Animation Execs in Cannes Call for Festivals to Launch Socially Engaged Films

·3-min read

A panel of top animation professionals gathered in Cannes has underlined how festivals can help to promote a new generation of socially engaged animation films.

“It is one of the main launching pads for this very specific kind of film, which needs that kind of exposure. We have such strong industries in Europe, especially in France, and we need that exposure from the A-list festivals,” said panel member Eleanor Coleman, head of animation and new media acquisitions at Indie Sales, the Paris-based outfit that sold the Oscar-nominated “My Life as a Zucchini” around the world after it premiered in the Cannes sidebar Directors’ Fortnight in 2016.

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According to Mexican producer-director Miguel Uriegas (“The Stone Boy,” “A Costume for Nicholas”), the co-founder of Fotosintesis Media, which produces what he calls “cause driven” entertainment in Latin America, the major challenge is to make these films “sexy” at the distribution stage.

“It’s the same as any film – you need to focus on having a very good script. We work closely with local charities and civil associations to understand the topic. When we move on to distribution, it’s the same business model as any film, but we facilitate the link between local distributors and charities. In the end it’s all about marketing and how to make this [kind of filmmaking] a trend.”

Panelist Sebastien Onomo, the founder of indie outfit Special Touch Studios and producer of Annecy 2018 Cristal winner “Funan” with Les Films d’Ici, said authenticity is key and requires the right partners.

“We involved Cambodia during production [of ‘Funan’] and that was very important for us because we have an impact when we involve the country our story is based in. We try to do it in all our productions: we want to work with talent from these countries, help them grow and give them the keys to manage their own projects in the future,” he explained.

There was consensus among the panelists that, however specific the animation project, the audience – be it composed of children or adults – will respond if there is a good story.

“I was so impressed by ‘Flee’ in Annecy,” said Edward Noeltner, president of Los Angeles and Paris-based Cinema Management Group, referring to this year’s Cristal winner by Danish director Jonas Poher Rasmussen about a man who recounts for the first time his journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan.

“It’s a remarkable artistic achievement and also tackles a subject matter that’s very difficult but also universal. His journey would have cost a fortune as a live action film, but thanks to Danmarks Radio and the Scandinavian support system they had enough budget to make this movie.”

Ultimately, when it comes to children and family films, Noeltner says that while he “would like to branch out into more audacious, original topics, distributors are looking for a known IP with a new twist.”

“We finance all our films through pre-sales to distributors: we pre-sold ‘Ainbo’ to 28 countries. It’s a Peruvian-Dutch co-production. The idea is to take the audience somewhere exotic and we saw something very attractive in a movie made in Peru, set in the Amazon, with a strong female heroine, a lot of indigenous cultural qualities and a strong ecological message.”

“Ainbo: Spirit of the Amazon,” the story of a 13-year-old girl who sets out to save the endangered Amazon rainforest, has been a box office phenomenon worldwide and opened at No. 2 across Central America.

Part of the Cannes Film Market’s Animation Days in partnership with the Annecy Film Festival, the panel was moderated by Christophe Erbes, screenwriter and producer at Lyon-based Godo Films.

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