About the 2023 Festival
“Animation First is an international celebration of all forms of animation. FIAF takes pride in offering NY audiences the best of animated Francophone programs through this annual festival, now in its sixth year.” — Delphine Selles-Alvarez, Animation First Curator
Presented by the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), Animation First is the only U.S. festival dedicated to showcasing the legacy and innovation of French animation. The festival’s sixth edition will run from Friday, January 27 through Sunday, January 29 and will present animated feature films and shorts, filmmaker conversations, “Work in Progress” presentations, video games, AR-VR experiences, student shorts programs, and more. This year’s Guest of Honor is Anca Damian, award-winning screenwriter and one of the most creative filmmakers working today. The program is curated by Delphine Selles-Alvarez, FIAF Film Curator, and Chloé Dheu, FIAF Film Coordinator. Catherine Lamairesse served as Festival Consultant.
- The festival opens on Friday, January 27 with the NY premiere of Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre’s Little Nicholas – Happy as can be, followed by an opening night party and the screening of Best of Annecy International Film Festival 2022 Shorts. Little Nicholas – Happy as can be is a charming rendition of artist Jean-Jacques Sempé’s and René Goscinny’s lives which co-exist within the fictitious adventures of the duo’s French children’s book character Le Petit Nicolas.
- The FIAF Gallery exhibition Signature Sempé, a selection of Jean-Jacques Sempé’s most iconic works, including quintessential drawings from his French children’s book series Le Petit Nicolas and his New Yorker cover designs, also will open on January 27.
- New Yorker artistic director Françoise Mouly, the Little Nicholas filmmakers, and Sempé’s widow Martine Gossieaux will join us on Saturday, January 28 for a conversation examining the allure and longevity of Sempé and Le Petit Nicolas.
- 2023 Guest of Honor, Anca Damian, will present the NY premiere of her mixed media animated film, The Island on Sunday, January 29. Following the screening, Damian will join us for a a conversation about the film and the augmented reality companion piece, In Search of Paradise.
- Other 2023 feature films include the NY premiere of Alberto Vázquez’s Unicorn Wars, an anti-war allegory; the U.S. premiere of Michael Ocelot’s The Black Pharaoh, the Savage and the Princess, three tales celebrating courage in the face of injustice; and the U.S. premiere of Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, based on short stories by Haruki Murakami, which will be followed by a Q&A with its director Pierre Földes.
- There will be two “Work in Progress” presentations. On Saturday, January 28, Iranian filmmaker Sepideh Farsi will discuss her upcoming film The Siren, which relays the story of a young boy living in Abadan. On Sunday, January 29, artist Cédric Babouche and producer Aymeric Castaing will discuss the inception of Dordogne, a unique video game that utilizes over 150 watercolor paintings to immerse players in the Dordogne region of France.
- New Francophone Shorts Program 1 and Program 2 will showcase films by new and established talent coming out of France and Canada today.
- Kid-friendly films include Little Nicholas – Happy as can be, The Black Pharaoh, the Savage and the Princess, The Island, Best of Annecy 2022 for Kids, Funny Birds and Shooom’s Odyssey.
- Throughout the festival, the FIAF Library will be free and open to the public to experience video games and virtual reality films from French studios and distributors. This year’s video game selection includes a first look at the Dordogne prototype, a demonstration copy of Chants of Sennaar, and A Plague Tale: Requiem, amongst others. The three VR experiences include The Starry Sand Beach (NY premiere), Seven Grams, and All Unsaved Progress Will Be Lost (U.S. premiere).
- The festival will closes on Sunday, January 29 with the U.S. premiere of Alain Ughetto’s stop motion feature No Dogs or Italians Allowed. Told as a fictional dialog between the filmmaker and his grandmother, the film details the lives of Italian immigrants who fled poverty and fascism. The film will be preceeded by a closing night party, the award ceremony for the third annual U.S. & French Students Short Film Competition, and screenings of short animated sequences created during the festival’s first ever Animation Jam.
- All shorts from the Student Short Film Competition, as well as a program of shorts curated by Christine Mazereau, head of RECA, the French Animation School Network based in Paris, will be available to stream online.
About Animation First
Created in 2018, Animation First is the only film festival in the United States dedicated to French animation.
Today, France is Europe’s largest producer and the world’s third-largest exporter of animated film. Since its early beginnings in the late 19th century when Émile Reynaud projected his Pantomimes Lumineuses at the Musée Grevin in Paris, the French animation industry has inspired filmmakers and artists. Their resulting experiments with puppets, cutouts, and stop motion, have been instrumental in inventing important techniques in cinema. Renowned for its stylistic innovation and an approach that integrates artisanal methods with technological ingenuity, French animation continues to garner awards worldwide and spans a diversity of genres. It is responsible for a variety of films from independent art-house successes such as Sylvain Chomet’s The Triplets of Belleville and Michael Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle to those for mature audiences like Persepolis and I Lost My Body to the Franco-American Despicable Me franchise.
Beyond films, France has carved out an important space in animated TV programs, web series, video games, and the rapidly developing fields of virtual reality and new technologies.