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After a two-and-a half year hiatus, renowned Spanish producer Manuel Cristobal has returned to toon production, joining the team behind animated feature project “The Glassworker,” directed by Usman Riaz, and created by Pakistan-based Mano Animation Studios. 

“The Glassworker” marks the first hand-drawn animated feature from Pakistan. Scheduled for a 2023 release, the project has just scored a slot at this year’s Annecy Work in Progress showcase, a prestige selection which would earn the title considerable international profile. 

Targeting family audiences, the film is set in a location loosely inspired by Pakistan, telling the story of young Vincent and his father Tomas, who run the finest glass workshop in the country and find their lives upended by an approaching war in which they want no part. 

The arrival in their town of an army colonel and his young talented, violinist daughter, Alliz, shakes their reality and tests the relationship between father and son.

The love that develops between Vincent and Alliz is challenged constantly by the differing views of their fathers. It is a time when patriotism and social standing are considered more important than free thought and artistic pursuits. It is a time when love is just not relevant. 

“In ‘The Glassworker’ I found a film with a Japanese animation style and very moving story with hints of ‘Doctor Zhivago.’ The studio has a very professional team and, perhaps above all, a true author – Usman Riaz. He is indeed the driving force behind ‘The Glassworker’ and Mano Animation Studios,” Cristobal told Variety.

“I have devoted my entire career to discovering new talent and new directors and I have to say that I was taken aback at the quality of the project when we were introduced by a common friend,” he said. 

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Manuel Cristobal Credit: María Lorenzo

“Usman not only developed the story, but also took part in writing the script and the score, on top of creating the storyboards and directing the film. I am excited not only by ‘The Glassworker,’ but this being the first film by Usman Riaz – a new voice worth discovering. We are now actively looking for partners to make that happen,” the Spanish producer added.

For Cristobal, “The Glassworker” marks a big new professional challenge. “One of my proudest accomplishments is when Ghibli bought my film ‘Wrinkles’ and distributed it in Japan. This was the first and only Spanish film Ghibli bought. Ghibli and Japanese animation are admired worldwide and ‘The Glassworker’ is a love letter to them, but with its own unique point of view.” 

“The project involves young talented people, from a studio with an average age of just 27 years; 52% of them are women. It is a project full of surprises that encourages diversity in animation,” he said.

Usman Riaz first fell in love with Studio Ghibli and Japanese animation at a very young age, and recently fulfilled his dreams by founding – alongside Khizer Riaz and Mariam Riaz Paracha – Mano Animation Studios. 

The Pakistani studio now employs a select group of talented artists working to produce “The Glassworker.” The team has built a collaboration network that extends to Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, Peru, Argentina, the U.S. and the U.K.

Cristobal has produced to date 11 films, eight of them animated features. He has twice won the Jury Award at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival: In 2012 with “Wrinkles,” directed by Ignacio Ferreras, and with Salvador Simó’s “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles” in 2019. 

The Madrid-based producer has also snagged five times the Spanish Film Academy Goya award and won the European Film Academy EFA Award and the Platino Award -all in the best animated film category. 

He executive produced 2018’s “Another Day of Life,” by Raúl de la Fuente and Damian Nenow, which went on to win the EFA Award and premiered at the Cannes Festival.

Since Sept. 2019 Cristobal has been responsible for audiovisual industries in the Madrid region -”I accepted with great enthusiasm, aware that there was a lot to do, including setting some goals,” he said. 

Capitalizing on his experience, as Madrid’s regional government raised its support for animation, Cristobal has been able to increase the budget for projects by 89% and create schemes such as Madrid For The Goyas that allowed short films from the region to win in all three categories two years in a row. 

He also created the Madrid For The Oscars program that supported the Oscar winning short film “The Windshield Wiper,” by Madrid’s Alberto Mielgo.

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Mariam Paracha, Usman Riaz & Khizer Riaz Courtesy of Manuel Cristobal