Celebrating France’s rich tradition as a pioneer of animation, the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), New York’s premiere French cultural center, is thrilled to launch Animation First, the first-ever French animation festival in the United States, which will take place Friday, February 2 through Sunday, February 4.
ANIMATION FIRST features special screenings and events for all ages, putting 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.
The festival will present 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. Also appearing will be festival patron and bestselling French novelist Marc Levy (If Only It Were True, adapted to film as 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, 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.
About French Animation
Animation has a rich history in France. Since its early beginnings in the late 19th century when Émile Reynaud projected his Pantomimes Lumineuses at the Musée Grevin in Paris, French filmmakers and artisans have experimented with puppets, cutouts, and stop motion, inventing important techniques along the way. Notable animated films have peppered the history of French cinema, from Émile Cohl’s Fantasmagorie (1908), depicting a stick figure moving through space, to Ladislas Starewich’s influential stop-motion Le Roman de Renard (1930), the first French animated feature film. Other acclaimed works have included the experimental Une nuit sur le mont chauve (1933), using a pinscreen machine invented by Alexandre Alexieff and Claire Parker; La Demoiselle and Le violoncelliste (1965), films that launched the career of Jean-François Laguionie (Louise en hiver, 2016); as well as Fantastic Planet (René Laloux, 1973), Le Roi et l’Oiseau (Paul Grimault, 1980), and Kirikou and the Sorceress (Michel Ocelot, 1998).
Today, France is Europe’s largest producer and the world’s third largest exporter of animated film. Renowned for stylistic innovation and an often artisanal approach, French animation continues to garner awards worldwide and spans a diversity of genres, from independent art-house successes The Triplets of Belleville, and more recently The Red Turtle, to films for mature audiences like Renaissance, as well as big-budget blockbusters Ballerina and the Franco-American Despicable Me franchise. Beyond films, France has carved out an important space in animated TV programs, web series, video games, and the rapidly developing fields of virtual reality and new technologies.
Animation First is co-curated by Delphine Selles-Alvarez, FIAF’s Film Curator, and Catherine Lamairesse, Director of Special Projects at FIAF, who said, “French animation has enjoyed increasing success worldwide in recent years, from the Oscar-nominated Triplets of Belleville to recent hits The Red Turtle and My Life as a Zucchini. With Animation First we are excited to offer New York audiences of all ages the opportunity to explore the breadth and diversity of animation in France, and discover an abundance of creativity across genres and techniques, past and present.”