Spotlight on features at Annecy fest

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PARIS -- Feature films will be in the spotlight when the 2007 Annecy International Animation Festival kicks off its 31st edition, organizers said Tuesday.

Initiatives to promote the full-length cartoon medium at the fest, which runs June 1-16, include a greater number of feature films in competition, new special distinction and audience awards, daily meetings for film executives and the addition of an out-of-competition category within the "official selection."

After sorting through a record 1,882 entries, the fest's selection committee has chosen 233 films from 35 countries -- 182 of which are part of the official competition, which includes nine feature films, 51 shorts, 43 telefilms, 28 publicity clips and 51 student films.

Competition titles vying for the festival's Cristal award for best feature include: Michel Ocelot's "Azur et Asmar" (France), Koichi Chigira's "Brave Story" (Japan), D. Jud Jones' "Film Noir" (U.S.), Sam Fell's "Flushed Away" (U.K.), Kompin Kemgumnird's "Khan Kluay" (Thailand), Samuel Guillaume's "Max & Co" (Switzerland), Satoshi Kon's "Paprika" (Japan), Christopher Nielsen's "Slipp Jimmy Fri" (Norway) and Mamoru Hosoda's "Toki wo kakeru shoujo" (Japan).

The festival will fete Benelux with events planned to stress the achievements of animation in the territory, which encompasses Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The parallel MIFA market also is back in action this year, with more than 200 buyers expected to attend the specialized June 13-15 toon trade fair. Comics companies will be treated to an exhibition area for the main industry players, a "chill out" area with a restaurant and bar and a digital video library offering digital screening services for all films in official competition.

Scheduled conferences on topics related to the toon market include "Newtools, New Organizations: How to Improve Studio Productivity" and "Emerging Technical Solutions for Animation."

Other screenings lined up include DreamWorks' "Shrek the Third," Sony Pictures' "Surf's Up" and Festival de Cannes selection "Persepolis."

"Our goals remain the same: to demand the best of animation, but not forgetting different audiences, to discover new productions -- but without neglecting the classics -- and to offer dozens of surprises," Annecy artistic director Serge Bromberg said at a Paris news conference.
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