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On Saturday evening, after a week of onsite and virtual screenings, conferences, masterclasses and panels, the Annecy Animation Festival announced the winners of its major prizes, joining the already announced Special Prizes from the night before.

Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s “Flee” continued its winning form from the previous evening – it won best original music from a feature – taking both the Cristal for a Feature Film, the festival’s top prize, and the Gan Foundation Award for distribution.

A World Cinema Grand Jury Award-winner at Sundance and best Nordic documentary winner at Göteborg, “Flee” was described by Variety’s Peter Debruge as a “sophisticated refugee story.” “Flee” is the true story of Amin, about to get married, who decides to share his hidden past, a secret he has been hiding for over 20 years which threatens to ruin the life he has built since. In the film Amin tells the story of his dramatic journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan to Denmark.

This year’s Jury Award went to the debut feature of Oscar-nominated and former Annecy Cristal winning director Michaela Pavlátová’s “My Sunny Maad.” A Czech-France co-production,  the film turns on a young Czech woman who assimilates to life in post-Taliban Afghanistan after falling in love and marrying an Afghan man.

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My Sunny Maad Credit: Annecy

A late addition to this year’s main competition, Florence Miailhe’s “The Crossing,” the first animated feature oil painted entirely on glass, follows siblings Kyona and Adriel as they flee from a non-specific Eastern European country.

Rarely does a theme so obviously stand out in a festival’s selection as that of immigration did at this year’s Annecy, and in fact all of the main competition prize-winners turned on the extremely urgent subject.

From the festival’s Contrechamp competition, dedicated to emerging talent from around the world and films that lie outside the mainstream, “Bob Spit – We Do Not Like People” lived up to its hyped billing after presenting as a project at Annecy, eventually representing the festival at Annecy Goes to Cannes in 2019. Based on the legendary comic series of the same name, the claymation feature follows its titular character through an apocalyptic desert within the mind of its creator, Brazilian cartoonist Angeli.

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Bob Spit Credit: Coala Filmes

Similarly delivering on previous Annecy participation buzz, the Contrechamp Jury Distinction went to Félix Dufour-Laperrière’s “Archipelago,” another alumni of the Annecy Goes to Cannes class of 2019. A mindscape documentary giving a sense of place to Quebec and the St. Lawrence Islands, the film is structured via a voiceover dialog between a young woman and man. At last year’s MIFA, it won a Crilic Prize for best feature film pitch.

Samuel Patthey and Silvain Monney’s “Peel” took home a Cristal of its own as this year’s best short film in competition. Using B & W pencil-drawn vignettes, the filmmakers examine the daily grind at a nursing home in Fribourg, Switzerland. A meticulous real-life soundtrack endows the film with added authenticity. Finished just before COVID-19. “I feel these people are isolated enough even without a pandemic,” Patthey told Variety in an interview.

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Peel Courtesy of Samuel Patthey

Nicolas Keppens’ 2D-animated “Easter Eggs” won the Jury Award for a short. In the film, two young men at a Chinese restaurant notice a nearby exotic bird cage has been left open, and decide to turn the negligence into a business opportunity by selling the animal.

The Jury also handed out a special distinction for direction to Annecy royalty and “Affairs of the Art” director Joanna Quinn. 24 years after sweeping the Special Jury, Ufoleis and Mellow Manor awards at Annecy 1987, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker was back with her iconic lead character Beryl in a new story of aging, body image, sisterly love and fond memories.

Having impressed at SXSW, Mélanie Robert-Tourneur’s “Hold Me Tight” scored the 2021 Jean-Luc Xiberras Award for a first film. In the six-minute short, two elfin silhouettes meet in an enchanted-looking forest and engage in a colorful carnal romance.

From the TV and commissioned films section, Guillaume Lorin’s French-Swiss co-production “Vanille” upset some major studio fare when it won the Cristal as this year’s top TV production. The 30-minute program follows its titular Parisian protagonist as she arrives on a holiday in Guadeloupe and is immersed in adventure with the local people and ecosystem.

“Japan Sinks: 2020” episode “The Beginning of the End” was the jury’s favorite TV series, turning on a family pushed to the brink when a series of massive earthquakes hits Japan. The show is adapted from an eponymous award-winning 1973 novel.

Hugo de Faucompret’s “Mum Is Pouring Rain,” about a girl who spends the Christmas holiday with her grandma while her mother seeks help for her depression, was the jury’s favorite TV special.

Among the first international European festivals to return to an in-person format, at least partly, the way this year’s event unspooled was a miracle, Mickaël Marin, CEO at Citia, the organization which runs the festival, explained to Variety as the fest wound down.

And the numbers back that up. In 2019, Annecy hosted a record 12,000 people, and those in charge were debating how big they should let the festival get. In 2020, a global pandemic took that choice out of their hands, but this year, with COVID-19 restrictions loosened, 4,000 on-site attendees were present. Those lucky few were matched by online visitors, meaning 8,000 people officially participated in this year’s event. 61 countries had representatives on the ground, with 96 represented online. Staggering figures, all things considered.

