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A New Animation Festival Launches, With Plans To Impact the Oscar Race

The launch of the Animation Is Film Festival in October could boost indie Oscar chances with added prestige and accessibility.

“The Breadwinner”

Animation

Aiming to make an impact this Oscar season, the inaugural Animation Is Film Festival from GKids, the Annecy International Animation Festival, Variety, and ASIFA-Hollywood launches October 20-22 at the TCL Chinese 6 Theater.

The festival will present a selection of new animated feature films from Asia, Europe, South America, and North America, with juried and audience prizes and filmmakers attending most screenings. Additionally, the festival will feature studio events, special screenings, short film programs, and a VR lounge.

AIF seems well timed: The Academy now allows all members to vote for animated features, using preferential voting. However, it remains to be seen what the dynamic will be in terms of mainstream versus indie nominees.

GKids, which has nine Oscar nominations (including this year’s “My Life as a Zucchini”), has seven movies in contention this season; four showcase in competition at AIF. The highlight is “The Breadwinner” (October 20), a coproduction of Ireland, Canada, and Luxembourg directed by Nora Twomey of Cartoon Saloon (“The Secret of Kells”), and executive produced by Angelina Jolie. Based on the best-selling novel by Deborah Ellis, it’s the first GKids co-production and concerns a young Afghan girl who poses as a boy to protect her family.

Other GKids movies in competition include “The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales” (October 21), a French farm tale directed by Patrick Imbert and Benjamin Renner (“Ernest and Celestine”); “Birdboy: The Forgotten Children” (October 21), a Spanish dystopian fantasy directed by Alberto Vázquez and Pedro Rivero; and “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” (October 22), a Japanese fly-by-night fantasy directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi.

“Big Fish and Begonia”

The other films in competition include “Big Fish and Begonia” (October 22), a surreal Chinese fantasy directed by Liang Xua and Zhang Chun; “Fireworks, Should We See It From the Side or the Bottom?” (October 20), a Japanese YA sci-fi fantasy directed by Noboyuki Takeuchi, Akiyuki Shinbo; “Lu Over the Wall” (October 22), the Japanese mermaid anime from director Masaaki Yuasa; “Mutafukaz (October 21), the French/Japanese sci-fi gangster mashup directed by Guillaume Renard and Shoujirou Nishimi; “Night is Short, Walk On Girl” (October 22), a Japanese rom-com directed by Masaaki Yuasa; “Tehran Taboo” (October 22), a German/Austrian political drama directed by Ali Soozandeh; “Tropical Virus” (October 21), a Colombian coming of age drama directed by Santiago Caicedo; and “Zombillenium” (October 21), a French graphic novel-inspired horror tale directed by Arthur de Pins & Alexis Ducord.

Variety chief film critic Peter Debruge chairs a jury that includes IndieWire editor-at-large Anne Thompson; Allison Abbate, executive vice president, theatrical animation, Warner Brothers Pictures; Bonnie Arnold, DreamWorks Animation producer (“How to Train Your Dragon” trilogy); director Brenda Chapman (“Brave”); and director Jorge R. Gutiérrez (“The Book of Life”).

Other films screening at AIF include “The LEGO Batman Movie” (October 22nd), “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (October 21st, in honor of its 80th anniversary); and “The Incredibles” (October 22nd, with a Pixar “Coco” sneak peek).

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