One delight every year at Annecy is its showcase of new films by established talent, on-the-rise directors and names near off the radar. France has all three in 2020:
“Bigfoot Family” (Ben Stassen, Jérémie Degruson, nWave Pictures, Octopolis)
Probably the biggest box office bet of any title in main competition at Annecy this year. Sold by Charades, directed by pioneering 3D cineaste Ben Stassen, an Annecy regular, and Jérémie Degruson, and fruit of their one-stop-shop studio in Belgium, a tiny tot skewing comedy marking a follow-up to 2018’s “Son of Bigfoot,” which grossed a significant $50 million worldwide.
“The Blossom Crown” (Raphaël Penasa, U.S., France)
One of the most talked-up of Digital Experience pitches at MIFA this year mixing genre and gender as the viewer is invited to share the memories of central character Nigel, in which he discovers that his sibling is a transgender girl, and explore his ancient family home.
“Brazen: Leymah” (Mai Nguyen, Charlotte Cambon, Silex Films)
One of 30 short format TV series portraits, inspired by the comic created by Pénélope Bagieu, of women who have changed the world, here the redoubtable Liberian peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. Brightly animated, and voiced – all characters – by Cécile de France. Battling Paris-based Silex Films (“With the Wind,” “Stalk”) produces.
“Calamity” (Rémi Chayé, Maybe Movies, Nørlum, 2 Minutes and France 3 Cinéma)
Produced by French animated art pic powerhouse Maybe Movies, like Chayé’s prior and admired Annecy winner “Long Way North” an exquisitely drawn portrait of a strong woman, here wrapped in the imagined origins story of the making of free spirit Calamity Jane.
“Empty Places” (Geoffroy de Crécy, Autour de Minuit, France)
A short, set to Debussy’s “Clair de lune,” fruit of De Crecy’s years-old fascination with mundane machines and brief animation loops, a vision of chic urbane scenes – a lift door opening, closing; a tennis court cannon still firing balls – a few minutes after humankind’s disappeared. Hypnotic and profoundly sad. “The graphic translation of the confinement, though [made] prior pandemic. This guy’s a time-traveller,” says Annecy Festival director Marcel Jean.
“Eugene” (Anais Caura, 2P2L Group, My Fantasy)
An adult-audience noirish thriller pushing gender issues, set in 1920 Australia and inspired by true events, being based on the life and arrest for murder of Eugene Falleni, a transgender man. Presented in MIFA Feature Pitches.
“Friend of a Friend” (Zachary Zezima, Sacrebleu Productions)
A portrait of the nuanced, shifting power-balance of sexual desire, animated by Zezima (“It’s a Date”) in radiant block colors, mixing narrative, dream and fantasy, as Beau discovers his bisexuality having been assaulted by Mario at Beau’s 30th birthday.
“Homeless Home” (Alberto Vázquez, Autour de Minuit, Uniko, France, Spain)
Set in Spain’s Galicia, a brooding short that melds a heady mix of fantasy genre – the cast’s a necromancer, a skeleton, a young witch, an ogre and a ghost mother and child – casual, modern-day dialog and a horror of blood lust and cruelty, as a soldier boy returns from the wars to his beak-nosed young witch lover. Directed by Spain’s Alberto Vázquez, famed for GKids pick-up “Bird Boy.”
“Inès,” (Elodie Dermange, La Poudrière)
One of a strong lineup of French graduation shorts and with a strong woman-centric focus. Acquired by the enterprising Miyu Distribution and animated in a dazzling array of pictorial styles – from the impressionist to black crayon to more conventional 2D – it pictures a young woman confronting pregnancy, feeling overwhelmed and trapped.
“Legends: La Vouivre” (Bloc D)
Sporting a poster to die for and one of Annecy’s VR pitches on Tuesday, Ep. 1 in a “Legends” series from Lyon-based French directorsBloc D. A VR/AR immersion with said-to-be stunning visuals of the Franche-Comté’s Loue Valley, home to La Vouivre, half-snake half-woman.
“Little Vampire” (Joann Sfar, The Magical Society, Studiocanal, Panache Productions)
Produced by Aton Soumache (“The Litle Prince”), and the latest movie from comic book artist turned film director Sfar (“Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life,” “The Rabbi’s Cat”), presented as a work in progress at 2017’s Annecy. Based on Sfar’s own graphic novel it turns on the friendship between a tyke vampire and a human orphan, but is really about “freeing the imagination, useful for overcoming difficult realities,” Sfar told Variety.
“Meek” (“Douce,” Isabelle Lenoble, Vivement Lundi!)
