First-ever French animation festival in US to open in NYC

La Tortue Rouge (The Red Turtle), directed by Michael Dudoc de Wit. Image copyright Studio Ghibli, Wild Bunch: Why Not Productions; Arte France Cinema; CN4 Productions; Belvision

Celebrating France’s rich tradition as a pioneer of animation, the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), New York’s premier French cultural center, has announced that in February it will launch Animation First, the first-ever French animation festival in the United States. The festival will take place in New York City, Friday, February 2 through Sunday, February 4.

Presenting ambitious, innovative, and award-winning animated feature and short films, virtual reality, video games, and more coming out of France’s most exciting studios and art schools, Animation First features special screenings and events for all ages. It will put audiences in the front seat of 3D animation, works in progress, interactive workshops on drawing and sound effects, gaming demonstrations, and panel discussions with leading artists and studio executives.

Among the films to be shown are: a preview of Terry Gilliam and Tim Ollive’s latest project 1884: Yesterday’s Future; a rare Q&A and presentation of Oscar-nominated The Red Turtle with celebrated director Michael Dudok de Wit, the festival’s guest of honor; and the US premiere of En sortant de l’école, a collection of animated short films inspired by the poems of surrealist author Robert Desnos. International superstar and César-nominated actor Jean Reno (Léon: The Professional), who lends his voice to The Day of the Crows (Le jour des corneilles), screening at the festival, will be in attendance for the film’s Q&A along with bestselling French novelist and festival patron Marc Levy (If Only It Were True and film adaptation Just Like Heaven).

The opening night celebration, for all ages, is a special 3D screening of the beloved film Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants, followed by a kick-off party at FIAF. After the kids are asleep, adults are invited to stay for a nightcap as the festival presents Erotic Animation, where animators let their imaginations run wild. Sensual, erotic, naughty, poetic, or risqué, these fanciful and unconventional shorts celebrate passion, desire and fantasies.

Highlights of the film program include Michel Fuzellier and Babak Payami’s feature Iqbal, a Tale of a Fearless Child (Iqbal, l’enfant qui n’avait pas peur). Inspired by the life of Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani boy who became a spokesperson against child slavery, the film takes an imaginative, inspiring approach to a pressing contemporary issue; and Loulou and Other Wolves (Loulou et autres loups)a program of shorts based on the bestselling children’s book by writer and illustrator Grégoire Solotareff. Serge Elissalde, director of the short Loulou, will also be present for a Q&A after the film. Other programs include 3D animated short films with 3D festival programmer and director François Serre; the classic 1973 Cannes Film Festival-winning Fantastic Planet (La planète sauvage) by animation legend René Laloux; and Pioneers of French Animation, a ciné-concert with a live piano performance.

An exceptional partnership with the City of Angoulême, Grand Angoulême, Department of Charente, and Magelis will highlight the unique animation ecosystem thriving in the Aquitaine region of France. A significant number of the films in this year’s edition of the festival were produced in the region, which is home to several of France’s top-rated animation art schools and studios. In collaboration with SolidAnim, a French leader in virtual production, Augmented Reality (AR) will be used in all promotional material created for the festival, which marks one of the first times AR has been conceived for a major cultural project.

Click to view a festival trailer.

For ticket information and more, visit French Institute: Alliance Francaise online.

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