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Mickaël Marin • Director, Annecy Film Festival and MIFA

"The desire for face-to-face events has never been stronger"


- The director of the International Animation Film Festival and its accompanying market, discusses the 2021 edition of the event which will unfold in hybrid form between 14 and 19 June

Mickaël Marin • Director, Annecy Film Festival and MIFA

Mickaël Marin, the director of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival and its accompanying MIFA market, discusses the 2021 edition of the event which will unfold in hybrid form (in person and online) between 14 and 19 June.

Cineuropa: During the press conference (read our article), you spoke about the 2021 Annecy Festival as a fighting edition, following the resilient nature of last year’s event.
Mickaël Marin: All year, we’ve had to wrestle with our doubts to ensure the festival and the film market both unfold in person, to some extent, rather than exclusively online. We’ve been through it all. When the 2020 edition, which was an online success, came to a close, we’d already imagined a hybrid version for 2021, telling ourselves that life would get back to normal, that people would be able to travel, etc. As the months and successive lockdowns went by, we explored every option with the understanding that while there was the slightest chance of being able to organise a physical edition, we would go for it. Ultimately, we’re enjoying a favourable window of opportunity; the end of the tunnel is in sight and with it, the potential return of audiences to Annecy, even if it would mean reduced capacity and rigorous sanitary conditions. But compared to 2020, it’s a small victory, and symbolically it’s very important - even with less people - that we find our way back to cinema auditoriums and that professionals reconnect with the film market.

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What are your expectations in terms of market attendance?
Obviously, our attendees will be mostly French, but Europeans will also take part in the event, as will non-Europeans, to some extent. We’ve totally reorganised things because we won’t have the usual marquees, and everything will take place in the Convention Centre, with private tables in different spaces, and regional and national mini-stands. We wanted to prioritise the possibility of meeting up and exchanging ideas. We’ve put the framework in place for what has once again become essential to the industry: talking to one another around a table. Professionals haven’t done this for a very long time, and they’ve been craving it for months.

Will the festival’s hybrid form continue in years to come?
It would be presumptuous to say that this particular way of doing things will become the new norm, because if there’s one thing that this crisis has taught us, it’s that nothing is ever a given, nothing is ever definitive. That said, for a little over a year now, we’ve been trialling various things, and if the online tools we’ve developed work we’ll try to keep them or improve them, if it makes sense for professionals, for films or for projects. But I think that, in the long run, we’ll get back to the level of physical participation we experienced pre-2020. What the hybrid model will offer going forward, however, is an option to take part in the festival for those who, for whatever reason, didn’t or couldn’t come to Annecy – all members of teams working on films in production, for example. This year, it will also open up access to professionals who want to come to the festival, but who are reliant on authorisation from their companies or constrained by the epidemic situation of their countries or by potential border restrictions. But even if the hybrid form remains a complementary option, the desire for face-to-face events has never been stronger.

Has the health crisis affected the number of feature films submitted for selection in Annecy this year?
No, we’ve received almost as many applications as usual. The most interesting thing is that in terms of the film market, which is steered by Véronique Encrenaz, there’ll be more projects pitched than in any other year. Somewhat paradoxically, or perhaps as a welcome consequence of the health crisis, there’s a lot of creation going on and Annecy 2021 will reflect this. There are also a number of projects - because it’s quite a strong trend in the industry right now - financed by platforms who are investing heavily in animation for children and for adults.

Has the postponement of the Cannes Film Festival, which will now take place after Annecy rather than before, had any impact on film selection?
It only affects a tiny number of films but these dates are definitely less favourable than when the Cannes Festival unfolds in May. But we’re adapting, I’ve spoken to Thierry Frémaux and Annecy will do the best it can, as it always does. Because the interesting thing about what we do, as opposed to a festival which prioritises live action films, is that we make the most of the long time it takes to produce animated works, so as to support them from the very beginning. We lend our support at various stages and, obviously, where possible, up until the very end. But we still have a few weeks left to round off the official selection announced by Marcel Jean, if we need to.

What about the absence of French feature films in competition in Annecy this year?
This is mostly linked to production cycles and delays, because even though it was easier for the animation sector to start back up during the health crisis, all film genres experienced delays in production. Last year, we had more French films in competition and, this year, they feature more as works-in-progress, even if there are a few French co-productions in competition. There is also the question of Cannes, which I’m not trying to avoid, but it’s not the main reason. You mustn’t forget that, generally, animated feature film production is far lower than that of live action films.

What are your biggest hopes for this 2021 edition of Annecy?
Meeting up in person is what we’re really pinning our hopes on. If we’d been thinking more rationally, notably in financial terms because badgeholder numbers, capacity, etc. all have an impact, and if we’d opted for the safer choice, we would have chosen to organise the whole thing online months ago. We didn’t make that choice; it’s risky for us, but the most important thing is that the films find their way to cinemas, that women and men directors can be united with their audiences, that these audiences can once again return to cinemas and that professionals can come together. We’re taking this risk, but we’re doing it for the common good and with a view to supporting the industry in the same way we’ve supported it for the past 60 years.

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(Translated from French)

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