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Cartoon Movie Winners: ‘Mars Express,’ ‘Mavka,’ ‘Pesta’ Awarded, Eurozoom Named Distributor Of The Year

Paris-based Eurozoom – the independent outfit that has recently backed “Suzume,” “Four Souls of Coyote,” and “Fox and Hare Save the Forest,” among others – was named distributor of the year at the recently wrapped Cartoon Movie, which ran from March 5 – 7 in Bordeaux. “Mars Express” director Jérémie Périn and “Mavka, The Forest Song” studio Animagrad rounded out the winners, claiming respective honors for director and producer of the year.

All are familiar faces at the European animation sector’s largest co-production and pitch forum. “Mavka, The Forest Song” was presented in concept in 2017 and returned as an in development title the following year, while “Mars Express” presented in 2019, screened as a work-in-progress in 2022, then a sneak-peak last year before claiming the director accolades at this latest edition. And so, given Cartoon Movie’s fidelity to projects shepherded and nourished by the program, one can reasonably expect to the see the Eurimages co-pro development prizewinning team behind “Pesta” at subsequent editions.

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Engagement Matters

Directed by Hanne Berkaak and produced by Mikrofilm alongside Xilam and Knudsen Pictures, “Pesta” already emerged as one of this year’s breakthrough titles following a presentation that accented outreach and innovation on the narrative development front.

For their so-called “romantic folk horror” set during the Black Death, the filmmakers imagined a composite target viewer – an adolescent girl with hyper specific tastes and interests – and then went out to engage with social media users who fit that particular bill. Pulling from quantitative and qualitative analysis, the team could tailor an old-fashioned love story for modern expectations – finding narrative and thematic points of emphasis designed to resonate. Following their well-received presentation, the “Pesta” team knew their gambit paid off once Cartoon Movie’s throngs of student volunteers offered the most effusive praise of all.

‘Dom Fradique’
‘Dom Fradique’

Who’s Who in the Room

While this year’s edition welcomed just above 30 new buyers, the overall attendance has more or less plateaued around pre-pandemic numbers. That’s just how general director Annick Maes would like it, she explained at the closing press conference. Rather than charting exponential growth, Cartoon Movie wanted to the put “the right people” in the right rooms, keeping the event on a human scale in order to foster human connection. Majority Portuguese production “Dom Fradique” benefitted from this more intimate scale, as producer Luís Correia and director José Cavalheiro brought a project with years of visual development to a whirlwind two day conference and walked away with immediate (and, in fact, competitive) interest from international sales companies and distributors.

Buzz Begets Buzz

Czech/Slovakian co-production “Rosa & Dara and their Great Summer Adventure” and Belgium/Swiss “Rouxelle and the Pirates” drew the greatest proportion of buyer interest, screening to rooms where buyers accounted for more than 60% of those in attendance. Others standout buzz titles included Xilam’s “Lucy Lost,” “Rose and the Marmots” from director Alain Ughetto, “The Stone,” from Komadoli Studio and directors Joachim Hérissé and Marion Bulot, and the “The Wild Inside” from Patrick Imbert and Folivari. Meanwhile, projects like “The Little Run” from Piccolo Pictures and “Ogresse” from Miyu not only got people talking (and singing, and toe-tapping, as was the case in the latter presentation, which ended with an impromptu concert led by creator and co-director Cécile McLorin Salvant), they also fueled market activity. Both have presold to French distributors and both have sales partnerships imminent.

Two Fortnights Hence

Directors’ Fortnight artistic director Julien Rejl stayed busy during his time in Bordeaux, taking meetings and keeping highly visible. His participation came with a degree of symbolism, as this was the first time a Cannes emissary made the trek, though no more than a handful of the 55 projects presented this year would be ready for May. But Rejl was there to deepen relations with the animation sector, and to make clear that bold work would always have a lane on the Croisette. Indeed, Directors’ Fortnight recently brought on Alex Dudok de Wit as an animation consultant, while the programing team will screen between 15-20 animated submissions before they announce their full selection two fortnights hence.

Amel Lacombe (Eurozoom) – Valérie Yendt (Gebeka Films) & Marc Jousset (Je Suis Bien Content) on behalf of Jérémie Périn – Iryna Kostyuk & Anna Eliseeva (Animagrad – FILM.UA Group)
Amel Lacombe (Eurozoom) – Valérie Yendt (Gebeka Films) & Marc Jousset (Je Suis Bien Content) on behalf of Jérémie Périn – Iryna Kostyuk & Anna Eliseeva (Animagrad – FILM.UA Group)

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