Sat | Aug 19, 2017

French animation festival a dual celebration

Published:Wednesday | November 9, 2016 | 11:00 AMMel Cooke
From left: Stefane Daley (acting executive director, Alliance Française), Kevin Jackson (president, Jamaica Animation Nation Network), Kemar McInnis (local animator), Ambassador Jean-Michel Despax, and Gillian Whylie, (President Alliance Française de la Jamaïque).
The cover art for Battledream Chronicle.
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The 2016 French Animation Film Festival was held over two weeks but still managed to span two months, after the official opening on Wednesday, October 26, screenings later that week, and then in early November.

The festival, organised by Alliance FranÁaise in Jamaica, was also intended to bridge distances among far-flung French-speaking countries.

Stefane Daley of Alliance FranÁaise said: "The main reason for putting on the festival is to promote French and francophone culture in Jamaica. And for this specific festival, October is the month of animation in France."

October 28 is International Animation Day, honouring film pioneer Emile Reynaud and animated comics being screened for the first time. This was done at the MusÈe Grevin, Paris, on October 28, 1892.

The French have followed through on their pioneering animation role and Daley said definitively that "the best animation comes from France". The country is also an international hub for animation, as the Annecy International Animated Film Festival takes place in Annecy, France, each June.

Naturally, France is a focal point for French-speaking countries and Daley said in selecting the films for the animation, one of the objectives was to screen productions from varied Francophone areas, including the Ivory Coast and Mozambique.

The four features shown were Adama (by Simon Rouby), Phantom Boy (Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli), Aya de Yopougon (Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie) and Battledream Chronicle (Alain Bidard). Jamaican animator Kemar McInnis' Restaurant Fuss and Ideas, were also screened.

Daley pointed out that the themes were varied, Adama being about war and a boy following his older brother, Phantom Boy being family fare, Aya de Yopougon providing laughs and Battledream Chronicle a sci-fi film which deals with slavery and the desire for freedom.

She noted that "these are all quality films, which have been nominated for or won awards. So although the festival is free, it is quality entertainment."

The festival was held at the Multi-Functional Room, main library, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, (the university's Department of Modern Languages contributing significantly to the accommodation) and Daley said this helped pull in audiences over the four nights.

With a full house on opening night and a "steady crowd" on the other three, Daley said the festival attracted not only people who came specifically for it but also passers-by. While Alliance Francaise did not experience increased registration during the festival, Daley said valuable contacts were made.

There is a possibility that the films will be shown again, but to a specific audience that might not have had a chance to attend the festival, which started at 7 p.m., nightly.

"We are looking at doing screenings for high school students. We are hoping to arrange some days for them to come in," said Daley.

For future stagings, Daley would like to have more input from Jamaican animators, pointing out that it is a free platform for exposure. She is also hoping to be able to access a larger room at UWI as the event grows.

The 2016 French Animation Film Festival was sponsored by Total Jamaica, Nationwide and the CHASE Fund, the Modern Languages Unit at UWI, Mona.