Calamity Jane (Calamity, une enfance de Martha Jane Cannary)
Calamity Jane (Calamity, une enfance de Martha Jane Cannary)

The French Institute Alliance Française’s 2021 Animation First Festival taking place online from Friday, February 5 to Monday, February 15 will open with the US premiere of Calamity Jane (Calamity, une enfance de Martha Jane Cannary) from director Rémi Chayé, who will be a festival Special Guest.

Winner of the Crystal Award for best feature at the 2020 Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Calamity Jane is based on the early life of the legendary Wild West figure. This feminist retelling shows how young Martha Jane Cannary fought against a sexist and male-dominated society to become an iconic frontierswoman.

Chayé, who will be a special guest of the festival, will discuss his newest film in a live talk on Saturday, February 6 at 2pm EST. His 2015 animated feature, Long Way North (Tout en haut du monde), about another adventuresome young girl—this one based in Russia—will also be screened during the Festival.

“It’s an honor to bring Calamity Jane to FIAF’s Animation First,” said Chayé. “As an American tale, adapted by a French filmmaker, it feels uniquely suited to receive its US Premiere at this Festival, and I look forward to discussing the years-long process of bringing it to fruition with American audiences.”

The festival, presented by French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), will collaborate with Dr. Boukary Sawadogo, professor of cinema studies at the City College of New York and founding director of the Harlem African Animation Festival, on two programs highlighting animation from Africa. The 2013 feature, Aya of Yop City (Aya de Yopougon), adapts the best-selling graphic novels by Marguerite Abouet about three teenage friends to the screen. A program of shorts brings together filmmakers from Ghana, Tunisia, Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burkina Faso by way of Canada, showcasing the diverse storytelling and multifaceted filmmaking techniques across the continent.

Opening Night Film
Friday, February 5 from 7pm–midnight
US Premiere: Calamity Jane (Calamity, une enfance de Martha Jane Cannary)
Dir. Rémi Chayé, 2020, 85 min
In French with English subtitles
Ages 6 and up

This lush period piece centers on the young 19th-century American heroine who would become the icon, Calamity Jane. As she travels across the US frontier on a wagon train, young Martha Jane Cannary astonishes her fellow travelers when she breaks gender norms to lead her family’s covered wagon and take care of the horses. While she never felt freer, the brazen act brings scorn and anger from her community. Accused of stealing, Martha Jane strikes out on her own and tries to vindicate herself under a newly minted name, Calamity Jane. Her adventures, on the open frontier where men and women pioneers strive to build better lives, shape Calamity Jane into one of the legendary figures of the Wild West.

Saturday, February 6 at 2pm
LIVE Talk: Behind the scenes of Calamity Jane
With director Rémi Chayé
In English

Acclaimed filmmaker Rémi Chayé will take us through the making of his beautiful and endearing Calamity Jane. Inspired by the story of this uniquely American heroine, he will discuss his process, from initial research into the young Martha Jane Cannary to editing, as well as the challenges in bringing the legendary Calamity Jane to life. Chayé will also touch upon his career in animation, starting with his early work as a storyboarder and assistant director on such films as Brendan and the Secret of Kells to his award-winning first feature Long Way North (2015).

Long Way North (Tout en haut du monde)
Dir. Rémi Chayé, 2015, 81 min
In French with English subtitles
Available Friday, February 5–Monday, February 15

In late 19th-century Saint Petersburg, Sacha, a young girl of the Russian aristocracy, has always been fascinated by the adventurous life of her grandfather, Oloukine. A renowned explorer and designer of a magnificent ship called the Davaï, Oloukine never returned from his final expedition to conquer the North Pole. Sacha decides to follow the footsteps of her grandfather to the Great North and find his famous ship. Rémi Chayé (Calamity Jane, 2020) received the Audience Award at the 2015 Annecy International Animation Film Festival for his delightful and vibrant first feature that celebrates strong young women.

Aya of Yop City (Aya de Yopougon)
Dir. Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, 2013, 84 min
In French with English subtitles
Ages 10 and up
Available Friday, February 5–Monday, February 15

Adapting her best-selling graphic novel series to film, Marguerite Abouet along with co-director Clément Oubrerie have brought to life the colorful scene of 1970s Yop City in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. Aya, now 19, grew up in this tight-knit neighborhood and loves its lively open markets, bright fabrics, funky cafés, and omnipresent music. Her mom, Fanta, is the neighborhood’s most trusted healer. Her dad is a sales rep for a brewery, and certainly gets his fill of the product. While Aya dreams of becoming a doctor, her two best friends, Adjoua and Bintou, just like to hang out and spend their evenings dancing, drinking, and flirting with boys. However, their playful existence turns much darker when Adjoua becomes pregnant, and the baby’s father is the spoiled son of one of the richest and most feared men in the country.

Focus on African Animation
38 minutes
Mature audiences
Available Friday, February 5–Monday, February 15

“Animation is another lens to look at Africa,” writes Dr. Boukary Sawadogo, professor of cinema studies at the City College of New York. Marking the 60th anniversary of independence for 17 African nations, Dr. Sawadogo collaborated with Animation First to create a program that showcases both the richness and diversity of African animation, as well as contemporary issues facing the continent.
• “Black Barbie,” Dir. Comfort Arthur, 2016, 4 min, Ghana
• “The Cora Player” (“Joueur de cora”), Dir. Cilia Sawadogo, 1996, 7 min, Canada
• “Afropower” (“Afreupouvoir”), Dir. Manohiray Randriamanantsoa, 2010, 5 min, Madagascar
• “L’Ambouba,” Dir. Nadia Rais, 2010, 9 min, Tunisia
• “اغتراب Fade,” Dir. Alaeddin Abou Taleb, 2018, 13 min, Tunisia
• “Prince Lesono,” Dir. Jean-Michel Kibushi, 2004, 29 min, France and Belgium

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