The Buzz in Silicon Valley: Le Festival of French Animated Films

The Buzz in Silicon Valley: Le Festival of French Animated Films

While much of the world’s film festivals focus on films featuring human actors and actresses, Alliance Française Silicon Valley chose to feature French animated films for its film festival.

The first annual Le Festival of French Animated Films will be held in Mountain View on Friday and Saturday, December 4 – 5, and features three award winning animated films, plus an introduction to some new faces in French cinema.

Friday night starts with Ernest & Celestine, a story of an unlikely friendship between a mouse and bear. Screened at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, Forest Whitaker growls as Ernest’s voice, while Mackenzie Foy, known for her role in The Twilight Saga, is the voice of Celestine the mouse. Although normally enemies, these two find that their love for art brings them together as friends, although it’s a challenge to get there.

Saturday features Mr. Hublot, last year’s Academy Award winner for Animated Short Film. Mr Hublot is an overly organized man who befriends a puppy-like robot that upsets his structured life. Also shown will be A Cat in Paris, a 2010 adventure/crime film. A little girl who has lost her father, a creative burglar and a cat who brings them together puts a new angle on “cat burglar” and mystery solving. Half the fun is the cat and his burglar friend navigating the rooftops of Paris Parkour-style, with only-in-the-movies jumps, swings, rolls and vaults.

Mickael Coedel, Animation Director of Mr. Hublot, is the special guest for the event. He will open the festival on Friday, and continue on Saturday to lead discussions and Q&As about the nature of animation and where it is going. Coedel will present New Faces of French Cinema, a selection of nine short films from the Best of Annecy Festival. Max Bouchard, President of AFSCV, will also welcome attendees and assist with discussions.

“French animated films are a big part of (French) culture and our entertainment economy,” said Samantha Vansteen, Le Festival Director. “Every year the production in France is generous and varied, but a few (films) make it to the audience in the U.S., even though a lot of them make it to the Academy Awards, which is a paradox at some point. We thought that there was … an audience ready around the Bay for this kind of festival.”

Animated films are not new to France’s film industry. In fact, the French were pioneers in the technology of film and animation. Charles-Émile Reynaud invented the praxinoscope in 1877, a projection system that superimposed animated figures on separately projected background scenes. In 1892, he created Théâtre Optique, the first presentation of projected moving images to an audience. This beat Auguste and Louis Lumière’s first public performance of their projector by three years.

The “Father of the Animated Cartoon” is Frenchman Émile Cohl. A cartoonist and animator, he made Fantasmagorie in 1908, which is considered to be the first fully animated cartoon. It was made up of 700 hand-made drawings, which gave it a running time of almost two minutes.

Film animation today is digital-based, which reduces the manual labor required to draw each film cell, opening up the economics of an animated film. They are now often feature length, and attract big-name stars to voice the characters. More importantly, they tell deeply moving stories acted by characters that audiences grow to love.

So when Mr. Hublot, in his OCD manner, turns the room lights on and off, you can thank Messieurs Reynaud and Cohl for their original vision in controlling light on screen. But you can thank today’s French storytellers for the story of Mr. Hublot learning to love the robot puppy he saves from the street.

The Alliance Francaise Silicon Valley presents Le Festival of French Animated Films on December 4-5, 2015 at the Mountain View Center of Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA. For more information, click here.

Martha Sessums is the France Today Ambassador for San Francisco.

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Martha Sessums is the France Today Ambassador for San Francisco. Intrigued by France since her first stroll along the Seine, Martha and her husband often travel to Paris to explore the city and beyond. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, delighting in its strong Francophone and French culture community. She was a high-tech public relations executive and currently runs a non-profit continuing education organization.

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