The Secret of Kells (Fra/Bel/Irl) (site/wiki)
A charming animation from a relatively unknown studio, Kells has been doing the festival circuit for a year, managing to stay out of my grasp until now. In fact, you can already get it on DVD. Its' seductively colourful stylised artwork and interpretations of Irish myths and legends got me interested and I was thankful I had one final festival in which to catch it.
Young Brendan is the nephew of Abbot Cellach, the ruler of the circular city of Kells, his pointy tower rising at its centre, the only viewpoint that can see over the wall that is being constructed, at the obsessive command of Cellach, to keep the citizens safe. News comes in from all around of Vikings, who attack each city they find and burn it to the ground. So much has Cellach worried about this threat that he has forbidden anyone to leave the safety of the city walls.
One day Brother Aiden, a scribe from the far away city of Iona arrives and uses the sanctuary of the city to tell of the 'Book of Iona', a book with power and beauty, written by a man whose words blind any sinner who will read them. In an incomplete state, Aiden asks Brendan to gather berries to make ink, in the woods beyond the walls. It is there he meets with the mysterious wolf-girl Aisling, who helps Brendan see past his uncle's unwavering opinions.
Kells is full of beauty and mystery; drawing on both traditional Abrahamic and Celtic religious storytelling, it feels like the latest chapter of an often repeated and revised religious text. For 90% of it's length, I was enthralled in a beautiful story told with child-like and distinctive visuals. I was thoroughly enjoying it all when.. the credits rolled. At the point where I would have expected another 20 minutes or so of wrapping up the story, it just ended leaving me hanging. It was if they had run out of money and just wrapped things up super quick, which disappointed me somewhat after enjoying it so much until that point. But I should note that this does not invalidate the beauty and enjoyment experienced for the hour or so before. 7.5/10