BORDEAUX — Kicking in with a dazzling sequence shot of Martin Scorsese-like verve, animated/live-action hybrid “Another Day of Life” dazzled an industry audience at a Cartoon Movie sneak peak of some 15 minutes of excerpts on Friday.
Directed by Poland’s Damian Nenow and Spain’s Raúl de la Fuente, the movie narrates grizzled war correspondent Ryszard Kapuściński’s graphic, harrowing and sometimes near-surreal experiences in Angola’s 1975 civil war, which he turned into a book that forged his reputation for literary journalism.
A six-way Euro co-production which helped win its producers the 2018 Producer of the Year Award at Cartoon Movie, “Another Day of Life” has been on the industry radar for years.
Few, however, expected the pace, the grimly-humored verve of Kapuściński’s voiceover; or the energetic mix of animation, action, dream sequences, flashbacks – and live action cutaways, archive footage, contemporary interview. Kapuściński, an admirer of Joseph Conrad, searches for heroes in the carnage – and finds one in the stunningly sassy Angela Davis-haired Comandante Carlotta – as he attempts to track down a figure he thinks the Kurtz of the Angola Civil War’s own singular “Heart of Darkness.”
The reception of “Another Day in Life,” 75% animation, 25% live action, was compared by Cartoon Movie head Marc Vandeweyer, in a closing analysis of this year’s proceedings, to that of Didier Brunner’s presentation of “Triplets of Belleville” 15 years ago at Cartoon Movie.
Otherwise, one of the heartiest applauses at this year’s Cartoon Movie – and part cause for a Distributor of the Year award, again voted by the event’s attendees, for the film’s sales agent, Latido Films – went to Salvador Simo’s “Buñuel and the Labyrinth of Turtles.”
Produced by Manuel Cristobal, the animated feature recreates Luis Buñuel’s 1933 shoot of “Land Without Bread,” a haunting doc-feature portrait of Spain’s Las Hurdes, then one of the backward places in Western Europe, sunk in ancient traditions, dirt poverty and illness. Capturing the making of the film, with which Buñuel found his creative voice, Simo said in his Cartoon Movie presentation, and made in a simple-lined 2D which forefronts facial expression, so psychological observation, “Buñuel” looks, as “Another Day of Life,” like a 2018 Cannes contender.
Greenland might seem an unlikely place for animation. But “Raven Girl and the Mother of the Sea,” set up at Denmark’s Angel Films and directed by Greenland’s Konrad Nuka Godtfredsen, enchanted with its show of mythic creatures, suggesting a worldview unknown to most attendees at Cartoon Movie.
Running March 7-9 in the French port city of Bordeaux, now one of the country’s regional animation hubs, the 20th Cartoon Movie did much to suggest, as double Academy Award nominee Tomm Moore (“The Secret of Kells”) put it at December’s European Animation Awards, that in creative terms Europe is living in a “golden age” of animation.
The 2018 Cartoon Movie reflected that., allowing producers to “catch up with everybody, the whole of Europe’s feature animation industry is here,” said Cartoon Saloon’s Paul Young, producer of Oscar-nominated “The Breadwinner.”
Now at 900, Cartoon Movie attendance has risen by 20% over the last two years, said Vandeweyer. Audiences of nearly 400 for some pitches were “inconceivable,” just a few years ago, he added.
Shown in sneak previews, a duo of titles delivered on expectations: Prima Linea’s family adventure “The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily,” from famed Italian comic-book artist Lorenzo Mattotti, boasting a soda-pop palette; Sacrebleu’s “The Extraordinary Voyage of Marona,” an affecting tale of a small female dog’s memories of three different masters, marking director Anca Damian’s follow-up to Annecy winner “Crulic.”
Other newer titles charmed: France-based producer-director Fabrice Ziolkowski’s blues-laced coming-of-ager “Hoodoo”; Joe Moroney’s “The Boy Who Switched Off the Sun,” a far more commercial proposition and one of the few U.K. titles at Cartoon Movie; Italian Nicola Contini’s tender “Trip to Teulada,” narrating the journey of an 86-year-old woman back to the lost world of her childhood village in Southern Sardinia and her first love.
On an aesthetic scale, there was nothing to match the serene pictorial beauty and retro tones of Jean-François Laguionie’s “Slocum,” his memoir of growing up beside the Marne and rapt excitement at his stepfather’s building a boat in the back garden.
Projects and production presented this year were also “more balanced,” said Patricia de Wilde, at France’s TeamTO, with countries outside France making much of the running.
