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Little Nicholas: Happy As Can Be
Little Nicholas: Happy As Can Be directed by Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre

The French Institute Alliance Française presents the sixth edition of Animation First, the only U.S. festival dedicated to showcasing the legacy and innovation of French animation. The 2023 festival will run from Friday, January 27 through Sunday, January 29 and will present six feature-length films (including three U.S. and three NY premieres), and six short film programs with over 65 new shorts (including eight U.S. and 12 NY premieres).

Opening the festival on Friday, January 27 will be the NY premiere of Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre’s Little Nicholas: Happy As Can Be. Little Nicholas is a charming rendition of artist Jean-Jacques Sempé’s and René Goscinny’s lives which co-exist within the fictitious adventures of Le Petit Nicolas, the beloved French children’s character. The film is presented in conjunction with the FIAF Gallery exhibition: Signature Sempé.

The exhibition will consist of a selection of Sempé’s most iconic works, including quintessential drawings from Le Petit Nicolas and New Yorker cover designs. On Saturday, January 28 there will be a conversation with the Little Nicholas filmmakers, Martine Gossieaux (Sempé’s widow), and New Yorker artistic director Françoise Mouly examining the allure and longevity of Sempé and Le Petit Nicolas.

The Animation First 2023 Guest of Honor is award-winning screenwriter and director, Anca Damian. Damian will present the NY premiere of her mixed media animated film, The Island (The Island was an Animation First 2021 ‘Work in Progress’ presentation) on Sunday, January 29. Following the screening, there will be a conversation with Damian where she will discuss her new film and the augmented reality companion piece, In Search of Paradise.

The closing night film on Sunday, January 29 will be the U.S. premiere of Alain Ughetto’s stop motion feature, No Dogs or Italians Allowed. Told as a fictional dialog between the filmmaker and his grandmother, the film details the lives of Italian immigrants who fled poverty and fascism. Other 2023 feature films include the NY premiere of Alberto Vázquez’s Unicorn Wars, an anti-war allegory; the U.S. premiere of Michael Ocelot’s The Black Pharaoh, the Savage and the Princess, three tales celebrating courage in the face of injustice; and the U.S. premiere of Pierre Földes’ Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, based on short stories by Haruki Murakami. This year’s festival will also include six short film programs: Best of Annecy, Best of Annecy Kids, New Francophone Shorts programs, Student Shorts Competition and RECA, the French Animation School Network.

There will be two ‘Work in Progress’ presentations for 2023. On Saturday, January 28, Iranian filmmaker Sepideh Farsi will discuss her upcoming filmThe Siren, which relays the story of a young boy living in Abadan. Farsi will elaborate on some of her artistic choices and inspiration for the film. On Sunday, January 29, artist Cédric Babouche and producer Aymeric Castaing will discuss the inception of Dordogne, a unique video game that utilizes over 150 watercolor paintings to immerse players in the Dordogne region of France.

Throughout the festival, the FIAF Library will be free and open to the public to experience video games and virtual reality films from French studios and distributors. This years video game selection includes a first look at the Dordogne prototype, a demonstration copy of Chants of Sennaar, and A Plague Tale: Requiem, amongst others. There will also be three VR experiences and an AR exhibit: The Starry Sand Beach (NY premiere), Seven Grams, All Unsaved Progress Will Be Lost (U.S. premiere), and the U.S premiere of augmented reality exhibit, In Search of Paradise, a companion piece to The Island.

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