Feature contenders, Oscars 2022 Feature contenders, Oscars 2022

The eligibility period for next year’s Oscars may be slightly truncated, but that won’t mean a dearth of animated contenders. We’re halfway through the period, and festival audiences have already been treated to a healthy batch of fantastic films.

To qualify, a feature must be released between March 1 and December 31, 2021 (last year’s Covid delay ate into the usual year-long period). The Academy has opted to preserve most of the pandemic-induced rule changes for a second year. Notably, films can once again debut on streaming without being disqualified.

Below is a list of six independent animated features we expect to be submitted to the Oscars, based on the buzz they have generated (and, in some cases, on the U.S. distribution they have already secured). As we know and often lament, this category is all but sewn up by one particular entertainment conglomerate. But a nomination alone would be a deserving honor for any of these six.

The deadline for submitting animated features is November 1. Nominees will be announced on February 8, 2022, with the awards to follow on March 27.

Belle

Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Country: Japan
U.S. distribution: GKIDS

A teenager slips into a teeming virtual world and assumes the identity of a popstar in Hosoda’s techno-utopian take on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. The director has cachet at the Academy: his last film Mirai remains the only anime feature outside Studio Ghibli to have been nominated for an Oscar. So do serial nominees GKIDS, which will be aiming for its 13th nomination in the category.


Where Is Anne Frank

Director: Ari Folman
Countries: Belgium/Luxembourg/France/Netherlands/Israel
U.S. distribution: none announced

Folman puts a novel spin on the story of the young Holocaust victim, which will be familiar to most viewers, including Academy voters. The director burst onto the animation scene in 2008 with his sober war doc Waltz with Bashir, which was nominated for an Oscar — in the category of best foreign-language film. Where Is Anne Frank, which is in English, will presumably be angling for best animated feature.


The Summit of the Gods

Director: Patrick Imbert
Countries: France/Luxembourg
U.S. distribution: none announced

A Japanese photographer becomes obsessed with the mythic case of George Mallory, the pioneering mountaineer who went missing on Everest. Based on a manga drawn by the renowned Jiro Taniguchi, the film started strong with an official selection at Cannes (as did Belle and Where Is Anne Frank). It counts powerhouse French producer Didier Brunner (Oscar-nominated Ernest & Celestine) among its producers.


Cryptozoo

Director: Dash Shaw
Country: U.S.
U.S. distribution: Magnolia Pictures

Filmmaker and comics artist Shaw channels René Laloux’s Fantastic Planet in his sophomore feature, a freewheeling portrait (and indictment) of counterculture idealism. The story pits conservationists who protect mythological beasts against hunters who covet the creatures as potential bioweapons. Cryptozoo premiered at Sundance, where it won the NEXT section’s Innovator Prize and was picked up by Magnolia.


Flee

Director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Countries: Denmark/France/Sweden/Norway
U.S. distribution: Neon

This documentary about an Afghan refugee living as a gay man in Denmark may be the year’s most hyped indie title so far. Directed by a relative unknown in the animation world, Flee was officially selected at last year’s cancelled Cannes, then went on to win two awards at Annecy — including the top feature prize — and one at Sundance. It has also picked up a couple of star exec producers in the form of Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.


My Sunny Maad

Director: Michaela Pavlátová
Countries: France/Czech Republic
U.S. distribution: none announced

Afghanistan also figures in My Sunny Maad, a story of a Czech woman who moves to Kabul to be with her husband. The film is the first animated feature directed by Pavlátová, who was nominated for an Oscar in 1993 for her short Reci, Reci, Reci… It has started strong, winning the Jury Award at Annecy.

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