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Annecy Goes to Cannes Highlights ‘Flee,’ ‘Pachamama,’ ‘Koati’

Sofía Vergara in Mexico's "Koati" headline a strong field of South American filmmakers and narratives

France’s Annecy Intl. Film Festival is once again bringing five animated features, each in different stages of production, to participate in the works in progress sessions – “Goes to Cannes” – at the Cannes Film Festival. Held on Friday May 11, Annecy Goes to Cannes, now in its third year, focuses on animated films looking to acquire sales agents, distribution or additional festival pick-ups.

Annecy Goes to Cannes is run by Citia, the organization behind the Annecy festival – Europe’s and one of the world’s most important animation festival – MIFA market and the Forum Blanc.

Citia project manager Géraldine Baché told to Variety that, “This edition of Annecy Goes to Cannes features projects identified and tracked over the last few years at Annecy and other places we’ve travelled. This edition specifically reflects how big the diversity in animation is in terms of audience, with movies dedicated to kids, teens, adults and families.”

The five productions come from countries with rich animation histories, many with South American producers or narratives. They are: “Flee,” from Denmark, France and Sweden: “Heart of Darkness,” from Brazil, Portugal and France; “Koati,” from Mexico; “Pachamama,” from France, Luxembourg and Canada; and “Spycies,” from the once unlikely pairing of France and China – perhaps indicative of a broader trend in international co-productions as the Chinese market has become increasingly important, and its animation industry has matured. At last year’s Annecy China was the special guest country.

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“Flee” is the most adult-aimed of the films participating this year. A documentary, it won the 2016 Disney Channel award for best pitch at Annecy. It’s Danish helmer Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s sophomore feature, and kicks off when an 11-year-old Afghan boy, a victim of human trafficking, shows up alone in Denmark. The narrative format of the feature plays out as a conversation between two friends, Tobias and Amin.

The film is produced by Final Cut For Real and Sun Creature in Denmark, Vivement Lundi! in France, and Most Film in Sweden.

“The film’s topic does make it very relevant for countries across the world that welcomes refugees,” said Final Cut’s Monica Hellström. “We are hoping that by doing this film as an animation, that it can reach a younger audience than these kind of stories normally do.”

“Heart of Darkness,” maintains the name, themes and characters from Joseph Conrad’s “Apocalypse Now” inspiring novel, but is adapted to the streets and favelas of Rio de Janeiro, and to a younger audience. It’s produced by Brazil’s Karmatique Imagens and France’s Les Films d’Ici.

“In animation things can be naturally fantastic and believable,” producer Sébastien Onomo told Variety when asked about adapting the book to an animated format. “In the plot of ‘Heart of Darkness,’ the supporting character, Marlon, has to fulfill his mission in a boat, sailing through the channels that cross the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. In fact (in live-action) this is not possible.”

From a marketing standpoint, Mexico’s “Koati” stands out with its casting of “Modern Family” star Sofía Vergara. Once a household name in her native Colombia, Vergara is a now known across the world thanks to the show’s popularity, and is a perfect fit for the family-oriented feature. She will voice the villain Zaina in both the English and Spanish versions of the film.

“Koati” is produced by Mexican VFX company Upstairs, and according to producer Anabella Sosa is on schedule for delivery in late 2019. She told Variety that participation in Goes to Cannes is allowing the producers, “To Promote the film and start to identify distribution partners around the world.”

First pitched at Cartoon Movie in 2015, “Pachamama” comes from Oscar-nominated producer Didier Brunner’s Folivari, with co-producers O2b Films, Doghouse Studio, Kaibou Production Inc., Haut et Court and Blue Spirit Studio. France’s Indie Sales, a champion of indie animation with a track record of successfully backing features that land somewhere between arthouse and mainstream (“My Life as a Zucchini,” “Another Day of Life”), is handling international sales.

The film is written and directed by Argentine Juan Antin, who’s “Mercano the Martian” won the audience prize at Sitges. “Pachamama” is the tale of a colonial-era Peruvian boy who attempts to save his friend from Incas, but ends up kidnapped by Spanish conquistadors.

Finally, “Spycies” is a horse, or in this case cat, of a different color. A fast-paced action-adventure spy flick with a feline cast, “Spycies” is co-produced by Lux Populi Production in France and Lux Populi VFX in China. It’s a setup with a learning curve – language barriers and a six hour time difference – that now offers unique benefits to the film’s two teams.

“We speak using mostly pictures for the artistic choices,” Lux Populi producer Benoit Luce told Variety before addressing the time difference. “Actually it is one of our most precious allies. When the French team is beginning their day of work China has already had the time to deal with all their questions or requests during the night.”

He finished, “I hope that people will see all the possibilities that this partnership can bring to the animation network.”

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