Online for the second year running, the American Film Market has its virtual infrastructure well in place. The 42nd edition of the mega-market is being held this week, drawing more than 400 companies that are looking to buy and sell new films.
Events like these are a good place to appraise the state of global animation: titles are presented that aren’t necessarily screened at festivals (though many are), and may never get distribution in the U.S. (though some do). Below, we’ve spotlighted five features at this year’s AFM from countries whose animation industries don’t get much exposure on these shores.
Welcome to Siegheilkirchen
Directors: Marcus H. Rosenmüller, Santiago Lopez Jover
International sales: Picture Tree International
Austria’s first animated feature is a bold one: a tribute to the late cartoonist Manfred Deix, who skewered the hypocrisies of his society as it emerged from the Nazi years. The story follows a Deix-like boy growing up in small-town Austria, who puts his talent for drawing to pornographic use; the character designs channel the artist’s distinctive caricatural style. Read our review of the film out of this year’s Annecy Festival, when it was still known as Snotty Boy.
Directors: Denis Belov, Ilia Kupriyanov
International sales: Riki Group
A thief hides a rare ruby inside a teddy bear who then comes to life, along with all the other toys in the store. So a bit like Toy Story, but Russian. The studio, Riki Group, certainly has form in hit animation franchises: it is behind Kikoriki, one of the country’s most popular kids’ shows. Russia’s market for family animation is growing fast: it is also represented at AFM by Wizart, which is presenting its feature The Warrior Princess.
Director: Erwin Budiono
International sales: Evolutionary Films
No relation to Riki Group: this feature is from Indonesia, and it comes with a conservationist message pertinent to its country. A poacher steals the horn of a Sumatran rhino — an endangered species. The rhino embarks on a quest to recover the horn, helping other animals in trouble along the way. Indonesia is only just beginning to create its own animation IP, little of which is exported. That may start to change.
City of Lost Things
Director: Chih-yen Yee
International sales: MandarinVision
An Annecy selection this year, City of Lost Things tells the story of a rebellious teen who discovers a fantastical land inhabited by animate pieces of junk. The film was presented as part of the Taiwan Pavilion; the territory is positioning itself as a production partner for international filmmakers and studios who want to tell Chinese stories while avoiding China’s regulatory obstacles.
The Old Man Movie
Directors: Mikk Mägi, Oskar Lehemaa
International sales: EuroObscura
Two kids are dropped off at their grandfather’s farm and promptly set his cow loose, so that — and it’s worth quoting from the official synopsis here — “the Old Man and his grandkids have just 24 hours to find the rogue bovine, before her un-milked udder explodes and unleashes lactopalypse, or before the mysterious Milk Man lethally disarms her.” More than just a curio, this Estonian stop-motion feature has pinched prizes at Fantasia and Anima.
Image at top: “Welcome to Siegheilkirchen”