Annecy kicks off this weekend, and with hundreds of screenings, pitchings, workshops, panels, and parties, it’s impossible to see everything the festival has to offer.
In planning for the week ahead, we decided to pick out a few features that we’ve been looking forward to catching since this year’s lineup was first announced.
Below, in no particular order, we’ve picked eight features screening in either the main competition or Contrechamp lineups. The list is not exhaustive, and we’ll hope to catch many other films during this year’s festival.
Art College 1994, Liu Jian
- There has been plenty of buzz around this title since it premiered at Berlin back in February. We’re excited to see what all the buzz is about, but also thrilled that director Liu Jian will finally be back in Annecy with one of his films. Back in 2017, Lui’s Have a Nice Day was selected to screen in competition at Annecy, where China had been selected as that year’s guest country. However, on the eve of the festival, the Chinese government lobbied Annecy to remove the film from competition, a request with which the festival complied.
Mars Express, Jérémie Périn
- Anyone who follows European animation has had this title on their radar for several years. A gritty sci-fi noir epic, the few clips we’ve seen demonstrate all the hallmarks of what makes sci-fi so much fun. Périn, who directed the fantastic French animated series Lastman, previously explained: “One thing I’ve always loved in cinema is when genre films – science fiction, thriller, horror – treat the codes of these genres like a pleasant gift box in which the spectator can easily get their bearings because they know the codes.” To that end, Mars Express clips look familiar but also innovative. We’re excited to see what the full 85-minute feature has to offer.
The Inventor, Jim Capobianco, Pierre-Luc Granjon
- We singled this title as one of the Annecy projects that impressed us at last year’s event. This year, the finished film will screen in the main competition. The Inventor is the latest project from Disney and Pixar veteran Jim Capobianco (who shared an Oscar nomination for Ratatouille’s screenplay) and Pierre-Luc Granjon (Poppety in the Fall, The White Wolf). Using puppets that spark an instant nostalgia for classic Rankin/Bass holiday stop-motion fare, the feature visits time spent by Leonardo da Vinci as part of the French court in the years following his departure from Italy. In France, the inventor finds greater freedom to experiment on his timeless inventions and the company of the audacious Princess Marguerite.
Johnny & Me – A Journey through Time with John Heartfield, Katrin Rothe
- Another mixed-media delivery, this documentary turns on graphic designer Stefanie, who is having a creative crisis. During a visit to a museum, she is enchanted by the satirical photomontages of Nazi opponent John Heartfield and magically transported into his studio.
Robot Dreams, Pablo Berger
- This one premiered at Cannes last month and was a favorite among critics and audiences at the festival. The film is Berger’s animation debut, although he is an accomplished director whose 2012 film Blancanieves (Snow White) is considered a modern Spanish classic. It won dozens of awards at home and abroad, including ten Spanish Academy Goyas. Distributors were impressed as well, and indie powerhouse Neon eventually scored U.S. rights to the kid-friendly feature with a bittersweet tone that should appeal to adults too.
Sirocco and the Kingdom of Air Streams, Benoît Chieux
- Another title that will be familiar to those who follow European animation, Sirocco pitched at many of the continent’s most important industry get-togethers on its way to opening this year’s Annecy. The fantasy follows the adventures of two young sisters as they try to make their way home after getting trapped in the world of their favorite book. The stills that have been released are stunning, and we can’t wait to see them move.
Lonely Castle in the Mirror, Keiichi Hara
- As is typically the case, Japanese animation is well represented at this year’s Annecy. One of the numerous standout titles from this year’s crop is Hara’s main competition player Lonely Castle in the Mirror. Not only is there a fair bit of buzz around this GKIDS pickup, but Hara is an Annecy regular who has impressed with previous films including Miss Hokusai and Colorful, the latter winning the Audience Award and a special distinction in 2011.
The Inseparables, Jérémie Degruson
- This cg-animated feature screening in the main competition was written by Toy Story scribes Joel Cohen and Alex A modern twist on the Don Quixote narrative, the film unspools in Central Park where an abandoned stuffed toy and a runaway puppet team up for an epic New York City adventure.
Pictures at top: The Inseparables, Johnny & Me – A Journey through Time with John Heartfield, Mars Express