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HaZimation’s ‘RIFT’ Sci-Fi Feature Heads to TAAFI 2023

Created entirely in Unreal Engine, the animated feature explores  themes of love and redemption through a diverse cast of characters set in a futuristic world; the film screens online as part of next month’s festival in Toronto.

U.K.-based animation studio HaZimation’s latest film, RIFT, will screen at the 2023 Toronto Animation Arts Festival International (TAAFI), running February 13-18. The festival kicks off online, followed by in-person programming. RIFT screens online on February 13, 2023, at 8:30 p.m. ET.

The feature, animated entirely in Unreal Engine with support from an Epic MegaGrant, immerses its audience in a genre-bending plot that explores themes of love and redemption through a diverse cast of characters set in a futuristic world. The movie’s visual storytelling, driven by a cinematic score, is designed to pull the viewer into the story, which deals with sci-fi elements of time and multiple dimensions.

The film follows Max, a young boy held captive in a research facility, who uses his ability to create rifts in the fabric of spacetime and across parallel universes, searching for the one where he is rescued by his brother Leon, a former marine. However, with multiple attempts ending in Leon’s death, the strain begins to take its toll on both brothers. When Max discovers his captors are using his power against him, he realizes he must stop focusing on how the story ends and rewrite the story from the beginning.

Written by Stavros Pamballis, the film is directed and produced by Hasraf ‘HaZ’ Dulull (Fast Layne, The Beyond, 2036 Origin Unknown) and produced by Paula Crickard (Jolt, The Protege). Yariv Lerner (Rambo - Last Blood, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard), Amy Gardner (Identicals), and Jason Potter serve as executive producers. The film’s colorist is Vanessa Taylor (The Northman).

The cast includes BAFTA award-winning actor Jane Perry (Cyberpunk 2077, Hitman, Returnal), Dave Fennoy (The Walking Dead), and Cade Tropeano (Black Bird), with motion capture performances from Ace Ruele (Marvel’s The Eternals) and Alex Kong (Marvels - What If…?).

Watch the trailer:

“Screening RIFT at TAAFI 2023 Film Festival at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema is a momentous occasion for us at HaZimation,” said Dulull. “We've poured our hearts and souls into the making of this film, and to have it showcased at such a prestigious festival is a true honor. TAAFI is not just a platform for us to showcase our work, it's also an opportunity for us to be a part of an incredibly talented community of animators, storytellers, and filmmakers from around the world."

He continued, "The festival is a celebration of the animation art form and the incredible talent it holds. We are thrilled to be a part of this festival and to have the opportunity to share our unique vision with audiences. RIFT is a film that pushes the boundaries of animation and storytelling, and we hope that it will be an immersive and thought-provoking experience for the young adult audiences."

TAAFI chair Karen Jackson commented, “The TAAFI team is ecstatic to have RIFT as a part of our film lineup for the 2023 festival. The film's unique concept and visually stunning animation make it stand out among the competition. We are eagerly looking forward to the audience's reactions to the film and the impact it will have on the animation community. It's not every day that a film comes along that pushes the boundaries of the medium, and we are honored to be able to share RIFT with our audiences.”

TAAFI runs February 13-18, 2023, starting with online programming and switching to in-person at the Hot Docs Cinema, located at 506 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1Y3.

Tickets are available here.

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.