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Studio Ghibli’s American Distributor Is Launching a New Festival That Could Change Animation in America

GKIDS has announced its ambitious new ANIMATION IS FILM festival, and it looks promising. Plus: More festival highlights.

“My Life as a Zucchini”

Our weekly Film Festival Roundup column explores notable stories and news updates from the circuit. Check out last week’s Roundup right here.

Producer and distributor GKIDS has a big idea for the animated world, best expressed in three little words: ANIMATION IS FILM. It’s both a philosophy and the name of a newly announced festival cooked by the company best known for bringing animated offerings from Studio Ghibli and other rising stars (think “My Life as a Zucchini” and “My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea”) to domestic screens. GKIDS will launch the festival this October in partnership with both France’s own Annecy International Animation Film Festival and IndieWire’s sister publication, Variety.

Envisioned as an annual event, the inaugural edition of the festival will run October 20 – 22 at the TCL Chinese 6 Theater in Hollywood (better known to most as Mann’s Chinese Theater), complete with a showcase of 20 programs that includes feature films in competition, special presentations, retrospectives and short film programs.

ANIMATION IS FILM has been designed with a very specific goal in mind, to bring a world-class animation festival to the U.S. which, unlike Europe and Asia, is severely lacking when it comes to such annual offerings. Other countries boast animation-centric festivals like Annecy, Montreal’s Stop Motion Festival, the Ottawa International Film Festival, and the Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival, but the U.S. doesn’t have such large-scale events, instead festivals often screen animated films as part of other sections. ANIMATION IS FILM hopes to fill that gap and provide a new space for larger audiences to enjoy animated films in every form.

READ MORE: GKIDS Supercut Pays Tribute to the Indie Animated Film Distributor — Watch

But while the festival’s most obvious aim is to bring high-quality animated offerings to North America via a splashy new event, its official mission reveals that the fest is also focused on exploring other needs in the industry, including an emphasis on supporting female filmmakers and other underrepresented groups. ANIMATION IS FILM doesn’t just want to screen the best in animation to its audience, it also wants to highlight and explore up-and-coming talents, new styles of work, and push past traditional ideas of the very medium itself.

ANIMATION IS FILM is built around five core missions, including “presenting a highly selective, annual showcase of the best new works of animation from around the world,” though it will also “champion and support filmmakers who use animation to pursue unique cinematic visions and who are unconstrained by conventional notions of what animation is capable of.” And those filmmakers? AIF hopes they can represent all sorts of creators, from female filmmakers to “filmmakers from a wide range of cultural, economic, and national backgrounds.”

In an official statement, GKIDS Founder and CEO Eric Beckman commented, “Creating a stateside film festival that recognizes the highest aspirations of animation as a cinematic art form has long been a dream of GKIDS. We are thrilled…[to] bring exceptional animated filmmaking from around the world to audiences.”

Beckman is joined on the festival organizing committee by Patrick Eveno, Mickaël Marin, Marcel Jean, Michelle Sobrino-Stearns, Steven Gaydos, Peter Debruge, and Fumi Kithara.

Check out the rest of our weekly Film Festival Roundup on the next page.

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