Produced by the production company behind last year’s Annecy winning and Academy Award-nominated “Memorable,” but an entirely different proposition, a short format TV series project turning on Meek (Douce), with block backgrounds and hard-lined cartoonish characters. That befits the subject: Meek, hitting 40, three kids, a fourth on the way, overwhelmed by her responsibilities and hormones. A portrait, warts and all, of modern motherhood.
“Minimum Mass” (Raqi Syed, Areito Echevarria, Like Amber, Floréal Films, New Zealand, U.S., France)
Shown at Tribeca, a sci-fi tale exploring the emotional world miscarriage, pregnancy loss and family made as a VR short for single head-set users and set in a photorealistic CG interactive story world in contemporary Rotorua, New Zealand.
“No Dogs Nor Italians Allowed,” (Alain Ughetto, Les Films du Tambour de Soie, Foliascope, Vivement Lundi!, Nadasdy Film, Graffiti)
A further French WIP Features presentation, from Alain Ughetto, director of the singular ‘70s Iran set claymation love story “Jasmine.” Here he returns with another stop-motion tale, about his grandfather, who emigrated from Italy’s Piedmont to the U.S., but only got as far as France.
“Saturnism” (Mihai Grecu, Barberousse Films)
A VR short that explores Goya’s painting “Saturn Devouring His Son,” described by its makers as getting inside “one of the darkest paintings in the history of art.”
“Sheba” (Alexis Ducord & Benjamin Massoubre, Maybe Movies)
Singled out as the potential blockbuster of MIFA pitches this year, a kids and family comedy feature turning a little girl looking for her daddy is a 1935 Ethiopia, an epic adventure following the footsteps of the legendary Queen Sheba. A more mainstream proposition from Maybe Movies (“Long Way North,” “Calamity”) as the company takes on bigger titles. Longtime Maybe Movies editor Massoubre directs with “Zombillenium” director Ducord.
“The Shoreline” (Sophie Racine, Am Stram Gram Productions, Pictanovo, Le Fresnoy)
A blowsy Brittany countryside sketched in chiaroscuro with a telling artist’s eye for the weight of movement, whether bird flight, waves’ fall or grass tensing in the wind.
“Shooom’s Odyssey” (Julien Bisaro, Picolo Pictures, Bardaf! Productions, France)
Anyone who caught Bisaro’s dark, B&W “Bang, Bang!” a tale of nature and a daughter’s push back on a bloody-minded patriarchal father will await with large anticipation the latest outing by Bisaro. The Dandeloo-distributed “Shoooms Odyssey” is more contained, natural enough since it’s pre-school fare turning on cute owl chick Shooom – burning black eyes, orange pupils, pristine white fluffy plumage – who hatches just as a storm is tuning up in the bayou around, separating her from her mother. What it does have, remarks Marc du Pontavice who’s now producing Bisaro’s feature debut “The Wolf,” is Bisaro’s sense of immersion in vibrant nature. Not to be missed.
“Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds,” (Benoît Chieu; Sacrebleu Productions, France)
A standout at early March’s Cartoon Movie, admired for its exquisite fantasy-laced 2D, directed by Chieu (“Aunt Hilda!”), and written by the Oscar-nominated Alain Gagnol (“A Cat in Paris”), with Haut et Court handling French distribution and Kinology signing world sales just before Annecy and the virtual Cannes: Powerful prestige creative and industrial backing.
“The Summit of the Gods” (Patrick Imbert, Julianne Films, Folivari)
“One of the most important films in my career,” says Didier Brunner (“Kirikou,” “Triplets of Belleville,” “Ernest and Celestine”) who co-produces the Jean-Charles Ostorero lead-produced feature. It’s easy to see why. The feature, sneak peeked in Annecy’s Work in Progress, adapts a legendary manga series illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi – “a manga poet,” says Guillermo del Toro – and takes animation to an unprecedented place: Man – and woman’s – obsession in climbing, here the soaring South West face of Everest in winter without oxygen.
“Taffy” (Ahmed Gerrouache, Cyber Group Studios, Turner Broadcasting Systems Europe)
Just renewed for Season 2, tipping its hat to cartoon classics – “Tom & Jerry,” “Looney Tunes” – but adding its own note of surrealism and modern-day references. A 2D knockabout comedy of feral rivalry, it turns on the crazed Bentley, a loyal hound dog living in pampered luxury with billionaire lady owner Mrs. Muchmore, who endlessly attempts to out and oust Taffy, a raccoon posing as an Angora cat.