JuVee Productions, the banner headed by Viola Davis and Julius Tennon, is branching into animation with a partnership that will see the Woman King shingle produce a slate of afro-anime films. JuVee is partnering with N LITE, a Black and Japanese-led media company and anime studio, on animated films that will focus on Black and afro-indigenous stories.
The first film under the deal will be an epic fantasy inspired by Congolese folklore, Mfinda, created by Congolese-American artist Patience Leiken and N LITE founder Christiano Terry. Donald H. Hewitt, Terry, and Lekien penned the scrrenplay, with D’ART Shtajio’s Arthell Isom set to co-direct, and Japanese screenwriter Mika Abe (Forest of Piano) attached for the Japanese screenplay.
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Mfinda, which was announced at the 2023 Annecy International Animation Film Festival, will be produced alongside producer-distributor powerhouse GKIDS, most recently in theaters with The Boy and the Heron, as well as Studio M2’s legendary anime producer Masao Maruyama (Tokyo Godfathers) and Taro Maki (In This Corner of the World) from Studio M2.
Terry, Maruyama, and N LITE Japan’s Shin Koyamada and Shigeru Igari will produce Mfinda. Executive producers are Davis, Tennon, and JuVee head of film Melanie Clark, along with GKIDS’s Eric Beckman and Maki.
Said Terry, “We are honored to partner with JuVee Productions’ on our slate of afro-anime films. Through this collaboration we hope to spark cultural conversations and ignite the imaginations of audiences around the world, whether they are anime fans or simply fans of timeless storytelling in film. With our flagship title, Mfinda, audiences will journey into Congolese culture, and an enchanting world of spirits and ancestors.”
Added Tennon and Clark: “We are excited to be in business with NLITE bringing the first afro-anime MFINDA to global audiences. This collaboration is a special and timely one and is aligned with JuVee’s continued commitment to produce content and support talent from underrepresented communities.”
Outside of the film slate, the N Lite and JuVee partnership will span merchandise, graphic novels and manga.
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