Boasting seven projects, Germany was back at Cartoon Movie, “Kara,” German Sinem Sakaoglu’s semi-autobiographical stop-motion/S3D drama winning the €20,000 ($24,600) Eurimages Co-production Development Award from a jury which praised it as a “sensitive tale mixing magic with nostalgic realism enriched with traditions.”
As animation yields some of its biggest projects (“Dragonkeeper,” “Klaus”) and most commercial releases (“Tadeo Jones and the Secret of King Midas”), Spain also made a string showjng. In a brief Q & A on Friday with Gerardo Michelin, Carlos Biern, president of the Spanish Federation of Animation Producers (Diboos), explained how tax breaks and new rebates on local spend for foreign productions promise further growth for Spain’s animation/VFX industry.
Alberto Vázquez’s solo follow-up to “Birdboy: the Forgotten Children,” a Gkids pick-up for the U.S., “Unicorn Wars” also attracted one of the biggest audiences and applauses of the whole Cartoon Movie. Drawn in expressive – and increasingly dark – charcoal strokes, and presented with brio by Vázquez, the film chronicles a brutal and resonant ancestral struggle between teddy bears and unicorns in a magical forest.
China is also stepping up to the plate, not as a service company for Euro toons but now co-production partner. Cartoon Movie saw two of Spain’s most powerful media companies, Telefonica pay TV unit Movistar + and Atresmedia Cine, the movie production arm of broadcast network Atresmedia, unveil excerpts and animatics from “Dragonkeeper,” a CGI family film made with China Film Animation, part of the China Film Group about the feisty Ping, a washer girl slave who discovers her calling as a dragon protector. The storyline and animation, – meshing work by Sergio Pablos’ SPA Studios, Illion Animation Studios and Base FX in China – both sparked an enthusiastic reaction.
It is hard to underestimate the growth of Europe’s feature animation industry. 20 years ago, when Cartoon Movie began, Europe produced only two-to-three animated movies a year. Rising 28% in the last five years, the figure now stands at 15 or more. In the last 15 years, 16 European animated films have scored Academy Award nominations, Vandeweyer said in his welcome speech.
But huge challenges remain. Cartoon Movie titles split two ways: More mainstream productions for children and families; arthouse older-audience-skewing movies. But when European audiences go to the cinema to catch an animation film they seem ever more to be plumping for the “safe” choice of a Disney or Pixar title, Vandeweyer said; and arthouse or niche YA animation films don’t have a ready large audience in cinema theaters. European animated movies made more box office five or six years ago than in 2017.
The European Commission has declared its interest in supporting European animation more. It made a presentation to the European Parliament in late January. 2018 Cartoon Movie suggested much new financial support should be channelled into marketing and promotion. As Vandeweyer suggested, the films are good, the quality’s there.”
2018 CARTOON MOVIE TRIBUTES
DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
Dorota Kobiela (Poland), Hugh Welchman (U.K.) (“Loving Vincent”)
DISTRIBUTOR OF THE YEAR
Latido Films (Spain)
PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
Platige Films (Poland, Kanaki Films (Spain), Walking the Dog (Belgium), Wüste Film (Germany), Animationsfabrik (Germany), Puppetworks (Hungary) (“Another Day of Life”)
EURIMAGES CO-PRODUCTION DEVELOPMENT AWARD
“Kara,” (Sinem Sakaoglu, Germany, Belgium)
MOST ATTENDED PRESENTATIONS, CARTOON MOVIE, 2018
Title (producers) number of Cartoon Movie delegates attending.
1.“The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily,” (Prima Linea Productions, Indigo Film, France 3 Cinéma, France, Italy) 394
2.“Unicorn Wars,” ( Autour de Minuit, Uniko, Schmuby Productions, Abano Productions, France, Spain) 318
3.“Dragonkeeper,” (Dragoia Media, Atresmedia Cine, Movistar +, Spain, China Film Group) 301
4.“The Sea Wolf,” (Elda Productions, Je Suis Bien Content, Melusine Productions, France, Luxembourg) 274
5.“Terra Willy,” ( TAT Productions, BAC Films, France) 268
6.“Hoodoo,” (Mozaic Productions, Lerko, Bioscopewala Pictures, Studio Eeksaurus, France, Poland, India) 256
7.“Lulu & Nelson,” (Les Armateurs, France) 253
8.“Another Day of Life,” (Platige Films, Kanaki Films, Walking the Dog, Wuste Film, AnimationFabrik, Poland, Spain, Belgium, Germany) 249
9.“White Plastic Sky” ( Paprika Films, Salto Film, Artichoke, France, Hungary, Slovakia) 242
10.“Allah is not Obliged,” (Special Touch Studios, Paul Thiltges Distributions, France, Luxembourg) 240