"The Midnight King" "The Midnight King"

Cartoon Movie, the premier co-production forum for European animated features, was one of the last events to be held before the coronavirus shut everything down. If the organizers have their way, it may be one of the first to take place in the vaccine age. As things stand, the next edition is due to happen in person in Bordeaux, France on March 9–11, 2021.

In any case, the participating features, which are in various stages of development and production, have been unveiled. As ever, the line-up contains dozens of projects with great potential. Some we’ve covered before, including the Haruki Murakami adaptation Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman and the unusual Georgian title Igi. Most are entirely new to us.

Explore the full list here, and read on to discover five projects that caught our eye…

My Grandfather’s Demons

Director: Nuno Beato
Producer: Sardinha em Lata (Portugal); co-producers: Caretos Film (Spain), Midralgar/Marmitafilms (France)
Status: In production

"My Grandfather's Demons"

We’ve had our eye on this curious mixed-media production for some time. The trailer on the producer’s website shows the deliberately incongruous segue from slick 2d to earthy stop motion that follows the protagonist’s mid-life U-turn.

Synopsis: Rosa is a successful professional. The sudden death of the grandfather who raised her and the feeling of not having returned that love, bring her back to the home where she was raised. Thanks to a series of letters and clues she discovers that her grandfather left her an important task that will help her make peace with herself and others, while she repairs her grandfather’s past mistakes.


Starseed

Director: Anca Damian
Producer: Aparte Film (Romania)
Status: Concept

"Starseed"

The prolific Damian is attending this year’s event with not one but two feature projects. This one is in its early stages, so we know little about its graphic direction (other than that it mixes 2d and cgi) — given Damian’s tendency toward graphic experimentation, it could go anywhere. But the quirky synopsis alone has us hooked…

Synopsis: In a school in Zimbabwe there is Geekisde, a somewhat different little girl, isolated, having the appearance of an African albino. Bullied by other children but empowered by the love of her mother, Geekisde feels she is different and starts to believe that she resembles white people that live on other continents.

One day, Geekisde has a weird encounter in the forest with a spaceship. The albino girl enters a telepathic conversation with the space beings which let her know that she is one of them and has been sent to Earth to test the planet. When everything seems lost, the love of Geekisde for her mother covers the Earth with a translucent bubble and she eventually comes to save the planet.


The Midnight King

Directors: Maciek Szczerbowski, Chris Lavis
Producer: Autour de Minuit (France); co-producers: Micro_scope (Canada), Schmuby (France)
Status: Concept

"The Midnight King"

Under the name Clyde Henry Productions, Szczerbowski and Lavis have directed consistently interesting commercials, music videos, vr projects, and shorts, the most famous of which is 2007’s Oscar-nominated Madame Tutli-Putli. For their first feature, they are venturing outside their preferred medium of stop motion and into 2d animation; their regular collaborator, the musician Patrick Watson, is co-writing.

Synopsis: The Midnight King takes viewers on a magical, musical journey into a boy’s inner world. The story follows Leo, a boy who flees his troubled home and travels to an Enchanted Forest, only to discover his fears have followed him there. The woods are cursed, and only the powerful and mysterious Midnight King can save them. Here, Leo must confront his fears, make a terrible choice, and find a true way home.

Following in the tradition of The Dark Crystal, Princess Mononoke, and The BFG, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Chris Lavis and musician Patrick Watson present The Midnight King, a timeless, fantastical adventure that explores the light and the dark lurking in the secret spaces of childhood.


Sorya

Director: Denis Do
Producer: Special Touch Studios (France)
Status: In development

"Sorya"

Do’s first feature Funan premiered with a bang, taking the top prize at Annecy, before flopping at the French box office and making little impact elsewhere. But the Cambodia-set historical drama was admired by many who did see it. We’re curious to see what Do does with his sophomore effort, in which he returns to the country — his mother’s homeland.

Synopsis: Sorya, a young Cambodian woman aged 17 years old, arrives in Phnom Penh to work in a textile factory with her best friend, Lida. With a hellish pace of work and no talking allowed, Sorya is not a natural at sewing, unlike her friend who rapidly works her way up the corporate ladder. Sorya prefers the nightlife and city living of the capital.

One night, she is singing karaoke in Lucky bar. Everybody there is captivated by her voice. It’s the beginning of her path to stardom but between love affairs, friendships that are broken and then mended, desire and frustration, more trouble lies ahead for Sorya as she tries to find her path in life!


Seraphine

Director: Sarah Van Den Boom
Producer: Little Big Story (France); co-producers: JPL Films (France), Tu Nous ZA Pas Vus (France)
Status: In development

"Séraphine"

Raymonde or the Vertical Escape, Van Den Boom’s deliciously oddball stop-motion short about a lonely spinster owl, is still fresh in our memories, and we’re delighted to see that she’s making the transition to feature filmmaking. Politically flecked historical narratives are all the rage in European animation, but this is the first feature we’ve seen tackle the revolutionary Paris Commune and its aftermath.

Synopsis: Paris, Montmartre, 1883. Seraphine, 12 years old, leaves a monotonous life with Jeanne, the grumpy seamstress who raised her. She is obsessed with finding out who her parents were. Flanked with Mistigri, a street child whom she takes under her wing, Séraphine retraces the secret of her origins and finds it in the battles led by the people of Montmartre.

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