April 29, 2009
TwitchFilm is streaming the trailer for First Squad, Studio 4°C's latest project. According to ANN, the film was helmed by Yoshiharu Ashino, based on characters created by Russian artists Misha Sprits and Aljosha Klimov. Here's the premise:

It is 1942. The Red Army is putting up a violent and effective resistance against the German invaders. 14 year-old Nadya is a medium. In a deadly air raid the girl is shell-shocked. Recovering from her concussion, Nadya discovers her new gift – the ability to foresee the “Moments of Truth” - the most critical moments of future combat encounters, in which one person’s actions will decide the outcome one way or the other.

Nadya’s ability is indispensable for the classified 6th Division of the Russian Military Intelligence, which is waging a secret war against the “Ahnenerbe” – an occult order within the SS. The Ahnenerbe summons from the realm of the dead the powerful prince of darkness, Baron von Wolff. With him on their side they hope to change the course of history and achieve world domination. To oppose the Baron Nadya decides to enlist the support of her old friends from the beyond – the Pioneers of the First Squad.

This looks like so much fun: all the fantasy pseudo-science of a good conspiracy theory with things like cavalry battles in the snow and utterly terrifying men in pig masks. It'll also be interesting to see how this treats the "Nazi obsession with the occult" theme in comparison to something like Conqueror of Shamballa. The first reviews will be out this May, after Cannes.

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April 24, 2009

Cordell Barker's latest film, Runaway will premiere at Cannes during the International Critics' Week (May 14-22). Runaway was produced at the NFB and features a soundtrack by Benoît Charest, who is best known for his work on Triplets of Belleville.

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October 17, 2008

Michel Ocelot's Azur and Asmar had its US premiere tonight at the New York International Children's Film Festival, starting a five day run of the film at the IFC Center in Manhattan.

Ocelot, best known for his well-received previous film, Kiriku and the Sorceress, has created an engrossing fable with Azur, a film that links themes of racial and cultural barriers, immigration, prejudice and superstition with a resplendently rendered fairy tale.

Azur's art is both elegant and exotic; its characters navigate the film's Arabian setting as if Ocelot cut paper dolls from the pages of illuminated manuscripts of the Islamic Golden Age and brought them to life.

Complementing the film’s visual feast is a skillfully woven tale of two boys, one Caucasian (Azur), one Arab (Asmar), raised as brothers by Asmar’s mother, who regales the pair with tales of faraway lands and a fairy Djinn, who waits for a hero to free her from captivity. Azur is separated from Asmar and his mother, only to find himself in their company years later in an unfamiliar country where the fairy tales he heard as a youth unfold in waves of enchanting encounters, engaging characters and rich landscapes.

Azur and Azmar will be screened October 17 through 23 at the IFC Center in Manhattan.

Previously on fps
Azur and Asmar at Ex-Centris

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May 20, 2008

Waltz with Bashir looks like one of those films that could be simultaneously fascinating and trying. Fascinating because the Israeli autobiographical feature focuses on writer/director Ari Folman's experiences as a 19-year-old soldier in Lebanon during the early 1980s. Trying because feature-length Flash-animated films can, depending on how they're made, make your eyes bleed.

The key, of course, is the phrase "depending on how they're made." Watching the YouTube clip from the film, Waltz with Bashir might be quite watchable, and I'm always fascinated by documentaries that look at wartime through the lens of individuals rather than armies.

I am a bit irked by publicist Richard Lormand's claim in Israel21c that Waltz with Bashir is "basically the first animated documentary ever." Clearly, he hasn't read our first PDF issue, which focused on animated documentaries. And what about the more recent Persepolis, which was also autobiographical and the darling of independent animated cinema last year? It seems to me that everyone involved—including the article's writer—was so excited at the prospect of this film being a "first" that no one bothered to question the assertion. And besides, who bothers to fact-check articles on animation, anyway? Certainly not mainstream journalists.

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