Rachael Smith joins Annecy International Animation Film Festival comic-related "Mifa Pitches"

This year’s Annecy International Animation Film Festival, taking place 14th – 19th June 2021, both in the French city and online, includes the annual Mifa Pitches, which aim to showcase the best original animation film projects in development, part of the impressive programme that has expanded to include the work of comic creators, among them Britain’s Rachael Smith, Canadian creator Marie-Noëlle Hébert, French creators Théa RojzmanDidier Tronchet and Sandrine Revel, and others.

Initially in four categories – Feature Films, Short Films, TV Series & Specials and Digital Experiences – the Pitch Sessions are a privileged opportunity to discover the universes and work of creators in their own words and images, reflecting the diversity of young international creativity.

The connections between comics and animated film are not new, but the Annecy International Animation Film Market decided to showcase writers and their works (comics, children’s books, manga, graphic novels, etc.) as Pitches, in order to enlighten animation producers of their possible adaptations.

The sessions are designed to cross-over the arts and initiate possible adaptations between the comic strip and the screen, handing over the stage to creators after a selection led by an expert committee, in collaboration with several international comic festivals – Lyon BDQuébec BDLa Foire du Livre de Bruxelles, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and CairoComix.

The scheme is also in keeping with a regional approach to the arts in France, partnering with Lyon BD Festival and the Région Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

Each Festival put forward four works, both new and, as yet not yet picked up for adaptation in another medium. A selection committee of animation and comics professionals then explored the potential and interest of the works submitted and chose five works.

Grand Silence, written by Théa Rojzman, with art by Sandrine Revel, published by Glenat and nominated by Lyon BD is set on an unknown island, the location of a kind of giant factory that has been in existence as long as anyone can remember. Called The Grand Silence, the strange factory’s mission is to swallow the silent cries of children… In a tale for adults, as beautiful as the subject is sensitive, Théa Rojzman and Sandrine Revel deliver a powerful graphic novel that explores, pushing aside brutality or complaisance, a menacing problem that we prefer to ignore: sexual violence committed on children.

La Grosse Laide (“My Body in Pieces”), written and illustrated by Marie-Noëlle Hébert, published by Éditions XYZ and nominated by Québec BD, published in 2019, centres on Marie-Noëlle, who is ill at ease. Distraught that her body that is getting rounder and further away from the image that she aspires too, she loses her way. A deeply personal work, drawn entirely in pencil, this is a touchingly honest portrait, initially very dark, but from it springs light – and a breath of hope. The graphic novel was published in English by Groundwood Books last month, translated by  Shelley Tanaka.

Le Chanteur perdu (“The Lost Singer”), written and illustrated by Didier Tronchet, published by Dupuis and nominated by Foire du Livre de Bruxelles, centres on a librarian, a huge fan of 1970’s music, in the throes of a burn out, who gets the idea in his head to go looking for a singer that he used to adore – but who disappeared off the radar. After a wild goose chase, and despite his incompetence, he manages to locate his lost singer on an island in the Pacific, where he will also discover a little bit of himself.

Comment réussir sa migration clandestine ((“How to succeed in illegal migration”), is written and illustrated by Salim Zerrouki, published by Encre de nuit / LHE, and nominated by CairoComix. How do you denounce what Europe wants to ignore at all costs? Salim Zerrouki attempts to awaken the little humanity that lies dormant within us.

While the European Union finances the Libyan coastguards responsible for bringing migrants back to detention camps, yet prevents NGOs from rescuing boats in distress in the Mediterranean Sea, Salim Zerrouki is trying – even if it is upsetting – to face up to our responsibilities. Comment réussir sa migration clandestine provides essential tips on how to survive drowning, rape, torture and organ theft. Nine independent stories. Any resemblance to real facts is not accidental.

Stand in Your Power, written, illustrated and self-published by Rachael Smith, nominated by the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, is a collection of auto biographical comic strips made after going through a breakup, the comic creator attempting to get on with her new, single life. The comics deal with loneliness, figuring out who you are, moving on, dating, friendship, depression, love, and many other super-relatable things.

Annecy International Animation Film Festival (Festival International du Film d’Animation d’Annecy abbreviated as AIAFF) was created in 1960 and takes place at the beginning of June in the town of Annecy, France. Initially occurring every two years, the festival became annual in 1998, and is one of the four international animated film festivals sponsored by the Association Internationale du Film d’Animation (or ASIFA, the International Animated Film Association).

This year’s Festival, which will have many online events this year, will give special focus to African animation. Over the course of the Annecy Festival’s 60-year history, 47 African films have been in the Official Selection. But animation is currently booming on this continent, and the 2021 programming has taken note.

• Check out the Anecy Festival line up online at www.annecy.org