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“The graphic world is transcultural”

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Marcel Jean • Artistic director, Annecy Film Festival


- We sat down with Marcel Jean, artistic director of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, which celebrates its 40th birthday from 13-18 June 2016

Marcel Jean • Artistic director, Annecy Film Festival
(© G Piel/CITIA)

Just a few days away from the 40th Annecy International Animation Film Festival (13-18 June), the artistic director of the gathering, Marcel Jean, offered us his enlightened take on the current state of affairs in animated film production across the globe. 

Cineuropa: What is in vogue at the 40th edition of the Annecy Film Festival?
Marcel Jean
: There is a real focus on the state of the world, especially when it comes to the shorts and film schools, which react more quickly to current affairs. A lot of films look at the topic of migrants, some talk about terrorism, and others focus on freedom of expression. There are clearly fewer comedy films than there have been in the past. There is also a strong interest the subjects of growing old, memories, and even death. 

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There has been talk in the industry of a resurgence in adult themes in animated feature projects, but these seem difficult to fund.
Creators have shown a desire for content aimed at adult audiences, but difficulties have arisen in selling and marketing animations that do not target the whole family. There’s a sort of reluctance, and you can clearly see distributors’ uneasiness as they go to great lengths to downplay the fact that a film is animated when it is aimed at adults. For example, when talking about an animated documentary, they will highlight its documentary aspects over and above the fact that it is an animation.

However, there is still an exciting range of styles.
Technological advances have made the technical stages of animated film production an awful lot easier. For example, The Girl Without Hands [+see also:
film profile
was essentially made with nothing more than a short-film crew, something that would have been inconceivable a few years ago. It has allowed for a wide range of aesthetics and formats, which the nine films in competition this year clearly illustrate: two films in 3D with an incredibly industrial approach and typically “Hollywood” frameworks (Sheep and Wolves and Snowtime!), two that are very much inspired by the form and aesthetics of documentaries (25 April and Nuts!), two completely hand-crafted projects with very modest budgets (The Girl Without Hands and Window Horses), two science-fiction titles (Seoul Station and Psiconautas [+see also:
film profile
) and one stop-motion film (My Life as a Courgette [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Claude Barras
film profile
). There’s so much variety! And if we include the out-of-competition features, the spectrum gets even wider and goes as far as to include the experimental film Un Rêve solaire. The industry is developing all over the world. This is why this year we have selected the UAE title Bilal and the Filipino film Manang Biring.

This creative energy generates increasing levels of competition in theatres.
This year, quality will once again be on show at the event with My Life as a Courgette and The Red Turtle [+see also:
film review
film profile
, which were very well received at Cannes, as well as Louise en Hiver (read the news), which will be unveiled at Annecy. The danger is that animated auteur feature films may find themselves restricted to the festival circuit, like the fictions that win awards at Locarno and Venice but remain practically unseen in cinemas. And this is before even mentioning platforms such as Netflix and the like, which have had a big impact on cinema attendance. We cannot proceed without proper thought or, even more importantly, action.

We often talk about the animated film industry as a sort of family. Is that Annecy’s secret for success?
The graphic world is transcultural. As animation is generally very labour-intensive, splitting the work between different studios and countries encourages co-production. Furthermore, the tax-credit systems that have been put in place in several countries rely more heavily on the labour aspect than on equipment, unlike other forms of cinema. Even US companies, which do not often look for co-production partners, sometimes wish to delocalise production. The best example of this is what is happening between Universal and Illumination Mac Guff in France. There is also an opportunity to employ talents from all over the world: when you go to Disney, DreamWorks, Sony or Blue Sky, it is almost like you are stepping into the UN! Talent makes the world go round, and you have to look for it, wherever it may be. Another element that draws US players to Annecy nowadays is the presence of 2,000 students and another thousand or so young professionals, most of whom are looking for work.

(Translated from French)


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