Based on Power Paola’s Graphic Novel, ‘Virus Tropical’ Is an Animated Latina Coming-of-Age Story

Lead Photo: 'Virus Tropical' still courtesy of Animation is Film Festival
'Virus Tropical' still courtesy of Animation is Film Festival
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GKIDS – the distributor behind Oscar-nominated films such as Brazilian animated feature, Boy and the World, and Spanish-Cuban co-production, Chico & Rita – is expanding with its very own film festival in the heart of Hollywood. The Animation Is Film Festival is a joint venture between the team at GKIDS and showbiz publication Variety, which is set to take place October 20-22 at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Los Angeles.

Aside from serving as a launching pad for the distributor’s hefty slate of awards-bound titles, the event will also screen new works from around the world, from Iran to China. Among them, two Spanish-language films both based on previously released materials will premiere on Saturday, October 21.

Psiconautas, los niños olvidados (Birdboy: The Forgotten Children), directed by Spanish artists Alberto Vázquez and Pedro Rivero and based on Vázquez’s comic by the same name, is set in a post-apocalyptic island inhabited by anthropomorphic animals struggling to survive. The endearing character design contrasts with the harsh situations the characters face: demons, hunger, murder, and other horrors. Crafted using hand-drawn animation, the dark and eerie backgrounds create an unnerving atmosphere that matches the thematic elements at hand. The plot follows Birdboy, a good-natured bird who is tormented by nightmarish visions, which are also some of the most visually impressive segments of the film, and Dinky, a young mouse who wants to escape her abusive home life.

Watching is not a cakewalk, and it’s definitely not suitable for small children, but in the bleakness of this story there is humor and larger ideas about humanity being discussed. Plus, Birdboy is adorable in its own demonic way. The movie won the Goya Award for Best Animated Feature and was nominated for the European Film Award in the same category. If you miss it this weekend, there’s a theatrical release planned for early December.

On the other hand, Virus Tropical (Tropical Virus), directed by Santiago Caicedo and adapted from Colombian-Ecuadorian artist “Power Paola” Gaviria’s graphic novel, is not a fantastical vision, but one grounded in reality more specifically on the author’s personal experience growing up in a multicultural home. This coming-of-age tale centers on Paola who wants to assert her independence and her uniquely feminine POV in a male-dominated world. Faithful to the source material, Caicedo uses black-and-white 2D animation that reflects the style of Gaviria’s drawings. Virus Tropical is having its world premiere at Animation Is Film Festival and is the newest example of the growing wave of auteur animation being developed across Latin America.

Animation is Film Festival runs October 20-22, 2017 in Los Angeles.