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Anim’ato Mada, a new workshop for animators, was announced at the Annecy Intl. Animation Festival on Thursday. Set to unspool from Oct. 24 through Dec. 4, it will allow 10 animators from ACP and Indian Ocean countries to participate in a mentorship program. The deadline to apply is July 31.

The International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF) and festival Les Rencontres du Film Court (Madagascourt) are behind the initiative, developed in collaboration with l’Alliance Française de Majunga as part of Clap ACP2, a support program for South-South co-productions. Clap ACP2 is EU-supported and backed by the Organization of Africa-Caribbean-Pacific States (OACPS).

“Launching Anim’ato at Annecy is about placing Africa on a world-class stage, because that’s where it belongs,” says Enrico Chiesa, Clap ACP coordinator.

“This program is ambitious, because it focuses on stop-motion, ambitious because it will last six weeks, ambitious because it aims at being Pan-African. All these factors are the ‘firsts’ when it comes to French-speaking African animation.”

Gender parity is also an important part of the project, as five men and five women will be invited to participate.

According to Chiesa, animation is a “strategic,” although still underdeveloped, part of the African film sector.

“Africa has a very young population and these viewers need to see themselves on the screen,” he notes, mentioning that at the moment, TV5 MONDE buys most of the animation series created in French-speaking Africa. Last year, OIF funded four animations with the Francophonie TV5 MONDEplus Film Fund, created with the support of Canadian and French governments.

African animation can also be easily exported, argues Chiesa, and it can create “synergies” between African countries, rendering co-production much easier than in live-action.

“Animation is costly to produce, but in the long run it’s also sustainable. It sells everywhere and lasts longer,” he says.

“There are a few animation ‘hot spots’ in Africa, apart from South Africa or Nigeria: Madagascar and Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Togo, Senegal and Burkina. They need to unite and it starts with co-operating and learning together. This is exactly why we support Anim’ato. It all starts here.”

Laza Razanajatovo, who founded Madagascar’s festival Les Rencontres du Film Court back in 2006, underlines that while the event has always tried to support animation, now, the participants will get to work together on a concrete project.

“These five men and five women are going to work on their respective projects, but also on a feature-length film that’s already in the pre-production stage. It makes it more interesting, because next year, hopefully, it will be in production,” he says.

According to the organizers, after completing the workshop the participants will be able to create and animate puppets, and learn how to work in a team producing animated features. The initiative is also aimed at increasing South-South co-production within ACP countries.

Razanajatovo points out that the workshop is for non-beginners, therefore excluding debuting filmmakers, and that its focus on stop-motion is not accidental.

“How do you define African cinema, African animation? I think that stop-motion could be one of the answers to this question,” he says.

“We want to work with African artists, using their sculptures. This way, you will be able to feel the ‘spirit’ of such animation.”

While international tutors will be leading the workshop (“We are working with people from Slovenia, France and Belgium,” adds Razanajatovo), Anim’ato will also spotlight his home country.

“Whatever I do, it’s for this island. We are a part of Africa, but we are also Malagasy! We are far from everything and all the funding we can apply for is in Europe. That’s why OIF’s idea of facilitating South-South production is a good one, as it will enable many collaborations between animators.”

According to Razanajatovo, Anim’ato will be held as an annual workshop.

“When two years ago we did some research about animation in Africa, [we found out that] in the last 15 years, Africa has produced just three or four feature films. It’s ridiculous. We want people to know that we are ready to play,” he says.

“The idea is to tell the world: ‘Something is happening in Madagascar!’ We already applied for the funding for next year.”