JOHANNESBURG — With the final round of the first-ever pan-African animation pitching competition Friday night at Discop, the Annecy Int’l. Animation Film Festival and Market signaled its commitment to shoring up local partnerships to help develop the continent’s toon biz.
The French fest has been onboard with African animation since 2011, when it partnered with the French Institute and South African industry groups for the first Kunjanimation toon festival in Cape Town. Now it’s taken the collaboration a step further, by selecting two prize-winning projects at Discop to take part in Annecy’s prestigious Animation du Monde in 2018.
Geraldine Baché, head of projects at MIFA, says that the projects in competition reflected the dynamic range of animation across the continent, with a mix of genres and styles. “For the first year, it’s quite representative of…the creativity of animation in Africa,” she says.
The Animation du Monde pitch sessions were started by Annecy in 2015, as a way to support animators in countries with limited infrastructure for production. In many countries, notes Baché, animators might not even be aware of the opportunities provided by the likes of Annecy or MIFA, making it all the more important to “take a step toward them.”
The first pan-African pitching competition highlighted the perseverance of animators typically working without the support of studios or institutions. “They don’t have the capacity for traveling easily,” says Baché, “and most of the time, they’re doing their project on their own.”
Apart from the competition, which was organized by Annecy along with Discop and the African Animation Network, participants took part in a busy week of workshops and one-on-one sessions. “It’s wonderful the work they’ve done all this week,” says Baché, of the 16 finalists taking part in Johannesburg.
Awards for the pitching competition were handed out in four categories.
In TV series and specials, sponsored by Turner, the prize went to Ethiopia’s Brukty Tigabu, for “Tibeb Girls.”
“Mumue,” by South Africa’s Wendy Spinks and Clea Mallinson, won the prize for short films, sponsored by Montreal-based animation software company Toon Boom.
In transmedia animation, sponsored by Digital Lab Africa, the winner was South Africa’s Howard James Fyvie, for “The Spams.”
Finally, “The Makers,” by South Africa’s Sheldon Bengtson, won out in the feature film category, sponsored by the Cape Town-based Animation School.
Along with the four awards, the jury selected two projects to represent the continent at Animation du Monde in Annecy next year. Those distinctions went to Spinks and Mallinson, for “Mamue,” and Togo’s Ingrid Agbo, with “L’arbre à Palimpseste.”
Baché said she looked forward to continuing the collaboration next year, with an eye toward bringing in more partners to support a bigger and better sequel, while hoping that the success of this year’s competition will help “spread the word to other countries in Africa.”