One film ran away with the two top prizes at Hollywood’s second annual Animation Is Film Festival (which ran October 19 – 21): Denis Do’s intense Cambodia family survival drama “Funan” won both the jury’s Grand Prize and the Audience Award, selected by festival attendees. The Special Jury Prize went to “Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles,” co-written and directed by Salvador Simó, which follows surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel and his producer friend Ramón as they shoot an ambitious documentary on the poverty-stricken remote Las Hurdes region in Spain.
“’Funan’ reminds us that animation can tell any kind of story,” stated jury chairman Peter Debruge. “This versatile medium is by no means limited to fantastical or extraordinary subjects, but is in fact uniquely suited to incredibly personal ones as well. With ‘Funan,’ director Denis Do explores what his Cambodian mother experienced at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime, finding unexpected beauty within the horror of the situation. The jury agreed that the profound result actually feels more powerful by virtue of being made in animation. We were thrilled to watch all the films in competition this year, and to be reminded of the incredible diversity in subject, style, and sensibility to be found in this seemingly limitless art form.”
Debruge added, “We also chose to award a Special Jury Prize to ‘Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles’ for its innovative handling of unexpected subject matter.”
With over 5,000 guests in attendance this year, Animation Is Film hosted many sold out events including the Opening Night screenings of Mamoru Hosoda’s crowdpleaser “Mirai” and Nina Paley’s “Seder-Masochism,” as well as behind-the-scenes previews of “Ralph Breaks the Internet” from Disney and “Spiderman-Man: Into the Spider-verse” from Sony.
Produced by animation distributor GKIDS in partnership with Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Variety, and Fathom Events, the AIF festival presented a program of eleven new animated feature films in competition, with selections from Asia, Europe, South America, and North America, and filmmakers attending for most screenings.
The 2018 Animation Is Film jury chaired by Debruge included yours truly, as well as veteran animation producer and Warner Bros. Animation executive Allison Abbate; Melissa Cobb, VP, Kids and Family at Netflix; Carolyn Giardina of The Hollywood Reporter, director Jorge R. Gutiérrez (“Book of Life”); filmmaker Jennifer Yuh Nelson (“Kung Fu Panda(s) 2 & 3”); filmmaker Henry Selick (“Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Coraline”); critic and historian Charles Solomon; and Mabel Tam, VP & Head film buyer, Landmark Theatres.