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Italian animation auteur Alessandro Rak – best known for European Film Award-winner “The Art of Happiness” and Neapolitan mob fable “Cinderella The Cat” – is at work on a new project titled “The Little Prince of Shangri-La” set in an imaginary Tibet and involving the search for the Dalai Lama.

Rak’s new work, which follows  “Yaya and Lenny — The Walking Liberty,” that launched in 2021 from Locarno, was unveiled earlier this month at the Cartoon Movie co-production and pitch forum in Bordeaux, France.

As seen in this exclusive teaser provided to Variety, Rak’s new feature is set in an imaginary time that appears to blend present and past.

“The 13th Dalai Lama has just died,” reads the provided synopsis, and “The armies of the terrible Warlord are at the gates.” The fate of Tibet seems sealed. “But a vision emerges from the waters of the Great Lake of Prophecies. Does it point the way to the Dalai’s new reincarnation? Only he could save Tibet.”

According to the director’s notes, the story is “about the voyage of a child who is searching for a lost spirituality, to save the adult world from alienation.”

“The Little Prince of Shangri-La” involves the expedition of an ill-assorted team consisting of Alexandra, a very young French explorer, Aphur, a young warrior monk, and Kewstang, an elderly and very friendly Lama. “Will the trio be able to find the new 14th Dalai and save Tibet?,” the synopsis wonders.

The story is inspired both by the life of Belgian-French Buddhist scholar Alexandra David-Néel, who was the first western woman to gain an audience with the Dalai Lama and Tenzin Gyatso who is the 14th Dalai Lama.

Like Rak’s previous features, “The Little Prince of Shangri-La” is being produced by Naples-set Mad Entertainment which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Also in the Mad pipeline is Roberto Saviano’s “I’m Still Alive,” an animation adaptation of his graphic novel illustrated by Israeli artist Asaf Hanuka (“Waltz With Bashir”). “Still Alive” examines the anti-mob activist’s life under armed guard since being forced to live with police protection shortly after 2006 when Saviano’s account of the inner workings of the Neapolitan Camorra crime syndicate was published.


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