“Funan,” the story of a young mother trying to reunite her family during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia of the 1970s, won both the Grand Prize and the Audience Award at the Animation Is Film Festival, held Oct. 19-21 in Los Angeles. The film, directed by Denis Do, made its North American debut at the event.
“’Funan’ reminds us that animation can tell any kind of story. This versatile medium is by no means limited to fantastical or extraordinary subjects, but is in fact uniquely suited to incredibly personal ones as well,” said Peter Debruge, jury chairman and Variety’s chief film critic. “With ‘Funan,’ Do explores what his Cambodian mother experienced at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime, finding unexpected beauty within the horror of the situation. The jury agreed that the profound result actually feels more powerful by virtue of being made in animation.”
In addition, “Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles,” co-written and directed by Salvador Simo, was awarded a special jury prize.
“We chose to award a special jury prize to ‘Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles’ for its innovative handling of unexpected subject matter,” Debruge explained. The film follows the surrealist filmmaker and his friend and benefactor Ramon as they endeavor to make an ambitious documentary about Spain’s Las Hurdes region.
In addition to Debruge, the jury included Warner Animation Group EVP Allison Abbate, Netflix Kids and Family VP Melissa Cobb, Hollywood Reporter tech editor Carolyn Giardina, critic and historian Charles Solomon, Landmark Theatres’ Mabel Tam, IndieWire Editor at Large Anne Thompson, and noted animation filmmakers Dean DeBlois (the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise), Jorge Gutierrez (“The Book of Life”), Jennifer Yuh Nelson (the “Kung Fu Panda” sequels), and Henry Selick (“The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Coraline”).
The competition lineup also included opening night film “Mirai,” by Mamoru Hosoda; “Another Day of Life” by Raul de la Fuente and Damian Nenow; I Want to Eat Your Pancreas” by Shin’ichiro Ushijima; “Okko’s Inn” by Kitaro Kosaka; “Pachamama” by Juan Antin; “Penguin Highway” by Hiroyasu Ishida; “Ruben Brandt, Collector” by Milorad Krstic; “Seder-Masochism” by Nina Paley; and “Tito and the Birds” by Gabriel Bitar, Andre Catoto and Gustavo Steinberg.
“We were thrilled to watch all the films in competition this year, and to be reminded of the incredible diversity in subject, style, and sensibility to be found in this seemingly limitless art form,” noted Debruge.
The fest was presented by GKids in partnership with the Annecy International Film Festival, Variety and Fathom Events. Industry partners, hospitality partners and supporters include Animation Magazine, Cartoon Brew, Animation World Network, Loews Hotels, Shout! Factory, ASIFA-Hollywood, Blue Sky Studios, DreamWorks Animation, ELMA, Paramount Animation, Sony Pictures Animation, UniFrance, CalArts, Consulate of France, UCLA School of Theater, Film & TV and USC School of Cinematic Arts.