Annecy: Carlos Juárez and Nicolas Schmerkin Talk About Competition Player ‘Psiconautas’

The feature debut of Spain’s Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vázquez competes at Annecy

Courtesy of Basque Films

ANNECY– Spain’s Annecy competition contender “Psiconautas, the Forgotten Children,” delivers a dark coming-of-ager fantasy, turning on Birdboy and Dinky, two teenagers attempting to flee an ecologically devastated island.

“Psiconautas” is produced by Carlos Juárez’s Basque Films, behind last year’s Annecy player “Possessed” actor Luis Tosar and Farruco Castroman’s Zircozine Animation and Nicolas Schmerkin’s Paris-based company Autour de Minuit, serving as associate producer. A spin-off from their short “Birdboy,”–  which preemed at Annecy in 2011 and took best short at Spain’s Goya Academy Awards,– “Psiconautas” is the first feature of Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vázquez. An animated short from the duo, black fantasy “Unicorn Blood,” nabbed best experimental short at Chicago fest. “Psiconautas’” international sales are initially handled by Basque Films.

Where has “Psiconautas” been seen?

Carlos Juárez:  It debuted at the San Sebastian Festival’s Zabaltegi showcase — taking the Lurra Greenpeace kudo, going on to play at Gijon, Sofia, Stuttgart, Guadalajara and Brussels among others, taking best animated feature in Bulgaria and Germany. Now we’re very happy for being in Annecy.

Autour de Minuit has a strong presence in Annecy this year….

Niccolas Schmerkin: Yes. We have four shorts in competition: Alberto Vazquez’s “Decorado,” Donato Sansone’s “Journal Animé,” David Coquard-Dassaut’s “Peripheria,” and Ronny Trocker’s “Estate.” We also have “A Town Called Panic” in the TV showcase.

You also handled the international distribution of “Unicorn Blood” (directed by Vázquez, co-written with Rivero), so you’ve followed them since their beginnings. What attracted you to “Psiconautas”?

Schmerkin: We love their unique way of depicting raw and violent problems in our modern society- from environmental problems to twisted human relationships – with a cute, naif and poetic design. They make a very strong statement about our amoral adult world, from which there is nearly no escape. It’s a bit like Bill Plympton meeting Hayao Miyazaki.

And Autour de Minuit co-produced “Decorado,” which premiered at Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes.

Schmerkin: Yes. And in addition, we’re are also co-developing his next feature film “Unicorn Wars,” with his Spanish producer Ivan Miñambres from Uniko.

As associate producers you have all rights for France and Belgium. Do you plan to release the pic theatrically? If so, when?

Schmerkin: We are currently in discussion with French theatrical distributors. The idea is to release it before the end of 2016.

What are your international expectations, the ideal target for “Psiconautas”?

Juárez: It’s an artistic movie that can reach any audience with different tastes, a niche film but with broad appeal for many people. That’s why “Psiconautas” is doing so well at fests.

But it doesn’t target children?

Juárez: No, but it could attract teens. Teens are more advanced than a few years ago in terms of understanding codes, registers… There’re violence, drugs.. that have a natural but not excessive presence in the plot. The graphic novel had a more adult perspective than the movie. Cartoon movies exclusively for adults are not easy to handle on theatrical circuits. Adults still show a reluctance to pay to see an animation movie only for adults. But things are changing, think of “The Simpsons” where we find a series combining both worlds –adult and youth. Current animation usually mixes its targets.