“We were lucky that the French president opened things up at the beginning of June to 65% capacity for theaters and that restaurants could open their dining rooms,” Marin explained with relief, pointing out that the atmosphere on site was more than they could have hoped for just with stricter restrictions.

“We had such a fantastic audience. You can imagine what it was like in the theaters this week. So many films received standing ovations,” he gushed, noting attendees’ excitement not only for the films they were seeing, but to be part of a communal viewing process again. He also pointed out that only one Work in Progress screening all week didn’t completely sell out, and that was an early-morning projection which still filled 95% of the allotted seats in the theater.

On Thursday evening, Annecy announced its first batch of winners from its Special Prizes selection, featuring several sponsored awards, prizes selected by special juries and a group of long-standing honors such as the City of Annecy (“Clara with a Mustache”), the André-Martin Award for a French Feature (“Marona’s Fantastic Tale”) and Fipresci (“The Shaman’s Apprentice”) prizes.

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The Crossing Courtesy of Annecy Festival

2021 ANNECY INTL. ANIMATION FILM FESTIVAL OFFICIAL SELECTION WINNERS

FEATURE FILMS

CRISTAL FOR A FEATURE FILM

“Flee” (Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden)

JURY AWARD

“My Sunny Maad” (Michaela Pavlátová, Czech Republic, France, Slovakia)

JURY DISTINCTION

“The Crossing” (Florence Miailhe, Germany, France, Czech Republic)

CONTRECHAMP AWARD

“Bob Spit – We Do Not Like People” (Cesar Cabral, Brazil)

CONTRECHAMP JURY DISTINCTION

“Archipelago” (Félix Dufour-Laperrière, Canada)

SHORT FILMS

CRISTAL FOR A SHORT FILM

“Peel” (Samuel Patthey, Silvain Monney, Switzerland)

JURY AWARD

“Easter Eggs” (Nicolas Keppens, Belgium, France, Neterlands)

JURY DISTINCTION (TIED)

“Affairs of the Art” (Joanna Quinn, U.K., Canada)

JEAN-LUC XIBERRAS AWARD FOR A FIRST FILM

“Hold Me Tight” (Mélanie Robert-Tourneur, Belgium, France)

OFF-LIMITS AWARD

“Tunable Mimoid” (Vladimir Todorovic, Australia)

TV SERIES AND FILMS

CRISTAL FOR A TV PRODUCTION

“Vanille” (Guillaume Lorin, France, Switzerland)

JURY AWARD FOR A TV SERIES

“Japan Sinks: 2020” “The Beginning of the End” (Masaaki Yuasa, Japan)

JURY AWARD FOR A TV SPECIAL

“Mum Is Pouring Rain” (Hugo de Faucompret, France)

COMMISSIONED FILMS

CRISTAL FOR A COMMISSIONED FILM

“Kai” “A Little Too Much” (Martina Scarpelli, U.S.)

JURY AWARD

“Help! We Have a Blind Patient” (Robin Jensen, Norway)

GRADUATION FILMS

CRISTAL FOR A GRADUATION FILM

“Hippocampus” (Zehao Li, China)

JURY AWARD

“Avant” (Marcell Mostoha, Hungary)

JURY DISTINCTION

“Butterfly Jam” (Shih-Yen Huang, France, Taiwan)

VR WORKS

CRISTAL FOR THE BEST VR WORK

“Replacements” (Jonathan Hagard, Germany, Indonesia, Japan)

SPECIAL PRIZES

FESTIVALS CONNEXION

“Beast” (Hugo Covarrubias, Chile)

JUNIOR JURY – SHORT

“People in Motion” (Christoph Lauenstein, Wolfgang Lauenstein, Germany)

JUNIOR JURY – GRADUATION FILM

“My Friend Who Shines in the Night” (Grégoire de Bernouis, Jawed Boudaoud, Simon Cadilhac, Hélène Ledevin)

YOUNG AUDIENCE AWARD

“Kiko and the Animals” (Yawen Zheng, France, Switzerland)

CANAL PLUS JUNIOR JURY

“A Stone in the Shoe” (Éric Montchaud, France, Switzerland)

FIPRESCI – SHORT

“The Shaman’s Apprentice” (Zacharias Kunuk, Canada)

ORIGINAL MUSIC – FEATURE

“Flee” (Uno Helmersson, Denmark, France, Norway, Sweden)

ORIGINAL MUSIC – SHORT

“The Awakening of the Insects” (Denis Vautrin, France)

ANDRÉ-MARTIN AWARD FOR A FRENCH FEATURE

“Marona’s Fantastic Tale” (Anca Damiaa, Romania, France, Belgium)

CITY OF ANNECY AWARD

“Clara with a Mustache” (Ilir Blakcori, Kosovo)

YOUTUBE AWARD

“Postpartum” (Henriette Rietz, Germany)

John Hopewell contributed to this article.