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‘Sultana’s Dream’ Kicks off Inaugural Edition of AniMela, Annecy-Backed Indian Animation Festival

A screening of Isabel Herguera’s San Sebastian winner “Sultana’s Dream” will kickstart the inaugural edition of AniMela, India’s first-ever international festival for animation, VFX, XR, gaming and comics, in Mumbai.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Herguera, alongside her Spanish and Indian crew, including Indian animation expert Upamanyu Bhattacharyya. AniMela’s film program includes features “The Peasants,” “Slide,” “Josep,” “Calamity,” “Unicorn Wars,” “Hokkyoku Hyakkaten No – Concierge San,” “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” and shorts under the thematic headings “India Collection,” “Queer Collection” and “Diversity & Identity: Dutch Shorts.”

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AniMela’s Knowledge Center hosts workshops, panel discussions and masterclasses with Indian and international stalwarts from the animation, VFX and gaming industries including Annecy Festival director Mickaël Marin, Annecy Film Market director Veronique Encrenaz, VFX Supervisor Srinivas Mohan and filmmaker and educator Nina Sabnani. Highlights include a behind the scenes look at Milind D. Shinde’s “Bandits of Golak” – a Star Wars story with an Indian twist; the VFX of blockbusters “RRR” and “Baahubali”; and an insight into publishing comics with Abhijeet Kini, Anand R.K. and Bharath Murthy. A panel discussion on making independent VFX and animation films in India features Gitanjali Rao, Shilpa Ranade and Anamika Haksar in conversation with Soumitra Ranade.

Events also include a panel on the potential of XR with Ashwin D. Silva (MD, Accenture), Rahat Kulshreshtha (CEO, Quidich Innovation Labs), Chaitanya Chinchlikar (VP, Whistling Woods International) and Neeraj Roy (founder, Hungama); another where NVIDIA experts Sasikumar R. and Sunil Patel discuss the impact of generative AI on content creation; and “Chhota Bheem” creator Rajiv Chilaka offering an insight into what a technical shift from animation to live action looks like. The “Distribution Decoded: Navigating the Animation Film Market” session is conducted by Miyu Distribution CEO Luce Grosjean and “Animating Realities: A Stop-Motion Workshop” by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lachlan Pendragon.

AniMela is bringing the International MIFA Campus to India, as part of which five projects were selected for a four-day workshop that will be conducted by animation filmmaker Reza Riahi, screenwriter Johanna Goldschmidt and animation producer Delphine Nicolini. Filmmakers Ashutosh Gowariker and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, along with the mentors will judge the best pitch. The projects will also feature at an India pitch session at Annecy in June.

The three-day event that unfolds Jan. 19-21 is by India’s Aniverse and Visual Arts Foundation, which has partnered with the government of India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Annecy International Animation Festival in France.

AniMela festival director Kireet Khurana said: “India has immense potential of creating content at a caliber parallel to international standards. However, there exists a narrative gap in positioning India as a distinguished creator of global content. AniMela serves as a catalyst in sync with the government’s ‘Create-In-India’ initiative, endeavouring to establish a platform of international repute.”

Neha Jain, executive director at AniMela, added: “The prevailing perception among Indian audiences categorizes animation primarily as content for children, with a lack of awareness regarding adult animation. Likewise, there is minimal understanding of the potential and possibilities within VFX, Gaming, and XR. AniMela aims to challenge these prevailing perceptions, by increasing awareness and cultivating interest in these dynamic industries.”

Anne Doshi, artistic director at AniMela, said: “The festival empowers Indian talents and aspirants, fostering a vibrant cross-cultural exchange of ideas and encouraging exploration beyond their boundaries to cultivate a thriving creative community.”

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