The jubilee fifteenth edition of VAFI and RAFI – International Children and Youth Animation Film Festival was announced today in the courtyard of Sermage Palace in Varaždin. The program of the fifteenth edition of the festival begins on Monday, May 27th, in Varaždin and ends on June 1st, and the novelty is the holding of screenings in Ludbreg, Novi Marof and Ivanec in cooperation with partner institutions.

After last year’s edition in Varaždin and Rijeka, the organizers from the Film-creative studio VANIMA decided to focus on audience development in Varaždin County, where the entire program of this year’s edition of the festival will be held. Thus, in addition to the already permanent partners and co-organizers P4 and POU Varaždin, this year the Center for Culture and Information “Dragutin Novak” Ludbreg, POU Novi Marof and POU “Đuro Arnold” Ivanec are associated. The press conference was joined by the deputy mayor of the city of Varaždin Miroslav Marković and the organizers of the festival, as well as the directors of the partner institutions – Lana Velimirović Vukalović, Tina Putar and Branko Dijanošić. More than 2,000 children and young people have already been announced for the viewing of official screenings, 23 of them, and they will choose the best ones from the RAFI section, professional animated films from all over the world.

The VAFI section will start on Thursday with an appropriate program at the Center for Youth and Independent Culture – P4, and more than 70 domestic and foreign guests will arrive at the festival itself. In addition to art and creative workshops for children participating in VAFI, their mentors and students and educational staff will participate in a two-day symposium dedicated to film and media literacy. Along with a dozen interesting local and foreign lecturers, festival ambassador Josh Staub will also hold his masterclass lecture. Staub is a film director, set designer and visual effects supervisor who has worked for Walt Disney Animation Studios and Netflix Animation, and has worked on more than 20 film projects including the Academy Award-winning films Frozen, Paperman and Feast. In addition to his film and other projects, Josh Staub also teaches filmmaking at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and is a founding member of Rise Up Animation, an organization dedicated to increasing diversity in the animation industry. And as he himself points out, collaborating with literally hundreds of incredibly talented artists and technicians on huge projects is exciting and fulfilling, but that’s exactly why he feels the need to paint and draw smaller works at home as a personal creative outlet. One part from his series of paintings called Signs of Burbank, will be presented in an exhibition on Thursday as part of this year’s VAFI & RAFI festival at Center P4, along with other interesting works that illustrate Staub’s unusually interesting and versatile artistic personality.

This is not the first time that Josh Staub is in Varaždin. Several years ago, he participated in the program of the second VAFI festival, and in 2022 he was also the head of the VAFI jury. The fact that he has been the VAFI ambassador since this year is also one of the facts that speaks in favor of the importance that international art circles give to the Varaždin film event.

For the interesting and varied official program, the organizers thank this year’s festival selectors – Ivana Ivančić Medved and Ana Sever in the VAFI section, and Dubravka Kalinić Lebinec and Boško Picula in the RAFI section. A record 1133 animated films from over 92 countries of the world were submitted – 289 films in the VAFI section and 844 in the RAFI section. After several months of viewing, 162 films were selected to enter the official program of the festival. A total of 90 in the VAFI section, and 72 films in the RAFI section. The expert jury will therefore have a lot of work to do in Varaždin, and along with them, the traditional jury that makes the decision on the Blue VAFI for films that promote children’s rights the most will make their decision.

This year’s VAFI jury is headed by Croatian animator Kata Gugić, animator and president of ASIFA Croatia, then freelancer from Hong Kong Owen Chan, animator Thomas Kunstler from Greece, animator Rastko Ćirić from Serbia and Felix Vanginderhuysen, ECFA representative from Belgium, which is also a country partner of this year’s edition of the VAFI & RAFI festival.

Programs like this give added value to the City of Varaždin, and VANIMA, as always, tries to maintain the festival at a very high level. It is important to point out that we are working on the realization of the Creative Industries Center project, where such programs would receive additional institutional support. It is a large and demanding project that we want to implement through the ITU mechanism, and all such programs would be provided with even better conditions through the Center. We hope that the Center for Creative Industries, run by POU Varaždin, will be ready in two to three years. The Center for Creative Industries, a project whose value exceeds 6 million euros, is a completely new thing in Varaždin, in which the VAFI & RAFI festival will find its new dimension with all the workshops and contents that such a project carries. I express the support of the City of Varaždin for projects like this and wish all participants much success. The program is very rich and I am glad that colleagues from Varaždin County also joined. It will also give a new dimension to the festival.

– Miroslav Marković, Deputy Mayor of the City of Varaždin, pointed out.

The patrons of the Festival are the Croatian Audiovisual Center, the City of Varaždin and the County of Varaždin, and the realization takes place with the help of co-organizers and partners – Center for Youth and Independent Culture – P4, POU Varaždin and cinema GAJ, Center for Culture and Information “Dragutin Novak” Ludbreg, POU Novi Marof, POU “Đuro Arnold” Ivanec, ASIFA Croatia and the Croatian Film Association.

We would like to thank all sponsors, co-organizers, but also numerous partners and media sponsors who have supported us all these years – said Hrvoje Selec, director of the Festival.

All contents of the VAFI & RAFI festival are free, and you can follow all upcoming information related to the Festival on the official website of the festival or on the official Facebook stranici.