Conceived in 2019 and fielding its first call for projects at last year’s edition, Annecy’s Festival Residency program bore fruit this year, shepherding three projects to pitch sessions at the festival’s MIFA market. They benefitted from nearly six months of professional mentorship and institutional support.
“For some time, festival director Mickaël Marin and I wanted to turn Annecy into a creative outpost, a place where people could actually work on their projects as well,” MIFA head of projects Géraldine Baché tells Variety.
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“We reached out to filmmakers and producers to ask where we could offer the most help,” Baché continues. “Quickly enough we oriented this residence around graphic development, because that was the overwhelming response.”
“Often when filmmakers start a project, they are expected to advance too quickly, without the necessary time for reflection and experimentation. They have to rush into production because time is money, so we wanted to give them that time, to offer three months to come and explore, to test things and find a kind of visual identity for their project.”
At the beginning of the year, the three selected projects participated in a script workshop that ran from January through April, intended to iron out the screenplays’ last kinks so that once in the residency, the filmmakers would be in full control of the stories they sought to tell. Starting in early April, the filmmakers behind the three selected projects moved into Annecy’s Les Papeteries Image Factory for three months of tailored mentorships, trial and error and visual experimentation.
“We wanted to welcome the filmmakers into a convivial environment, to let them benefit from our expertise and our network,” says Baché. “Most of all, we want to offer time — time to separate from daily routines and constraints in order to develop their projects with greater freedom.”
A 15-year veteran of the animation industry, director Alan Holly worked with Pierre Hodgson for the writing workshop and Adrien Mérigeau for raphic development in order to hone this 2D drama about contemporary adolescent anxieties.
“In the foreground we have these interpersonal stories of teenagers struggling with their own problems and in the background we have the specter of climate change, and the larger issues that hang over the future of all young people,” Holly explains.
At the residency, the filmmaker looked to develop the film’s hand-drawn, aesthetic. “The idea is to explore the characters’ thoughts and emotions with a more impressionistic style,” he says. “In the day-to-day it will be painterly, mixing pastel colors that are a bit more muted. At the same time we have a parallel reality that deals with their unconscious fears and the threats that hang over them. This will be shown in much more saturated colors, where we see the characters in this sort of dark space that represents the issues in the world that oppress them.”
Founder of the Dublin-based studio And Maps And Plans, Holly made a splash on the festival circuit with his 2013 short “Coda.” This debut feature has received backing from Screen Ireland and has lined up co-production partners in France and Luxembourg..
Filmmaker Upamanyu Bhattacharyya worked with mentors Sébastien Tavel, Claire Fouquet, and Reza Riahi to bring texture to his 1960s-set story about a family in Ahmedabad, India pulled between modernity and tradition.
“The protagonist is a woman named Solal who is trying to upgrade her family business from heirloom fabrics to machine-made fabrics,” Bhattacharyya explains. Fearing hereditary illness, Solal wants to create as big a financial windfall as possible in order to assure her family’s future, while her husband wants to hold on the old ways of artisanship that he fears are a dying out.
“The 1960s were a very interesting time for India,” the director continues. “After obtaining independence a decade earlier, India was beginning to think what country it wanted to be… So this is the story of a family through this period of change – for them, for their business at large, and for India in general.”
The film will mix what the director calls “rough, imperfect 2D” to depict the various characters and environments in the present while using stop-motion techniques, where every frame is its own unique embroidery, to represent the past and the call of tradition. “When every frame is a piece of embroidery we have this opportunity to work with some talented textile artists,” the director says. “We tried some of that during the residency – working with teams back in India – and it looked pretty cool.”
“Le Cœur à danser”
Mentors Sara Wikler and Éléa Gobbé-Mévellec worked with Paris-based directors Pierre Le Couviour and Amine El Ouarti on the duo’s all-ages feature about a young girl at the end of WWI.
Set in Brittany in 1918, the film follows a 12-year-old girl who wants to organize a dance to celebrate the local men’s return from the front, not knowing if her father will be one of them. Through her discovery of Breton folklore and mythology, the young lead will reignite the passions that dimmed in her town throughout the punishing years of war.
“The film really engages with what it means to dance, to unite people, to go through life’s hardships together,” says co-director Le Couviour. “The film will treat darker subjects with a light touch, which is very much linked to the region. There’s something about that environment that we want to translate into the film, something celebratory about that way of life.”
Visually, the filmmakers will look to impart an impressionist style, dotted with little slashes of color.
“There’s so much atmosphere in that region,” says co-director Amine El Ouarti. “The rain, the sea – it sweeps you away. In our visual work we’re looking to translate that with touches of color, with blurred edges and an emphasis on the environment. We want to use the local lichen and flora as strong visual elements, using the young lead’s perspective to push for strong colors, giving the film something of a Fauvist look.”
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