N LITE Taps GKIDS For Feature Film Mfinda

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Two anime legends, Producer Masao Maruyama and Director Gisaburō Sugii, as well as acclaimed animation producer and distributor GKIDS, have joined global multimedia company N LITE, led by Founder & CEO Christiano Terry, and N LITE Japan, led by CEO & Producer Shin Koyamada and President, Shigeru Igari, to produce the first afrime afro-anime film Mfinda. Mr. Maruyama has also joined the board of N LITE Japan to build the company’s in-house 2D hand-drawn animation studio for international co-productions and feature films.

N LITE will unveil an in-depth look into their flagship film Mfinda at this year’s Annecy Film Festival in France. Mfinda was selected amongst the prestigious MIFA pitches this year in the feature film category.

Mfinda is an N LITE original created by Congolese-American artist Patience Lekien and co-creator Christiano Terry. The story surrounds a 12-year-old Congolese girl who is transported to the Mfinda, a primordial forest of spirits, gods, and ancestors. There she joins another young girl from a different time and embarks on a journey to find the magical Nkisi in hopes of finding her way back home.

As an international co-production, N LITE Japan will lead the development and production of Mfinda with Masao Maruyama and Studio M2 in Tokyo.

Mr. Maruyama is a legendary anime producer known for the critically acclaimed films Perfect Blue, Summer Wars, and the upcoming Studio M2 series Pluto on Netflix. Mr. Maruyama is the Chairman of MAPPA and a founder of Madhouse, two leading Japanese animation studios. Mfinda will showcase a dual Japanese and Black directing team, pairing the prolific Director Gisaburō Sugii (Street Fighter II, The Life of Gusuko Budori) with Black anime pioneer and first-time Co-Director Arthell Isom, founder of Tokyo-based D’ART Shtajio (Star Wars Visions Vol.2). D’ART Shtajio is also a development partner for Mfinda. The screenplay is being written by Donald H. Hewitt (Spirited Away, English language adaptation), Patience Lekien, Christiano Terry, and Japanese writer Mika Abe (Forest of Piano).

N LITE Japan’s producing team includes Shin Koyamada (The Last Samurai, Disney’s Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior), Shigeru Igari (Former CEO of Atlus and Board Member of Madhouse), and Tony Izumi (Yona Yona Penguin, Tibetan Dog).

“Last year, my good friend Shigeru Igari whom I have known for many years from Madhouse and Shin Koyamada, shared this new African anime film, Mfinda, with me. When Christiano and I met in Japan earlier this year, his enthusiasm for the film compelled me to join. I’m ready to tell a story about the positive power of spirits and community that will resonate in Japan and around the world.” says Masao Maruyama.

The U.S.-based GKIDS, producer, and distributor of artist-driven and award-winning animation from around the world, is attached as Producer, with Eric Beckman (GKIDS Founder & CEO) Executive Producing.

“GKIDS is thrilled to be a part of the Mfinda team. From the moment we saw the first early drawings and treatment, we fell in love with the project and committed to helping bring Patience’s vision to life. As the Annecy audience will soon see, the world of Mfinda transcends the boundaries of geography and time with a deeply resonant story full of wonder, beauty, and ancient wisdom. We’re honored to be a part of the international team tasked with bringing this amazing film to a global audience.” says Eric Beckman.

This will be the third film GKIDS is executive producing since the Oscar-nominated titles Wolfwakers (2020) and The Breadwinner (2017). Currently celebrating its 15th anniversary, the company has notched a total of 12 Best Animated Feature Oscar nominations. GKIDS also handles North American distribution for the famed Studio Ghibli film library of films, as well as the critically acclaimed television series Neon Genesis Evangelion. GKIDS is also the founder and host of Animation Is Film, the annual LA-based film festival.

N LITE was established to bring untapped and authentic stories from the Black and Indigenous imagination to life for audiences around the world. The company trademarked afrime to merge Japanese anime and storytelling from Africa and the African diaspora. N LITE plans to produce content from a wide-ranging franchise-driven slate of animated and live-action IPs.

“We selected Mfinda as our flagship film because it’s not often that audiences are able to experience the power of storytelling through the journey of a young Congolese girl and her community. We look forward to transporting audiences to the Mfinda for an enchanting ride.” said Christiano Terry, “Anime has a global fanbase amongst audiences of color. It’s an honor to work alongside legends of Japanese anime on this historic project.”


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