Neon/Participant’s Oscar buzzy animated doc, “Flee,” won the Grand Prize at the fourth annual Animation Is Film Festival, held last weekend at the TCL Chinese 6 Theater in Hollywood. This follows Sundance doc and Annecy animation wins for the Danish entry in this season’s international Oscar race.
“Flee,” directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, tells the true story of Amin Nawabi as he grapples with his secret past as an Afghan refugee on the verge of marrying his husband.
“In the touching and innovative documentary ‘Flee,’ Jonas Poher Rasmussen takes great care in sharing the personal history of an Afghan refugee. The filmmaker uses the process of animation to protect the identity of his subject, while also bringing an added layer to the material, capturing the impact of trauma on memory and identity in the process,” said Jury chair Peter Debruge, chief Variety film critic.
“Belle,” the GKids contender, from Oscar-nominated anime master Mamoru Hosoda (“Mirai”), took home the Special Jury Prize. The 2D reworking of “Beauty and the Beast” tells the story of Suzu, a shy 17-year-old singer, whose popular diva avatar falls in love with a beastly avatar within a virtual world and discovers a dark secret about his real life.
The Audience award went to “The Crossing,” directed by Florence Miailhe. Kyona and Adriel are separated from their parents facing the road of exile alone. They embark on a heroic journey which takes them from childhood to adolescence, before reaching a new world, free at last.
“With extraordinary visual imagination and technical skill, Mamoru Hosoda reinvents the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story for this century. In his telling, a teenage Belle finds her voice and takes a stand on an important social issue,” added Debruge.
AIF kicked off opening night with the North American premiere of Netflix’s “The Summit of the Gods” (opening November 24 in select theaters and streaming November 30), the breathtaking French 2D feature about scaling Mount Everest from director Patrick Imbert (“The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales”).
In addition, AIF hosted multiple special events, including a behind-the-scenes look at Disney’s “Encanto” (November 24), the fantasy musical set in a magical Columbian village, with eight songs from Lin-Manual Miranda, and directed by Jared Bush, Byron Howard, and Charise Castro Smith.
“At a time when audiences everywhere are still easing back into theaters, we were positively awestruck by the steady hum of enthusiasm on display this weekend at Animation Is Film,” said AIF director Matt Kaszanek. “With sold-out screenings every day of the festival, Los Angeles announced itself once again as an epicenter for cinema and animation lovers. We were so happy to see everyone again.”