WIA’s Stories x Women Program Champions Diversity

WIA’s Stories x Women Program Champions Diversity

Alongside its annual World Summit at the Annecy Int’l Animation Festival, Women in Animation (WIA) has launched the inaugural edition of Stories x Women, a program aimed at increasing the diversity of voices in animation around the world.

Six delegations of filmmakers selected among a pool of candidates from emerging animation communities in Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America have presented their projects to industry experts in Annecy this week.

The two-member teams, which have to include at least one woman leading the project as director, producer or screenwriter, benefited from mentoring sessions with internationally acclaimed animation experts as well as one-to-one coaching sessions ahead of the Annecy pitch.

This first edition features filmmakers from Argentina, Colombia, Peru, South Africa, India and Thailand.

“La Sombra del Altiplano (“Highland’s Shadow”) is an Argentine project led by first-time director Paula Boffo, co-directed and produced by Annecy regular Patricio Plaza (“El Empleo” Annecy 2010, “Padre” Annecy 2014) of Ojo Raro studios.

Based on a graphic novel of the same name by Boffo, which won several national prizes in Argentina, it tells the story of Juana, an indigenous teenage girl from the Argentinian Highlands, whose sister is abducted by a trafficking ring. To rescue her, Juana makes a deal with dark spirits. As she turns into an anti-heroine and her power increases, so does her thirst for blood and vengeance, pushing her to the limits of her own humanity.

“Cotton Bottom Town” is a Colombian film directed and produced by Luisa Fernanda Velasquez, with Andrés Felipe Rodriguez co-directing. The film, which won the Mifa Annecy award at Ventana Sur in December 2021, turns on a group of children living in a city covered by a giant pink cloud of smog that turns adults into zombies. They must solve multiple mysteries in order to save themselves from their destiny of becoming adults.

A 2D animation for kids aged seven and above, it is described as a sci-fi comedy that explores joy, adventure and comedy. “Our intention with ‘Cotton Bottom Town’ is to empower kids to be kids, we believe that their unique point of view is key to changing the future and having new perspectives on the problems of adult life,” Velasquez told Variety.

“La Carpeta de Greta” (“Greta’s Journal”) is a project led by director and producer Elva Alessandra Arrieta Tabuzo and associate producer Saul David Anampa Mesias of Wuf Studio, Peru’s only stop-motion animation studio. Featuring characters made of felt, crochet and other fabrics created with Peruvian artisans, Greta tells the story of a five-year-old girl who spends her days exploring the world with her two best friends in the Peruvian highlands.

“It made a real difference to have a mentor,” said Tabuzo of the Stories x Women program. “It was really important on our journey to Annecy: We feel safe and prepared for pitching.”

“Rorisang & the Gurlz” is led by South African mother and daughter team Dr. Tshepo P. Maaka (“Three Teaspoons of Sugar,” Annecy 2020) and Kabelo Maaka, whose films focus on storylines with black female leads. A 2D project based on Kabelo’s own experience, it tells the story of Rorisang, who is bent on starting an Afropop band with her group of besties at an all-girls high school in South Africa but her conservative choir mistress needs to be swayed.

Also hailing from South Africa, “Pulane’s Adventures” is led by Buthano Pictures duo Nompi Vilakazi, who writes, directs and produces the film, and executive producer Tracy Stucki. A 2D animated film for children aged four to six, it tells the story of a curious six-year-old who goes on musical adventures with the African art her singing brings to life.

“There’s a whole generation of kids who aren’t particularly exposed to African art. It’s about making it more accessible and a part of popular culture. In the same way [Spanish] preschoolers would know a Picasso, we would like African art to be part of the conversation, too,” Vilakazi said.

“Gannu” is a hybrid 2D-3D project led by Indian writer and director Saraswathi Vani Balgam (“Life After Pi”) and Thai producer Aimsinthu Ramasoot.ç

Pitched earlier this year at the Asian Animation Summit, it follows the adventures of a group of children and their imaginary elephant friend, Gannu – a goofy, easily distracted genie, whose bag of magical seeds allows the children to open doors to adventures in worlds powered by their imagination.
In every episode, the children encounter real-life predicaments, and use the ideas gained through play to come up with solutions.

“Gannu doesn’t provide them with answers,” explained Balgam. “The children become the ones who learn to nurture their imaginary friend. I grew up in a home without many toys, so we pretend played with ordinary items. We wanted to show how small things make beautiful playgrounds for children.”

Co-hosted by WIA and the International Federation of Film Producers’ Associations (FIAPF), the Stories x Women program is sponsored by Walt Disney Animation Studios with support from Triggerfish Animation.

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