19 June 2013: Annecy, the French Alps - a crystal clear lake surrounded by shuttered chalets, with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and deep blue skies. What better place to hold the International Animation Festival 2013* than this fairytale location?
You can imagine an animation festival is a pretty crazy place to be – giant cardboard cut-outs of bug-eyed robots and fluffy purple monsters loom at you from every corner. We’re here because our animation 'I’ll take it from here' shot in Malawi last summer for Plan’s Because I am a Girl campaign for girls’ education, has been nominated for an award.
As Shona Hamilton and I sit down to watch our film, the scene is anarchic: paper planes whistle past our ears, the audience makes popping noises and shouts “lapin” whenever a rabbit comes on screen.
We are both daunted and thrilled to see our film in the same programme as animation giants Disney Pixar (Monsters University) and Illumination Pictures (Despicable Me 2).
It’s nerve-wracking to see our film on such a big screen, having never watched it with more than 5 people in the room. We have no idea what to expect from this audience of 250. But their reaction is incredible.
They are mesmerised as they watch and laugh in all the right places. They even clap and cheer at the end! (I should add that they do this for most films, but hey, still it’s great to hear.) I feel a rush of memories of Malawi – wishing the whole team was here to see this.
Two films later, and Plan UK’s commercial Weapons of Mass Construction appears on screen. Submitted by the advertising agency, it too was in the competition. Two Plan films in one year - fantastic!
Still buzzing from watching our film on the big screen, we head to the closing ceremony where the winners will be announced. Having seen the extraordinary skill and dedication many of these animators put into their films, we are frankly thrilled to have been part of the competition.
We meet up with Raj Yagnik, the animation consultant and co-director of our film and I sit back trying desperately to understand the jokes in French made by the host.
Suddenly I hear him say in English “Because I am a Girl”. We have won! We look at each other, unable to move – the animation equivalent: eyes as wide as plates, stunned rabbits in headlights, frozen to the spot, rocking back and forth!
Luckily there were no overly-dramatic Gwyneth Paltrow tears, and I was able to speak a little bit about the campaign. Chosen from more than 2,000 entries, 'I’ll take it from here' won the UNICEF Award for best film promoting children’s rights.
Luckily there were no overly-dramatic Gwyneth Paltrow tears, and I was able to speak a little bit about the campaign. Chosen from more than 2,000 entries, 'I’ll take it from here' won the UNICEF Award for best film promoting children’s rights
Although we were there to accept all the plaudits, there was a great team behind us. Stuart Coles – the best set-designer/dancer. Warisara Sornpet – key message guru. Plan Malawi – best country office to accept a visit with a week’s notice. Timveni Media – best local non-governmental organisation for facilitating, organising, helping producing, EVERYTHING. The cast – best kids. Brendar – best and most patient actress.
Whenever Shona and I have to speak in front of an audience of more than 3 people, she hates speaking, so leaves the talking to me. But it’s a great shame because she put it more eloquently than my spluttering speech: the fact that this film won such a prestigious award sums up the Because I am a Girl campaign.
Brendar, the main actress is an orphan who had never done any acting before. She grabbed this opportunity with both hands and her talent and energy is what makes this film so brilliant.
Give a girl a chance and she’ll do the rest.
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