June 20 was always meant to be the day the 2020 Annecy International Animation Film Festival would hand out awards at an energetic, paper airplane-filled gala, making it one of the most important dates on the global animation calendar.
While other aspects of the festival were changed dramatically by the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, festival organizers felt it symbolically important to preserve that date. To that end, 10 days ahead of the festival’s official June 30 close, prizes were awarded via a live-streamed video on the festival’s YouTube channel in a charming ceremony which allowed spectators to interact with and congratulate the winners as prizes were announced. And of course, as is customary for Annecy, fill the chat with cries of “lapin” (French for rabbit) every time one of the furry creatures appeared on screen.
Coming full circle, Rémi Chayé’s “Calamity,” featured in a Work in Progress panel hosted by French producers Maybe Movies at last year’s festival, won the festival’s top prize, the Cristal Award for best feature film. The win continues a fine run of French form in the competition following last year’s winner “I Lost My Body” and “Funan,” a co-production with Belgium, Cambodia and Luxembourg, the year before.
Some competition films screened on the festival’s digital platform this year, but the “Calamity” team decided to hold off on its full premiere until a time when can be held in a brick-and-mortar theater. Instead, Maybe Movies and Paris-based sales agent Indie Sales opted to share an introduction to the film delivered by Chayé and a 17-minute behind-the-scenes presentation featuring previously unseen clips from the now-finished film.
Russian production “The Nose or the Conspiracy of Mavericks,” from 1995 Annecy winner and Russian animation legend Andrey Khrzhanovsky (“The Grey Bearded Lion”), won this year’s Jury Award, while Mariusz Wilczynski’s “Kill It and Leave this Town,” a critical hit at its Berlin premiere, received the section’s Jury Distinction.
A Norway-Latvia co-production from Bivrost Film & TV and Ego Media, Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen’s autobiographical documentary “My Favorite War” was selected as the best feature from this year’s Contrechamp selection. Now in its second year, Contrechamp acts as the festival’s platform for films from exciting emerging talents from around the world.
The only title directed by a woman from either of the festival’s main feature sections, “My Favorite War” ruminates on a childhood spent in the Soviet Union and how truth can be hard to come by amidst a flood of authoritarian propaganda.
Jae-huun Ahn’s South Korean feature “The Shaman Sorceress,” another former Annecy Work in Progress participant (2016), was recognized with the Contrechamp Jury Distinction.
“Schooom’s Odyssey” picked up another trophy for the mantels of producers Picolo Pictures and director Julien Bisaro. Having already won best short film for kids-up-to-six at Prix Jeunesse and a best animated short for kids at Belgium’s Anima 2020, it took top TV honors at this year’s Annecy, winning the Cristal for Best TV Production.
Bisaro, Annie-nominated for his storyboard work on Xilam-produced “I Lost My Body,” will direct the “The Wolf,” the company’s next feature outing. In “Schooom’s,” he delivers a 2D animated special for preschoolers, shot with an arresting sense of an immersive nature, which follows plucky owl chick Shooom, hatched just before a storm, on a journey to find its mother.
Robin Shaw’s “The Tiger Who Came to Tea,” produced by Lupus Films in the U.K. for NBC Universal, received a Jury Award for a TV Special, while Amazon Prime Video’s “Undone” was picked by the jury as the best TV Series in competition.
A day after winning the prestigious Fipresci award for a short film, Oscar-nominated director Theodore Ushev’s “The Physics of Sorrow,” a hit at both Toronto and Clermont Ferrand, took today’s Annecy Cristal for best short film and provided one of the evening’s most touching moments, as his acceptance speech also included the moment he was first told he’d won the Cristal. Ushev leapt out of his chair, cheered, laughed and cried as he talked about how important this award is to him. A first-person account from a nameless narrator recounting life highlights from childhood through to a melancholic twilight in Canada, his short was always one of the favorites from a stacked field and made Variety’s list of 10 shorts not to miss.
