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Animation Is Film Awards 'Flee', 'Belle' And 'The Crossing'

Last weekend saw the Animation Is Film Festival return to its home in Hollywood's world-famous TCL Chinese Theater. Returning after a year off, the 2021 festival took place with full Covid protocols in place, and by all accounts was a rousing success. Festival director Matt Kaszanek said that sold-out screenings took place every day of the fest, proving there is a real appetite for animation fans to get back in cinemas.

The festival closed with the announcment of its prize winners, selected by both the all-star jury and by festival attnendees. The Grand Prize (chosen by the Jury) went to Jonas Poher Rasmussen's Flee. The innovative animated documentary tells the true life story of an Afghan refugee, and adds to its growing haul of awards that includes three Cristals from Annecy Festival, plus wins at Biografilm Festival,  Gotenborg Film Festival and Sundance. It will also be eligible to be entered for the Best International award at the 2022 Oscars as well as for Best Animated Feature.

Jury Chair Peter Debruge said "In the touching and innovative documentary Flee, Jonas Poher Rasmussen takes great care in sharing the personal history of an Afghan refugee. The filmmaker uses the process of animation to protect the identity of his subject, while also bringing an added layer to the material, capturing the impact of trauma on memory and identity in the process". Flee will be released in the US on December 3 via Neon.

The Jury's Special Prize went to Mamoru Hosoda's much anticipated new feature Belle. The anime autueur's new film has screened at other festivals including Cannes, Venice and London to much acclaim, and will be released in the US and UK early next year.

"With extraordinary visual imagination and technical skill, Mamoru Hosoda reinvents the classic Beauty and the Beast story for this century. In his telling, a teenage Belle finds her voice and takes a stand on an important social issue", said Debruge.

The Audience Award went to The Crossing, the fully glass-painted film from director Florence Miailhe following a pair of siblings escaping from an unnamed East-European country.

Animation Is Film is hosted by GKIDS Films in association with Annecy International and Variety and brings the international animation festival experience to the heart of Los Angeles and first took place in 2017. 

This year's in-person event was complemented by a virtual program, which included an in-depth conversation with Hosoda and a retrospective celebrating 30 years of Disney's Beauty And The Beast. The videos are still available to watch via the festival's YouTube channel.