There was a high level of projects from France (which leads the European animation scene by far, accounting for around one third of production), Spain, and the Nordic countries. Adaptations from literary sources were strongly represented - including works by Edgar Allan Poe, Joseph Conrad, and Stieg Larsson, confirming the European animation tradition of drawing from written art forms for inspiration.
The selection was extremely diverse in terms of styles and genres, although the more commercially lucrative children’s fare predominated. And of course much debate was centred on the overwhelming presence of 3D technologies – more on that coming up in my next post.
Myself though I was mostly curious, as many of the other attendees, about the presence of several high profile guests. Among them was Israeli director Ari Folman, there to present his new project-in-development The Congress. Moving away from documentary and into science fiction territory, it’s going to be a (very loose) adaptation of a darkly humorous short story by Stanislaw Lem, and done in a mixture of live action and animation. Actress Robin Wright will star as herself, and the sinister plot involves her selling her identity to Paramount Studios, which then starts sampling it to manufacture a chemical substance. For some reason this description brings to my mind something between A Scanner Darkly and Being John Malkovich.
Interestingly, in the wake of Folman’s critically acclaimed Waltz with Bashir, there was evidence of a continued interest in socially-engaged themes at the forum. The concept of the fictional I have understood you is to follow the fates of four young men during the events of the failed coup d’état in Algiers, French Algeria, in April 1961. 11 will be a series of humanistic narratives taken from actual writings by soldiers against the backdrop of the First World War. Approved for Adoption is the autobiographical tale of comic-book artist Jung Henin, recounting his experience as a South Korean orphan adopted by a Belgian family, and his later search for his roots - most likely to be compared to Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.
Meanwhile Sylvain Chomet, maker of the delightful Belleville Rendez-Vous, presented a special screening, an excerpt from his completed second feature. The Illusionist is based on a long untouched script by Jacques Tati, which was entrusted to Chomet by his daughter before she died. Needless to say that Chomet’s hand drawn and nostalgia-infused animated style fits perfectly with Tati’s unique brand of burlesque visual humour. The film recently premiered at the Berlinale and should start hitting European cinema screens by summer of this year.
Another big-name director, Patrice Leconte (perhaps best known in France for cult comedy Les Bronzés and internationally for Girl on the Bridge) put in an appearance to show some images from his first animated film Le Magasin des Suicides, adapted from the novel by Jean Teulé. Looks like it’s going to be a family musical with a large dose of absurdist comedy.
Each year CARTOON Movie also presents several “tribute” awards for outstanding achievement in the European animation sector. The awards are voted by professional attendees of the event, making them an important sign of peer recognition. This year Belgium and France came out top, with Directors Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar (Panique au Village), Production company nWave Pictures (Around the World in 50 Years) and Wild Bunch Distribution all named as winners.