Jan Kounen, Kate Ogborn, Lisa Marie Russo Among Work-in-Progress Pitches at Cannes Animation Day

"Epiphania" (Courtesy of Naia Productions AGTC - Sever)

The fourth edition of Animation Day, which is part of the Cannes Film Festival’s Market, will take place on May 22.

A one-day event aimed at the global animation filmmaking community, it is a joint initiative launched in 2019 by the Cannes Film Market and the Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival, in partnership with Animation! Ventana Sur, the animation branch of Latin America’s leading film market.

This edition will kick off with the Annecy Goes to Cannes pitching sessions, featuring five works-in-progress projects at various stages of development. Attendees will also be able to attend a morning panel discussion entitled “What Is Adult Animation Film’s Strategy and Where Is It Headed?,” which will address the question of the animated film offer for adults, both in theaters and on smaller screens, as viewing habits evolve.

Panelists include Dutch-born French filmmaker Jan Kounen (“Doberman,” “Blueberry,” “My Cousin”), who is also presenting his latest project “Epiphania” in the pitching sessions, alongside Sun Creature (“Flee”) co-founder and producer Charlotte De La Gournerie, Bruno Felix, founder and co-CEO of Amsterdam-based Submarine (“They Shot the Piano Player,” “Where Is Anne Frank?”), and Amel Lacombe, CEO and founder of Paris-based indie distributor Eurozoom.

Besides Kounen’s film, this year’s lineup of Animation Day projects includes Franco-Swiss co-production “With Closed Fists” by Jean-Jacques Kahn, Zoltan Horvath and Franck van Leeuwen, “Lollipop” by BAFTA and Emmy Award winning duo Lisa Marie Russo and Kate Ogborn from Fly Film, Ukrainian animation “Mavka. The Forest Song,” and “When Adam Changes” by French Canadian Joël Vaudreuil.

Based on a trilogy by graphic novelist Ludovic Debeurme (“Lucille”), “Epiphania” is a story about the arrival of a new hybrid species on Earth that disrupts the social order following a giant tsunami. The half-human, half-animal children develop a visceral hatred of human beings as they grow up: mistreated and threatened by humans, the Earth seems to have sent its own army.

The film is produced by Philippe Aigle and Séverine Lathuillière’s Paris-based Naïa Productions and scheduled for release in 2023.

With Closed Fists”

Directed by Zoltan Horvath (“Nosferatu Tango,” “The Last Day of Autumn”), Jean-Jacques Kahn and Franck van Leeuwen, and produced by Horvath and Nicolas Burlet’s Nadasdy Film, “With Closed Fists” tells the story of Victor Young Perez, who wins the World Boxing Championship in 1931 and experiences glory, wealth and passion. Perez is Jewish. Arrested by the French police in 1943, he is deported to Auschwitz and disappears during the “Death Marches.” The film is set to be completed in 2024.


Directed by Lisa Marie Russo and produced by her partner at Fly Film, Kate Ogborn (“The Spirit of ’45,” “The Deep Blue Sea”) and Vicki Rock of Belfast-based visual effects and animation studio Enter Yes (“Ordinary Love,” “Derry Girls”), “Lollipop” – named after a mastectomy surgery technique – explores the creator’s surreal odyssey tackling breast cancer, twice. Her avatar, Eva, slips into youthful memories of seaside attractions and sunshine, which morph into something dark and corporeal as she juggles family life and illness. “Lollipop” is scheduled for completion in 2024.

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Mavka. The Forest Song Credit: Film UA

Mavka. The Forest Song”

Ukrainian entry “Mavka. The Forest Song” is directed by Oleg Malamuzh (“Lascars”) and Oleksandra Ruban, and produced by Iryna Kostyuk, Anna Eliseyeva and Egor Olesov at Animagrad (“The Stolen Princess”), one of the leading animation studios in Eastern Europe. Several years in the making, the film was selected at Cartoon Movie in Bordeaux two years in a row – 2017 and 2018 – and is due for release later this year.

It tells the story of Mavka, a magical spirit responsible for protecting the forest from the outside world, who faces her greatest challenge when she meets a human for the first time and falls in love with him. Based on ancient Slavic myths and legends, it is inspired by the play “Le Chant de la forêt” written in 1911 by Lesya Ukrainka, one of Ukraine ‘s best-known poets. Faithful to her spirit, the film interweaves authentic and modern elements of Ukrainian culture such as mythology, literature, music and dance rituals.

When Adam Changes”

And finally, “When Adam Changes” is the debut feature length animation by French Canadian director, illustrator and musician Joël Vaudreuil, whose short “Le courant faible de la rivière” was nominated for Best Short in Annecy in 2013.

Produced by Québec-based Parce que films, it tells the story of 15-year-old Adam, whose body changes when he is teased or receives negative comments. These physical changes add an extra layer of complexity to his already challenging life as a teenager. The film is due out in 2023.