GKIDS to Enter Four Pics in Oscar Race

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Indie distributors GKIDS announced today that it will have four feature films competing for the 2012 Best Animated Feature Oscar and Annie Awards. The distributor is planning Oscar-qualifying runs in November for:

- From Up on Poppy Hill (directed by Goro Miyazaki) (Japan)
- Le Tableau (directed by Jean-François Laguionie) (France)
- The Rabbi’s Cat (directed by Antoine Delesvaux and Joann Sfar) (France)
- Zarafa (directed by Remi Bezancon and Jean-Christophe Lie) (France)

To date, the company has received three Best Animated Feature Oscar nominations in the past three years with The Secret of Kells in 2010 and both A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita in 2012, marking the first time an independent distributor has had two simultaneous nominations in the category. GKIDS also recently announced pickups of Ernest & Celestine from Studiocanal in France and A Letter to Momo from Production I.G in Japan. These titles are slated to compete in the 2013 awards season.

GKIDS president Eric Beckman said, “It has truly been a banner year for international animation and we are extremely excited about our upcoming release slate. All four films are unique and wonderful, each in their own way, and we look forward to sharing them with Academy voters and audiences across North America.”

Here’s the official description for the four titles:

From Up on Poppy Hill

From Up on Poppy Hill

From Up on Poppy Hill

Animation, Goro Miyazaki, Japan, 2011, 91 min

The latest release from Japan’s legendary Studio Ghibli was the top-grossing Japanese release of 2011 and took home the Japan Academy Prize for Animation. The film was directed by Goro Miyazaki from a screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki, with Hayao Miyazaki supervising the production, marking the first feature collaboration between father and son. An English-language version is currently in production by Studio Ghibli with Frank Marshall executive producing. Voice cast announcement is expected within the next two weeks. Set in Yokohama in 1963, the film centers on a high school couple’s innocent love and the secrets surrounding their births. The story takes place in a Japan that is picking itself up from the devastation of World War II and preparing to host the 1964 Olympics – and the mood is one of both optimism and conflict as the new generation struggles to embrace modernity and throw off the shackles of a troubled past. The film’s rich color palette and painterly detail capture the beauty of Yokohama’s harbor and its lush surrounding hillsides, while the 1960’s pop soundtrack evokes nostalgia for an era of innocence and hope. The film will qualify in the English language version.

The Painting (Le Tableau)

Le Tableau

Le Tableau

Animation, Jean-Francois Laguionie, Japan, 2012, 78 minutes

French animation auteur Jean-Francois Laguionie’s latest work is a wryly-inventive parable executed in a stunning painterly style. A kingdom is divided into the three castes: the fully painted Alldunns who reside in a majestic palace; the Halfies who the Painter has left incomplete; and the untouchable Sketchies, frail charcoal outlines who are banished to the cursed forest. Chastised for her forbidden love for an Alldunn and shamed by her unadorned face, Halfie Claire runs away into the forest. Her beloved Ramo and best friend Lola journey after her, passing between the forbidden Death Flowers that guard the boundaries of the forest, and arriving finally at the very edge of the painting – where they tumble through the canvas and into the Painter’s studio. The abandoned workspace is strewn with paintings, each containing its own animated world – and in a feast for both the eyes and imagination, they explore first one picture and then another, attempting to discover just what the Painter has in mind for all his creations. The film will qualify in the original French language version.

The Rabbi’s Cat

The Rabbi’s Cat

The Rabbi’s Cat

3D, Animation, Joann Sfar & Antoine Delesvaux, France, 2011, 89 minutes

Based on the best-selling graphic novel by Joann Sfar, The Rabbi’s Cat tells the story of a rabbi and his talking cat – a sharp-tongued feline philosopher brimming with scathing humor and a less than pure love for the rabbi’s voluptuous teenage daughter. Algeria in the 1930s is an intersection of Jewish, Arab and French culture. A cat belonging to a widowed rabbi eats the family parrot and miraculously gains the ability to speak. Along with the power of speech comes unparalleled sardonic wit, and the cat – and filmmaker Sfar – spare no group or individual as they skewer faith, tradition and authority in a provocative exploration of (among other things) God, lust, death, phrenology, religious intolerance, interspecies love, and the search for truth. Rich with the colors, textures, and flavors of Mediterranean Africa, the film takes us on a cross continent adventure from the tiled terraces, fountains, quays and cafes of colonial Algiers to Maghrebi tent camps and dusty trading outposts, in search of a lost Ethiopian city. Joann Sfar is an award winning filmmaker (Gainsbourg) and one of France’s most celebrated comic artists. The film will qualify in the original French language version.

Zarafa

Zarafa

Zarafa

Animation, Rémi Bezançon & Jean-Christophe Lie, France/Belgium, 2012, 78 minutes

The French box office breakout from animator Jean-Christophe Lie (Triplets of Belleville) and live action director Rémi Bezançon (A Happy Event) was inspired by the true historical account of a giraffe given as a gift to King Charles X of France by the Pasha of Egypt. Under a baobab tree, an old man tells the story of the everlasting friendship between Maki, a little boy aged 10 who has narrowly escaped slavery, and an orphaned baby giraffe named Zarafa. Hassan, Prince of the Desert, is instructed by the Pasha to deliver Zarafa to France. But Maki has made up his mind to do everything in his power to stop Hassan from fulfilling his mission and to bring the giraffe back to its native land – even if it means risking his own life. During an epic journey that takes them from Sudan to Paris, passing on the way through Alexandria, Marseille and the snow-capped Alps, they have many adventures, crossing paths with the balloonist Malaterre, a pair of mystical twin cows called Mounh and Sounh (Moon and Sun), and falling into the hands of the fearsome pirate queen Bouboulina. The film will qualify in the original French language version.