‘Calamity,’ Sirocco,’ ‘Piano Player’ Shine at Cartoon Movie

Remi Chayé’s “Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary,” Benoît Chieux’ “Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds” and “They Shot the Piano Player,” from Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal, were among projects which caught attention at this week’s 22nd Cartoon Movie, which ran March 3-5 in the French port city of Bordeaux.

The presentation of “Calamity.” the awaited second feature by Chayé (“Long Way North”), registered the highest attendance of any pitch at the animation co-production and sales forum. Produced by France’s Maybe Movies and Denmark’s Nørlum and sold by Paris-based Indie Sales, “Calamity” tells the story of Martha Jane Cannary, a 12-year-old girl caring for her siblings in a wagon train heading West to Wyoming. A coming-of-age feature, it is also an origins story of the young woman would become the legendary Calamity Jane.

A buzz title in Bordeaux, sold by Film Constellation and re-teams Trueba and Mariscal who were Academy Award-nominated for thwart prior animated feature “Chico & Rita,” “They Shot the Piano Player” weighed in at Cartoon Movie as a 2D, genre-blending political thriller come musical come documentary. Jeff Goldblum will voice a New York music journalist attempting to explain the disappearance of young Brazilian piano virtuoso, Tenorio Jr. The film’s soundtrack will feature tracks from Brazil’s João Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil and Vinicius de Moraes. Excerpts shown in Bordeaux showcased Mariscal’s hallmark strong line-drawn style.  Fernando Trueba P.C. produces.

Produced by France’s Sacrebleu Productions (“Marona’s Fantastic Tale”), “Sirocco and the Kingdom of the Winds” tells the story of Juliette and Carmen, two audacious sisters discovering a passage to the universe of their favorite book: “The Kingdom of the Winds” where they will be transformed and trapped.

“Sirocco” will be directed by Benoît Chieux (“Aunt Hilda!”) who co-wrote the screenplay alongside writer director Alain Gagnol, co-creator of the Oscar nominated animated feature “A Cat in Paris.”

Among 66 presentations, titles sparking larger interest included “Verte” (Folimage), “The Inventor” (Foliascope, Leo and King), “The Neighbors of my Neighbors are Neighbors of Mine” (Lardux Films, Marmitafilms), “The Adventures of Pil” (TAT productions, France 3 Cinema, SND Films) and “The Island” (Aparte Film, Take Five).

The lineup underscored Europe’s ever stronger build in adult-audience-targeting productions – 21% of all pitches – despite such films’ only occasional breakout success in theatrical. In this sense, Cartoon head Marc Vandeweyer expressed his hope that streaming platforms would warm to animation for more mature viewers, such as Jéremy Clapin’s Oscar-nominated and Cannes breakout “I Lost My Body,” which was recently released by Netflix.

Many mature-audience features often framed political issues. “The Crossing,” from France’s Les Films de l’Arlequin, turn on migration; “The Hand that Feeds,” produced by Hungary’s Puppetworks Production – Hungary), proved a post-apocalyptic ecological fable; MAD Entertainment Italian feature “The Walking Liberty,” pictured a new world civilization; and “Hikari,” from DLF Austria, is a historical drama set in Japan.

Novels, graphic novels and animated movies are ever more frequently riding the same two-way street said Cartoon Movie director Annick Maes. “Verte,” for example, adapts Marie Desplechin and Magali Huche’s comic-book, “The Character of Rain,” derived from Amélie Nothomb’s novel; another title at Bordeaux, “Tafiti – Through the Desert,” Tradewind Pictures), derives from Löwe Verlag’s book.

Further Cartoon Movie pitches rework graphic novels, such as GLAD Production’s “The Unspeakable, a Lovecraftian Fragment,” ”The Shrew of Destiny,” from EGoFilm, Pan-Européenne’s “The Legendaries”and “Girl and Wolf,” produced by Sygnatia, and Hampa Studio.

Meanwhile, -Maes explained, publishers are increasingly  interested in acquiring rights to the movies, in order to fashion literary products.

The 2020 edition closed withVandeweyer, who co-founded Cartoon in 1987, announcing with typical discretion that he was retiring as head of an organization which he co-founded in 1987.

Vandeweyer will be replaced by Maes. Under Vandeweyer, the E.U. backed Cartoon has grown in step with the European animation industry, launching Cartoon Forum for TV shows, the transmedia-focused Cartoon 360 and recently Cartoon Springboard, devoted to young talent. In addition, Cartoon runs conferences such as Cartoon Business and Cartoon Digital.

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