GKIDS’s Animation Is Film Festival Announces 10 Features In Competition Lineup
The lineup for the third edition of Animation Is Film (AIF), L.A.’s increasingly buzzy animated feature film showcase, has been announced. Ten films will play in competition at the festival, which runs October 18–20 at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
The event, which is produced by indie animation distributor GKIDS in partnership with Annecy Festival, Variety, and ASIFA-Hollywood, champions the sorts of artistically minded animated features that tend to get overshadowed in the U.S. by big-studio releases. This year’s selection includes works from Asia, Europe, and North America. Some are by noted auteurs, while others have built up plenty of hype on the festival circuit. Most are U.S. premieres.
These ten movies will vie for two jury prizes and an audience award. Curiously, nine of the 12 jury members served last year, too. In all, seven people have been on the jury at all three editions of AIF. This is highly unusual among film festivals, where the norm is to appoint an entirely new jury each year.
The program doesn’t end there: AIF presents an array of special screenings and events, too. Chinese box-office phenomenon Ne Zha will be shown out of competition, as will a newly-restored print of Hungarian Marcell Jankovics’s cult classic Son of the White Mare.
There will also be sneak previews of Frozen II and Netflix’s Klaus, a making-of presentation on Matthew Cherry’s short Hair Love, and more.
Read on for the full lineup of films in competition, along with official synopses — where we’ve covered the film before, we’ve hyperlinked the titles. A list of jury members follows. For more information and ticket purchases, head to the festival’s website.
- Weathering With You
(Japan, dir: Makoto Shinkai, prod. Genki Kawamura — U.S. premiere. Opening night film; filmmakers in person)
Weathering With You is the new film from director Makoto Shinkai and producer Genki Kawamura, the creative team behind the critically acclaimed, global hit Your Name. Weathering With You is the highest-grossing film of the year at the Japan box office, as well as Japan’s official International Feature Film entry to the 2020 Academy Awards®. With Tokyo flooding under unceasing rains, runaway teen Hokoda meets Hina, a mysterious girl who has the power to part the clouds and bring the sun.
- I Lost My Body
(France, dir: Jeremy Clapin — West Coast premiere. Closing night film; filmmakers in person)
From director Jeremy Clapin and Amelie screenwriter Guillaume Laurant, I Lost My Body is winner of the Nespresso Grand Prize in Critics’ Week at Cannes as well as both the Cristal for Best Feature Film and the Audience Prize at Annecy. In a Parisian laboratory, a severed hand escapes its unhappy fate and sets out to reconnect with its body.
- Bombay Rose
(India/UK/France/Qatar, dir: Gitanjali Rao — U.S. premiere)
The opener of this year’s Critics’ Week in Venice, Gitanjali Rao’s mesmerizing and lovingly hand-painted feature debut is an ode to a city and its cinema. Set in bustling Mumbai, the crisscrossing narratives of the different characters center on Kamala, a young woman attempting to escape her fate, in this vibrant celebration of memory, art, music, and color.
- Children of the Sea
(Japan, dir: Ayumi Watanabe — U.S. premiere. Filmmaker in person)
Children of the Sea is the latest feature from Japan’s Studio 4°C (MFKZ, Tekkoninkreet, Mind Game, Genius Party), with a score by award-winning composer Joe Hisaishi (Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro). In this ethereal fantasy, Ruka is drawn toward the sea by a haunting whale song and two mysterious boys, Umi and Sora. Little does she know she has been chosen as the catalyst of a cosmic event.
- Marona’s Fantastic Tale
(France/Romania/Belgium, dir: Anca Damian — U.S. premiere. Filmmaker in person)
Annecy award-winner Anca Damian’s new film is a beautiful and deeply emotional story of life and love, told through the point of view of a mixed-breed Labrador puppy. After an accident, Marona reflects on all the homes and experiences she has had. As her memory journeys into the past, her unfailing empathy and love bring lightness and innocence into each of her owners’ lives.
- No. 7 Cherry Lane
(Hong Kong, dir: Yonfan — U.S. premiere. Filmmaker in person)
The prince of sensual Hong King cinema, writer/director Yonfan (Bishonen, Peony Pavilion, Color Blossoms) makes his animation debut with No. 7 Cherry Lane, a surreal and dream-like tale of amorous attractions, set in a turbulent 1967 Hong Kong. When university student Ziming shows up for a tutoring gig, he becomes the object of fantasy for both his beautiful student Meiling and her mother, Mrs Yu. He takes Mrs. Yu to the movies and through a series of magical moments on the big screen, forbidden passions are revealed. The film won the prize for best screenplay in its Venice premiere.
- Ride Your Wave
(Japan, dir: Masaaki Yuasa — West Coast premiere)
Anime bad-boy Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game, Devilman Crybaby) is back with his fourth feature film, a heart-rending but uplifting tale of love and loss, that retains Yuasa’s slightly anarchic and subversive sensibility. Hinako is a surf-loving college student who has just moved to a small seaside town. When a sudden fire breaks out at her apartment building, she is rescued by Minato, a handsome firefighter, and the two soon fall in love. But just as they become inseparable, tragedy strikes.
(China, dir: Shengwei Zhou — U.S. premiere)
One of the most original and daring films this year, the unapologetically experimental SHe is a harrowing critique of a patriarchal society. In a dystopian world, male shoes, all black polish and metal grommets, are in charge, while the females, red high-heels with spindly vines, are caged and kept strictly for breeding purposes. Under disguise, a female breaks loose and attempts to move beyond her confines, but her attempt alters not only her fate but the very fabric of the society.
- The Swallows of Kabul
(France, dirs: Zabou Breitman, Elea Gobbe-Mellevec — L.A. premiere. Filmmakers in person)
In the summer of 1998, Kabul is in ruins and occupied by the Taliban. Atiq and Mussarat have been married for years and now barely talk to each other. He can no longer bear working as a guard in a women’s prison and she is in agony and suffering from an incurable illness. Mohsen and Zunaira are young and love each other. But Mohsen commits a foolish act that transforms their destiny.
- White Snake
(China, dirs: Amp Wong, Ji Zhao — West Coast premiere. Filmmakers in person)
One day a young snake-catcher names Xuan discovers a mysterious woman by a waterfall and saves her life. The woman has lost her memory and together they go on a fantastical adventure to discover her real identity. Conceived as a prequel to one of the most ancient and enduring stories in Chinese history, the box-office hit White Snake presents a sumptuous tale of trickster demons, deadly mythical beasts, assassins, wuxia action, and the promise of eternal love.
2019 Animation Is Film jury members
- Allison Abbate (EVP, Warner Animation Group)
- Suzanne Buirgy (producer, Dreamworks Animation)
- Justin Chang (critic, Los Angeles Times)
- Matthew Cherry (film & television executive, Monkeypaw)
- Melissa Cobb (VP kids and family, Netflix)
- Peter Debruge – AIF Jury Chair (chief film critic, Variety)
- Carolyn Giardina (editor, The Hollywood Reporter)
- Jorge R. Gutierrez (filmmaker, The Book of Life, Son of Jaguar)
- Jennifer Yuh Nelson (filmmaker, Kung Fu Panda 2 & 3, The Darkest Minds)
- Charles Solomon (critic and animation historian)
- Mabel Tam (VP and head film buyer, Landmark Theatres)
- Anne Thompson (editor-at-large, Indiewire)
(Image at top: “Weathering With You.”)