Annecy Unveils 2020 Official Selection
18 May 2020

France’s 2020 Annecy Festival, the highest-profile animation gathering in the world, has unveiled its main Feature Film competition and major Contrechamp sidebar.


There are no U.S. titles in either section: America’s presence, both studios and global platforms, will most likely make itself felt when Annecy announces its work in progress and screening events sessions from later this week.

The difficulties of transferring online a lineup with even works from prominent European animation auteurs, plus such Japanese franchise installments such as “Lupin III; the First” was seen Monday when the Annecy Festival confirmed that not all of the films in official competition and Contrechamp may be screened online in their entirety.

“In the event that certain films cannot be offered to all festivalgoers, we have requested the producers provide a minimum 10-minute extract or produce a short documentary presentation,” the festival said in a statement Monday.

Made up in the case of main competition films by Corinne Destombes, head of development at distinguished French production house Folimage, France-Presse journalist Benoit Pavan and Dominique Seutin, the jury will of course see films in their entirety, it added.

In an Annecy official competition which, as usual, focuses largely on European and Asian fare, highlights look set to include Gkids North America pick-up “Lupin III: The First,” Ben Stassen’s “Bigfoot Family,” and two titles from celebrated French auteurs: Joann Sfar’s “Little Vampire” and Rémi Chayé’s “Calamity,”a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary.”

Asia accounts, notably for half Contrechamps’ lineup, with “On Gaku: Our Sound!” and Jae-huun Ahn’s “The Shaman Sorceress” as possible standouts.

From writer-director Takashi Yamasaki (“Always: Sunset on Third Street,”), “Lupin III: The First,” the latest heist caper featuring young gentleman thief Lupin III, subject of a big franchise in Japan, was acquired for North America in late March by Gkids, the principal U.S. distributor of upscale -and often Oscar nominated – animated movies.

Sold by Charades, and directed by pioneering 3D cineaste Ben Stassen and Jérémie Degruson, tiny tot skewing “Bigfoot Family” marks a follow-up to 2018’s “Son of Bigfoot,” which grossed a significant $50 million worldwide.

Presented as a work in progress at 2017’s Annecy, “Little Vampire,” based on Sfar’s own graphic novel, turns on the friendship of a tyke vampire and a human orphan, but is about “freeing the imagination, useful to overcome difficult realities,” Sfar told Variety.

Produced by French animated art pic powerhouses Maybe Movies and Sacrebleu Productions, like Chayé’s prior and admired “Long Way North,” “Calamity,”a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary,” is an exquisitely drawn portrait of a strong woman, here in the origins story of the making of free spirit Calamity Jane.

An Annecy winner in 1995 for “The Grey Bearded Lion,” Russia’s Andrey Khrzhanovsky,  a animation living legend, returns with “The Nose, or the Conspiracy of Mavericks,” described as a multi-level parable about absolute power.

Other main competition entries take in fairy tale “Ginger’s Tale,” from Russia’s Konstantin Scherkin,  “Nahuel and the Magic  Book,” directed by Chile’s Germán Acuña, a sea-set coming of age adventure tale exec produced by Oscar-winning Punkrobot Animation Studio (“Bear Story”); and “Kill It and Leave this Town,” Pole Mariusz Willczynski’s black-and-white feature debut. It weighs in as “one of the most nightmarishly original dystopian visions you are likely to encounter this year,” Jessica Kiang wrote in her Variety review.

“7 Day’s War,” from Japan’s Yuta Murano, is a modern-day anime update of a classic 1980s novel and live action film about a high-school students’ rebellion;

Animation movies can come from pretty well anywhere, however. This year’s feature film competition also frames “Jungle Beat: The Movie,” from Mauritius’ Brent Dawes, a family-friendly animals and alien adventure sold by Timeless Films.

In Contrechamp, Kenji Iwaisawa’s “On Gaku: Our Sound!” follows three troubled teens who set out to set up their own band. Based on Hiroyuki Ohashi’s eponymous manga, the feature made waves at its Ottowa Animation Festival premiere, topping Oscar-nominated and Annie winner “I Lost My Body” to take home best picture.

A 2016 Annecy works in progress project, Jae-huun Ahn’s “The Shaman Sorceress,” the tale of inter-generational religious clashing, returns to the Annecy a finished product which “doesn’t disappoint and should cast its spell on specialist anime fans,” according Maggie Lee’s Variety review. Wild Bunch handles international sales.

A Claymation comedy from Estonia, Mikk Mägi and Oskar Lehemaa’s “The Old Man – The Movie” turns on a farmer tasked with watching his grandchildren when all hell breaks loose, along with the a cow that must be milked ASAP to prevent an udderly macabre explosion.

Chile’s Crudo Films produce Ayar Blaco’s “Lava,” a traditional 2D animated thriller-comedy following a group of friends through an urban center after a mysterious signal is beamed to screens everywhere blanking people’s memories.

Dalibor Baric’s Croatian mystery drama “Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus,” produced by Kaos, is an experimental feature turning on Martin, on the run, and Sara, an artist, who join a revolutionary commune with the police hot on their trail.

Latvia’s Ego Media produce Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen’s autobiographical documentary “My Favorite War,” the only title directed by a woman in the two main competitions. It turns on growing up in the Soviet Union during the Cold War and learning about truth under a flood of authoritarian propaganda.

A feature spinoff from Ping Zhang’s popular Chinese web series “The Legend of Hei,” this feature comes with a built-in millions-strong domestic fanbase. In a world of fantasy, protagonist Xiao Hei, a cat demon who can transform into a human, must relocate to the city after its home is taken as a result of deforestation.

Basheer El Deek and Ibrahim Musa’s Egypt-Saudi Arabia co-production “The Knight and the Princess” is a 7th century adventure love story set on the Indian Ocean in which young hero Mohammed Bin Alkassim sets off to free a group of kidnapped merchants, falling for Indian Princess Lobna along the way. Alabbas Hamidaddin produces.

Annecy also announced on Monday its virtual VR section, made up of seven titles, two directed by women.

Of announced works, part of this year’s VR section at Tribeca, Raqi Syed and Areito Echevarria’s “Minimum Mass,” which is co-produced France’s Floréal Films and New Zealand’s Like Amber, turns on a couple remembering their relationship to process the grief of a miscarriage.

Frances Adair McKenzie’s “The Orchid and the Bee” is a stereoscopic VR stop-motion experience examining genetics and evolution which previously participated as a WIP at Italy’s fast-growing View Conference. Also selected is writer Anna Biriulina and director Mihai Grecu’s “Saturn,” a dark adaptation of Spanish artist Francisco de Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. The VR experience is produced by France’s Barberousse Films.

This year’s Annecy Festival runs online June 15-30.

By John Hopewell, Jamie Lang