Yes, it’s that time of year again. For the fourth time, I attended the annual animation event at the French Institute-Alliance Français, FIAF. This time it was totally digital and I watched at home instead of attending in person. Not only that, but the dates for the festival were extended, so instead of 3 days, now there’s 11 whole days!
I saw some great films and here are some titles I want to share. Since I had time to watch so many, I’m going to write 3 posts. One on feature films, another on shorts, and the final on my favorites. This post is on feature films.
Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary, 2020
Calamity, une enfance de Martha Jane Cannary
- A film by Rémi Chayé (with his co-writers Sandra Tosello et Fabrice de Costil)
- France and Denmark
- 85 min.
- In French with English subtitles
My quick take: The animation style is really simplistic; at first I thought this was created in MS Paint! But then I thought even if it was created in MS Paint, creating a feature film that way should be commended.
1863, a convoy in the American West, Martha Jane needs to learn how to take care of horses to drive the family wagon. Except she ends up wearing pants and cutting her hair. The scandal that its stark character provokes will force to face all the dangers in a gigantic and wild world where everything is possible.
Despite the film being based on a real person, it seemed very original. And even though the characters are meant to be American, the lead female character Jane had a certain “French woman” quality I feel I’ve recognized in other films, not just animation: a little spunky, a little independent, someone who takes charge of her life. I could be overgeneralizing.
Learn more about this film on the FIAF site, cineuropa.org, or by watching the making of video below.
Making of Calamity Jane with Rémi Chayé
You can also watch an interview with the director, on the FIAF Facebook page.
They talked quite a bit about the actual animation production. I wanted to learn more about the song at end, which was very poetic.
The Plague Dogs, 1982
- Dir. Martin Rosen, USA
- 86 min.
- In English
Quick take: Very dark, but I liked it. A selection from special guest, Wes Anderson.
In this stunning adaptation of Richard Adams’s eponymous novel, two dogs, Snitter and Rowf, break out of a research laboratory where they are repeatedly abused for testing purposes. Once free, they meet Tod, a cunning fox, who helps them survive in the wild. Though the lab director tries to keep the escape quiet, an increasing number of sheep are discovered dead and rumors that the dogs are carrying the bubonic plague start to spread.
This was one of the selections by special guest, none other than director Wes Anderson. As he says in the introduction, it starts off unsettling and basically stays that way throughout the whole film. It’s by the director of Watership Down, Marten Rosen, and like that movie it’s also quite dark for an animated movie. Not really for kids, even though they rated it as age 10+.
Also, the film has some pretty well known names lending their voices, including John Hunt, Christopher Benjamin, Nigel Hawthorne, Patrick Stewart.
- Dir. Aurel (Le Monde cartoonist)
- France, Spain and Belgium
- 80 min
- In French, Spanish, Catalan, and English with English subtitles
- Mature Audiences
A dying gendarme remembers his encounter with Catalan artist Josep Bartolí in a French concentration camp after the Spanish Civil War.
I really don’t know that much about the Spanish Civil War, other than it was neighbor against neighbor. I know Picasso made a famous painting about a bombing. But after I saw this film, I did a little research about the artist and looked up some of the camps. He lived a very interesting life, outside of his experiences in internment camps. The internment camps had people living in extremely poor conditions. Pretty sad. Very good film.
Aya of Yop City (Aya de Yapougon)
- Dir. Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, 2013
- 84 min.
- In French with English subtitles
- Ages 10 and up
Aya, a 19 year old girl lives with her parents in Yop City, a neighborhood in Abidjian. She spends time with her best friends Adjoua and Bintou. While Adjoua and Bintou like to spend her evenings dancing, drinking and flirting, Aya would like to become a doctor. Trouble starts when Adjoua realizes she is pregnant by Moussa who is the spoiled son of one of the richest and most feared men in the whole country.
I’m glad I made time to see this. Funny and with a few side stories here and there. It’s based on a comic by the same name, which makes sense because there are some real characters!
Isle of Dogs
- Dir. Wes Anderson, 2018
- 1h 45min.
- In English and Japanese
- Ages 10 and up
When, by executive decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, 12-year-old Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.
Ok, they snuck this one in last minute. I was not expecting to be able to see this at all, because it wasn’t on the list. But it was, of course, very entertaining. One of my favorite scenes is towards the end, where the boy character recites a haiku and everyone’s mind is blown.
That’s it for the full-length films I saw. Next are shorts!