from experience that it adds up to a fascinating (if occasionally slightly awkward) program of films.

The festival, despite it’s theme and despite the prevalence of events like strip-tease puppetry, manages to be warmly welcoming and all encompassing. I mean sure, some parents may want to keep their little darlings away from films where women store their car keys in their vaginas, but the social codes and potentially harmful gender cliches that the festival hi-lights affect them as much, if not more, than they do the adults in the room. We all know that animation is extremely powerful as a persuasive medium, and it’s ability to influence young minds and alter the perception of reality should never be underestimated. For some reason, Kid’s TV is allowed to have characters of ambiguous species, race and just about everything everything else, but ambiguous gender is generally not allowed. How that affects the vast majority of kids who don’t fit in to prescribed norms, where girls are sweet and beautiful like Cinderella and boys are big and tough like Batman, can only really be guessed.

 

Question: Is Jerry a boy or a girl?

Bigger question: Why does it matter?

 

In hi-lighting these issues, while still managing to make large chunks of the festival kid friendly (partly thanks to artistic crepes, ‘klikkers’, and a large scale ‘wall of frames’ (http://vimeo.com/111464048)), KLIK! showcased both the entertainment and the more thought provoking sides of animation to a wide  audience.

It’s a fun, intimate festival that left my eyes popping, my brain whirling and my facial expression set to slightly stunned throughout.

@Sallyrgriffith
SallyGriffith
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@SECAnimation
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@annamattaar
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