Sat. Sep 26th, 2020

2019 Oscars: How the Best Animated Feature Race is Shaping Up [Part TWO: The Indie Contenders]

In this second preview piece on next year’s Animated Feature Oscar race, we turn our attention to the indie films that may stand a shot. Since it’s only April, many indie contenders will start emerging on two important upcoming occasions:

  • The Cannes Film Festival – May: traditionally, Cannes’ official competition has not been the best place for indie contenders to emerge but its Directors’ Fortnight – where MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI played two years ago – is a great launchpad for European indie animated fare.
  • The Annecy International Film Festival – June: it’s the largest animated film festival in the world, and last year saw LOVING VINCENT world premiere there as well as a number of other solid contenders including IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD and THE BIG BAD FOX AND OTHER TALES.

In this inaugural piece on this year’s potential indie animated films in the race, we look at already confirmed or close-to-be-confirmed GKIDS acquisitions, Cannes potential selections and more.


Acquired by GKIDS for North American distribution (May 11th), it won the Cristal Prize for Best Animated Feature Film in Annecy last year. It’s a PONYO-meets-THE LITTLE MERMAID story of sorts – a mermaid who, once music is turned on, develops legs and can walk.


Also from GKIDS, this is a romantic comedy anime film that didn’t do that well in Japan but could bring some light and fresh tome to the indie competition, known for more serious and grim themes.

      1. FIREWORKS

Two weeks ago, GKIDS acquired this film for a North American release and it’s interesting because it’s not from Studio Ghibli but from Shaft, a relatively new player in the industry. The film did very well in Japan, grossing over $25 million and surprised box office watchers by becoming the 6th highest grossing anime film last year. The film already screened at various film festivals and is a story that blends drama with fantasy and focuses on a group of friends who go on an unlikely adventure.


This is one of the strongest possibilities for several reasons. It is directed by Mamoru Hosoda who has previously directed such gems as THE BOY AND THE BEAST and WOLF CHILDREN. The film is already expected to become a major hit in Japan and focuses on a 4-year-old boy who feels his place in his parent’s affections threatened by the arrival of a baby sister, Mirai. Then she reveals herself as a girl from the future.


With an Iranian setting and a story that breaks all taboos in Iranian cinema (we saw the film at Annecy last year), this is an uncompromising film that needs to be handled with care. With the proper distribution it can go places.


Just as MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI marked an astonishing debut for Swiss director Claude Barras, CHRIS THE SWISS – also a debut feature for female director Anja Kofmel – could be one to watch out for. It’s a dense story with a political background and it comes from the director’s own personal recollections of a specific trauma that happened to her in childhood. It is being rumored for a Cannes Critics’ Week slot.

      1. THE TOWER

This is one of the most exciting indie animated films on the horizon and one that could end up at this year’s Directors’ Fortnight. Directed by Mats Grorud – also a debut feature – from Norway, this is a story of 4 generations of Palestinian refugees with a political background and a reflection on the Arab-Israeli conflict. It’s also stop-motion so it could be another MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI success story in the making.


Directed by beloved French director (and BAFTA winner) Michel Ocelot, this is one to keep an eye on and a strong possibility for Cannes. Executed as a period animated drama, the film will be distributed by powerhouse French distributor Wild Bunch and chronicles a series of kidnappings in Paris and features strange creatures and magic forces.

Stay tuned for our Cannes Film Festival coverage which will surely include some animated gems.

[author title=”Mina Takla” image=””]Mina Takla is a foreign correspondent for AwardsWatch and the co-founder of The Syndicate, an online news agency that offers original content services to several film brands including Empire Magazine’s Middle East edition and the Dubai Film Festival. Takla has attended, covered and written from over 10 film festivals online including the Dubai International Film Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Cannes, Venice and Annecy Film Festivals. He has been following the Oscar race since 2000 with accurate, office-pool winning predictions year after year. He writes monthly in Empire Arabia, the Arabic version of the world’s top cinema magazine and conducts press junkets with Hollywood stars in the UK and the US. He holds a Master’s degree in Strategic Marketing from Australia’s Wollongong University and is currently based in Dubai, UAE.[/author]

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