Project will be one of six titles to be pitched at Annecy Film Festival as part of the eclectic Creative Focus showcase.
“Funan” belongs to a breed of European toons taking on under-explored historical issues aimed at adult auds: Think “Bashir,” “Persepolis” or Annecy’s best feature and audience award winners in 2012, “Crulic — The Path to Beyond” and “Approved for Adoption.”
A semi-autobiographical tale penned by Do and Magali Pouzol, “Funan” centers on the epic struggle of Do’s mother, who was separated from her other son during the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia — a regime that orchestrated a genocide resulting in the deaths of an estimated 2 million people. Do’s mother searched for him for four years.
Through the eyes of Do’s mother, Funan sheds light on this somber chapter of Cambodian history from a different perspective than Rithy Panh’s “The Missing Picture,” this year’s Un Certain Regard winner.
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“Our ambition is to make a popular film that can reach teens and adults while maintaining our editorial mandate,” said Sebastien Onomo, producer at Les Films d’Ici.
“Audiences will be touched by the universality of themes and the dilemmas that the characters are faced with,” Onomo added. “They are trapped within an authoritarian regime that could have easily been transposed to Rwanda or another country.”
Do said in an interview that he chose “to stay close to the characters, to depict this story with an intimate and human point of view. (…) This oppressive regime stands for a context, a situation which will emphasize the relationships and the personalities of the protagonists.”
Toon will be produced mainly in 2D with scenes in CGI 3D. Michael Crouzat is the graphic author on the project.
Two French studios, La Station Animation and Caribara, have been tapped to work on the Euros5 million ($6 million) project, which has received coin from the CNC and the Jean-Luc Lagardere Foundation. It will go into production within the next few weeks.
Les Films d’Ici is in discussions with various distributors and sales agents.
John Hopewell contributed to this report.