"Nahuel and the Magic Book" "Nahuel and the Magic Book"

By this point, so many events have traded the crowded convention center for the safety of a virtual space that this new normal feels … well, normal. So it proved with the American Film Market (AFM), which held its 41th edition online on November 9–13, drawing together more than 300 sales and production companies.

AFM is a cornerstone of the independent film circuit, a crucial sales market where around $1 billion in deals are sealed in a normal year. This edition featured the usual array of business meetings, networking sessions, screenings, talks, and workshops, with the organizers going to great lengths to try to recreate some of the buzz and spontaneity of an in-person market. The shift to virtual brought at least one upside: more countries were represented among attendees than ever before.

The hundreds of films presented this year included dozens of animated titles. We’ve singled out seven, which struck us either because they have an interesting production background or simply because they look distinctive. Let’s hope they all end up on American screens …

Absolute Denial

Director: Ryan Braund
Producers: Ryan Braund, Bridge Way Films

A brilliant programmer develops artificial intelligence that takes on a life of its own in this hyper-indie effort from Ryan Braund, a former BBC director who wrote this film and animated it alone. British sales company SC Films International has picked up worldwide rights.

"Absolute Denial"
Ainbo: Spirit of the Amazon

Directors: José Zelada, Richard Claus
Producers: Tunche Films, Cool Beans, Epic Films, Katuni Animation

An Amazonian people’s way of life is threatened by outside forces in this ecological kids’ adventure. The visual world was developed in Peru and the animation was done at Katuni Animation in the Netherlands; the budget was $10 million. Sales are handled by Cinema Management Group.

The Great Detective Sherlock Holmes — The Greatest Jail-Breaker

Directors: Toe Yuen, Matthew Chow
Producers: Rightman Publishing, Simage Animation

In this adaptation of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, the renowned sleuth is reimagined as a dog (and not for the first time — remember Sherlock Hound, the anime series partly directed by Hayao Miyazaki?). A product of Hong Kong’s burgeoning animation industry, The Greatest Jail-Breaker has been well received by those who have seen it. All Rights Entertainment is handling sales.


Director: Stanislav Sokolov
Producer: Soyuzmultfilm

This stop-motion feature is one of the most ambitious projects ever to come out of Soyuzmultfilm, Russia’s venerable state animation studio. The story draws from the life and works of the German Romantic writer E. T. A. Hoffmann. Sokolov is a veteran animator, perhaps best known for directing many installments in the 1990s series The Animated Shakespeare.

Kung Fu Mulan

Director: Leo Liao
Producer: Gold Valley Films

This all-kicking, all-swiping retelling of the Chinese legend was released in that country in the wake of Disney’s own under-performing version. The emphasis here is on action and espionage, as the hero fights single-mindedly to improve her standing within the army.

Nahuel and the Magic Book

Director: Germán Acuña
Producers: Carburadores, Punkrobot, Levante Films

A young boy confronts magical forces — and his deep fear of the sea — in a story infused with the folklore of Chile’s remote Chiloé archipelago. Animation studio Punkrobot made waves when it picked up an Academy Award for its 2014 short Bear Story — the first Chilean film to win an Oscar. Nahuel played in competition at this year’s virtual edition of Annecy Festival. Latido Films is handling sales.

Running Man: Revengers

Director: Young Sik Uhm
Producer: Sidus Animation

Based on the eponymous animated series, which is inspired in turn by the hit Korean variety show, the film pits a cast of anthropomorphic animals against each other in a contest to find the magical Super Belt. Sidus Animation is the animation production arm of Locus Corporation, one of Korea’s largest content producers; its debut feature, the fairy tale spoof Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs, did well overseas.

Image at top: “Nahuel and the Magic Book.”