After a year-long delay due to the pandemic, the Animation Is Film festival returns this year for its fourth edition, taking place Oct. 22-24. The festival will be held, as it traditionally has been, at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood and will feature a competition lineup of the best animation films of the year, as well as other special events.
“If you look at the lineup, you’ll see that there are titles … that have played at Sundance and Cannes and Annecy, and the festival is an opportunity for everyone to see these films,” says Matt Kaszanek, director, Animation Is Film. “We’re really happy with the lineup we were able to put together this year in the strange times of 2021, so we’re really excited for the program and we hope everyone else is too.”
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The festival kicks off with the North American premiere of the Netflix feature “The Summit of the Gods,” followed by an in-person Q&A with director Patrick Imbert. On Oct. 23, the centerpiece film features the West Coast premiere of GKids’ “Belle,” directed by Mamoru Hosoda, who will also do an in-person Q&A following the screening. The West Coast premiere of Neon’s “Flee,” directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, will close the festival Oct. 24.
“We don’t have as many filmmakers that are travelling this year, and obviously that’s a big part of the festival experience,” Kaszanek says. “We have a few directors that we were able to get to come out. Otherwise, we have people calling in to do a Skype Q&A after their screenings as well as having pre-taped intros just so that they can have a connection with the L.A. audience that’s coming to see their film.”
This year, Animation Is Film presents 12 features in competition and 20 pics overall, with shorts and a behind-the-scenes presentation of Disney’s upcoming “Encanto,” presented in person by director Jared Bush. The festival will also host the North American premiere of Funimation’s “My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission,” the third feature film in the anime franchise, offering a sneak peek to fans ahead of its U.S. theatrical release on Oct. 29.
Additionally, the festival will feature Studio on the Big Screen, a slate of studio titles that were not able to screen in a theatrical setting upon release and will be offered to cinemagoing public for the first time in Los Angeles. These include Pixar’s “Luca,” presented in-person by director Enrico Casarosa and producer Andrea Warren; Sony Pictures and Netflix’s “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” presented in-person by producers Phil Lord and Chris Miller and co-director Jeff Row; and “Vivo,” presented by directors Kirk DeMicco and Brandon Jeffords.
“The program is curated based on what’s playing. Everything on the lineup is something that’s been on our radar for years,” Kaszanek says.
Other features presented in this year’s competition lineup include “The Crossing” from Florence Miailhe; “The Deer King” from directors Masashi Ando and Masayuki Miyaji; Ayumu Watanabe’s “Fortune Favors Lady Nikuko”; “I Am What I Am” from director Haipeng Sun; “Josep” by political cartoonist Aurel; “Nahuel and the Magic Book” by German Acuña; “Pompo the Cinephile” from Takayuki Hirao; Yusuke Hirota’s “Poupelle of Chimney Town”; and “Where Is Anne Frank” from Ari Folman.
“One of the interesting surprises that occurs in any festival is when certain themes or patterns emerge organically,” Kaszanek says. “Films are made by individuals, but in a festival environment, it’s almost as if they’re given the opportunity to speak and engage not just with audiences but with one another. For instance, films like ‘Josep,’ ‘The Crossing,’ ‘Where Is Anne Frank’ and ‘Flee’ are all in our competition section, and each has something different to say about the challenges facing refugees in this world, historically and now. That wasn’t something we set out to program. It just emerged.”
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