Child soldiers, broken families, breast cancer, British imperialism: the subjects of the six animated feature projects selected for this year’s Annecy International Animated Film Market (MIFA) underscore the fact that animation made outside the U.S. these days is anything but escapist entertainment.
One of Annecy’s key market sections, its pitching sessions are also often a first sign of new talent hailing now from almost any part of the world. This year, two features from the ever-building world cinema animation scene, Colombia’s “Chandasma”and Portugal’s “Dom Fadrique,” figure among six movie projects to be pitched to buyers, sales agents and potential co-producers in the animated feature project section, at MIFA, which runs parallel to France’s Annecy Animation Festival, the world’s biggest annual animation meet.
Set up at Colombia’s Timbo Studio, whose credits include ”Tropical Virus,” Chandasma” centers on Renata, a girl forced to go live with cranky aunt Eva, when her mother falls too ill to care for her. There, she encounters Chandasma, a stray dog that’s become a ghost, having lost its memory but gained fantastic powers.
“Chandasma” “aims to combine local and global elements. A good example of this could be the setting of our story: a typical Colombian city, embedded in the heart of the mountains, displaying a mix of rural and cosmopolite features,” commented David Restrepo, “Chandasma” director-creator of the film.
Produced by Portugal’s Aim Animation Studios, “Dom Fadrique” weighs in as the story of a cat, a dreamer who works in a decaying port town as a bartender and collects messages from bottles washed up on the banks of the local river. While his twin brother – a practical-minded hard-worker– wants to change things around him, the cat embarks on a journey of discovery. José Cavalheiro (a.k.a. Zepe), helmer of awarded shorts “Candid” and “Ginjas,” directs “Fadrique,” penned by Maria Regina Rodrigues and Cátia Salgueiro.
“Through a lively story and with a sense of humor, [we aim] to touch issues of universal import: The need for personal roots, the desire to travel and for fraternity and companionship, the dilapidation of natural resources and destruction of patrimony and a spiritual urge and desire for political commitment,” the writers said.
Two of the MIFA feature projects are from France, one a piece from Colombia, U.K., Russia and Portugal.
The selection underscores at least two trends. Only 22% of the 78 feature films were submitted from Europe. “We noticed an increase in international applications,” said MIFA projects head Géraldine Baché, adding that MIFA continues to receive projects targeting adults, or young adults, with tough subjects such as war, religion and illness.”
MIFA had some “good surprises, [films] targeting family’s audiences. Most submissions have moderate budgets, many are 2D, cost control seems to be a priority,” Baché added.
Also to be pitched, ”Chicago Dream,” a 3D musical is one project aimed at family audiences, the lead characters going off to Chicago to perform a Broadway musical during the Roaring Twenties. Valery Pugashkin produces for Russia’s Artopolion.
From the U.K., “Lollipop” depicts the travails of Eva, an American living in London with her husband and son who is diagnosed with breast cancer. It is directed by Lisa-Marie Russo, a BAFTA nominee for short “The Tale of the Rat That Wrote,” and Gabriella Ditton at Fly Film, producers of Terence Davies’ “The Deep Blue Sea.”
Flying the French flag are “Le Pantalon” and “Allah n’est pas obligé.” Directed by illustrator-filmmaker Caroline Attia-Larivière, the 1980s-set “Pantalon” follows an eight-year-old kid who sets off on a quest across an Ireland under the yoke of British oppression. The writer is Françoise Ruscak whose credits include Season 3 of TV-series “Zou,” produced by France’s Cyber Group.
Illustrator and director Zaven Najjar pitches his feature debut “Allah n’est pas obligé,” which has a similar coming-of-age kick-off to “Chandasma.” Here, after his mom’s death ten-year-old Birahima is forced to leave his native village in Africa’s Guinea to search for his aunt. Birahima becomes a child-soldier after being seized by Liberian rebel forces. Sébastian Onomo produces for Special Touch Studios, which backed Jean-Claude Flamand-Barny’s “Le gang des Antillais,”
Beyond features, Mifa’s Pitching Sessions also embrace short films, TV-series and specials and transmedia projects. Since 2015, it has added a new category, World Animation, covering animation from emerging industries.
Pitching sessions’ selection committee included consultant Jean-Paul Commin, Annemie Degryse at Belgium’s Lumière, and Baché herself, who hosts the pitching sessions. Sessions will be held at Annecy’s imposing lakeside Impérial Palace hotel, the MIFA market center, over June 14-16.
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John Hopewell contributed to this article
MIFA 2017 FEATURE FILM PROJECTS:
“Chicago Dream,” (Russia)
“Chandasma,” (David Mauricio Restrepo, Colombia)
“Lollipop,” (Lisa-Marie Russo, Gabriella Ditton, U.K.)
“Le Pantalon,” (Caroline Attia-Larivière, France)
“Dom Fadrique,” (José Cavalheiro, Portugal, )
“Allah n’est pas obligé,” (Zaven Najjar, France)