Spanish auteur Alberto Vázquez, director of “Birdboy: The Forgotten Children” and the highly anticipated “Unicorn Wars” which premiered its first blood-soaked cotton candy trailer during this year’s festival, won the Jury Award in the short film category with “Homeless Home.” The darkest entry in competition this year, both narratively and aesthetically, the film is set in a black and white, demonized version of Vazquez’s native Galicia and metaphorically examines issues that rural natives face when returning home after years spent elsewhere.
Yifan Bao’s “The Town” – about the importance of family and putting on a brave face against conformity – was picked as the section’s best first film. Soetkin Verstegen’s black and white stop motion “Freeze Frame” and Max Hattler’s “Serial Parallels” shared a Jury Distinction.
This year’s Cristal for a commissioned film was awarded to Daniel Almagor and Raman Djafari’s colorful music video for “Traveler” from NYC-based brass band Lucky Chops, while the Commissioned Film Jury Award went to Gavin Strange’s “Turtle Journey,” commissioned by Greenpeace and produced by legendary U.K stop motion outfit Aardman Animations.
From the Moscow School of New Cinema, Kirill Khachaturov’s “Naked” won the Cristal for this year’s top graduation film, while “Sura” from Korean National University of Arts grad Hae-Ji Jeong and “Pile” from the U.K.’s Royal College of Art alum Toby Auberg both won jury prizes.
In VR, Raqi Syed and Areito Echevarria’s “Minimum Mass,” a sci-fi tale exploring the emotional fallout after a miscarriage, took the Cristal for Best VR Work, with Martin Allais and Nicolas Casavecchia’s “Battlescar – Punk Was Invented by Girls” winning a jury prize.
2019 ANNECY INTL. ANIMATION FILM FESTIVAL OFFICIAL SELECTION WINNERS
CRISTAL FOR A FEATURE FILM
“Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary,” (Rémi Chayé France, Denmark)
“The Nose or the Conspiracy of Mavericks,” (Andrey Khrzhanovsky, Russia)
“Kill It and Leave this Town,” (Mariusz Wilczynski, Poland)
“My Favorite War,” (Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen, Latvia, Norway)
CONTRECHAMP JURY DISTINCTION
“The Shaman Sorceress,” (Jae-huun Ahn, South Korea)
CRISTAL FOR A SHORT FILM
“The Physics of Sorrow,” (Theodore Ushev, Canada)
“Homeless Home,” (Alberto Vázquez, France, Spain)
JURY DISTINCTION (TIED)
“Freeze Frame,” (Soetkin Verstegen, Belgium)
“Genius Loci,” (Adrien Merigeau, France)
JEAN-LUC XIBERRAS AWARD FOR A FIRST FILM
“The Town,” (Yifan Bao, China)
“Serial Parallels,” (Max Hattler, Germany, Hong Kong)
TV AND COMMISSIONED FILMS
TV SERIES AND FILMS
JURY AWARD FOR A TV SERIES
“Undone: The Hospital,” (Hisko Hulsing, U.S.)
JURY AWARD FOR A TV SPECIAL
“The Tiger Who Came to Tea,” (Robin Shaw, United Kingdom)
CRISTAL FOR A TV PRODUCTION
“Shooom’s Odyssey,” (Julien Bisaro, Belgium, France)
CRISTAL FOR A COMMISSIONED FILM
Lucky Chops “Traveler,” (Daniel Almagor, Raman Djafari, Germany)
Greenpeace “Turtle Journey,” (Gavin Strange, United Kingdom)
CRISTAL FOR A GRADUATION FILM
“Naked,” (Kirill Khachaturov, Russia)
“Sura,” (Hae-Ji Jeong, South Korea)
“Pile,” (Toby Auberg United Kingdom)
CRISTAL FOR THE BEST VR WORK
“Minimum Mass,” (Raqi Syed, Areito Echevarria, France, New Zealand)
“Battlescar – Punk Was Invented by Girls,” (Martin Allais, Nicolas Casavecchia, U.S., France)