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A giraffe makes an epic journey across the world in this animated tale.

Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office at each venue.

Image gallery

  • Director Rémi Bezançon, Jean-Christophe Lie
  • Producer Christophe Jankovic, Valérie Schermann
  • Screenwriter Alexander Abela, Rémi Bezançon
  • Voices Max Renaudin, Roger Dumas, Deborah François
  • France 2012
  • 78 mins
  • Sales Pathé International

Recommended all ages

Maki, a 10-year-old Sudanese boy, avoids a dark fate when he escapes from a slave trader, and soon connects with a young giraffe that has been earmarked as a gift from the Pasha of Egypt for the King of France. Maki, desert prince Hassan and balloonist Malaterre experience many adventures and put themselves in huge danger as they travel through different lands and habitats in order to deliver their young charge to Paris. However, Maki makes a promise to Zarafa’s mother that he will bring the young giraffe back to her as soon as he can, ensuring that an escape plan is never far from his mind. Based on the true story of the arrival of the first giraffe in Paris in 1827, this is a beautifully animated story with a sumptuous use of colour that isn’t afraid to acknowledge a few historical truths head-on, while still ensuring that its audience is always captivated by the relationship between one boy and his giraffe.
Justin Johnson

Director statements

From the first time I read the synopsis of Zarafa, I wanted to be a part of the project. I was totally won over by this fascinating story that has philosophical elements and yet is based on real historical events. Then came the immersion in the screenplay. The interaction between the characters took shape before my eyes, becoming increasingly clear as the story progressed and their journey continued. It’s an extremely rich universe for a graphic storyteller. Especially thanks to the solid construction of the screenplay certain distinct memories of my childhood reading resurfaced: Saint-Exupéry, Noah’s Ark, Jules Verne, and especially Victor Hugo, due to the historical, social and philosophical dimension of his work. When I met Rémi and we started work together on the direction and the storyboard, I could sense his interest in drawing and his enthusiasm as the characters took shape. We shared a desire to use all the advantages of animated film in order to find a freedom that can’t be obtained in live-action cinema. As far as I’m concerned, as a graphic storyteller, anchoring the story in the real world was paramount. Names like Gustave Daumier and romantic artists of the period such as Géricault and Delacroix came to mind, and were a starting point for creating the graphic universe. I chose 2D as a technique, since it’s a more raw, textured look and is better suited to the period. It’s also my preferred medium, allowing a rapprochement between the illustrated book and the movies. I was delighted that Rémi chose to film in cinemascope. It gave us the opportunity to get the most out of the wide open spaces and the journey in general. The directing decisions were simple: Few camera movements or special effects, which could take away from the narrative. The film’s palette employs the naturally warm colours of Africa, and the early light and somber, cold hues in Paris. This co-directing exercise, in which each partner brought his talents and point of view, his experience and expertise, was a pleasure to undertake and very enriching.
Jean-Christophe Lie

In parallel to the contemporary portraits in my other films – a man in his thirties with Peter Pan syndrome in Love Is in the Air; a family seen through five exceptional days in The First Day of the Rest of Your Life; and the young woman who, on becoming a mother, breaks the taboos of maternity with her tragi-comic diary in my upcoming film A Happy Event – this animation project has been close to my heart for a long time. The story of Zarafa, the first giraffe in France, has always fascinated me, given that it touches on all the themes that are dear to me: Handing things on, friendship, and the passage of time. Today, I’m delighted to see this universal tale take shape through the deft and powerful artwork of Jean-Christophe Lie, with whom I am co-directing the film.
Rémi Bezançon

Director biographies

Jean-Christophe Lie
Trained at the École des Beaux-arts in Toulouse and at the CFT des Gobelins in Paris, Jean-Christophe Lie started out as an assistant animator for the Walt Disney studios in Montreuil in 1995, working on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules and Tarzan. In 2003, he animated the character of Rose and supervised the animation of the Triplets as part of Sylvain Chomet’s team on Belleville Rendez-vous, and two years later worked as layout artist on Kirikou and the Wild Beasts by Michel Ocelot and Bénédicte Galup. Then he supervised part of the animation of the feature-length Franco-Spanish co-production Nocturna in 2007. In 2008, he directed his first 2D animation short, The Man in the Blue Gordini (shown at the LFF in 2009), for which he also wrote the screenplay, was graphic designer and co-animator. The following year, he joined Rémi Bezançon on Zarafa, becoming co-director of his first feature-length animation.

Rémi Bezançon
A graduate of the École Supérieure de Réalisation Audiovisuelle in Paris and a former student of the École du Louvre, Rémi Bezançon made his first short film, Little Italie, in 1997. Four years later, he co-wrote the screenplay for Zarafa but stashed it away in a drawer. He directed his first feature in 2004, Ma Vie en l'air, and that same year wrote his first feature-length screenplay for another director: Women for Sale (Vendues) by Jean-Claude Jean. His second feature, The First Day of the Rest of Your Life, was a huge hit in 2008 and garnered two César nominations for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. In 2009, he began to storyboard Zarafa, which was his first venture into the world of animation. In parallel, 2010 saw him make his third live-action movie, A Happy Event, released in France in September 2011.


Jean-Christophe Lie
2009 L'Homme à la Gordini (The Man in the Blue Gordini) [s]
2012 Zarafa [co-d]

Rémi Bezançon
1997 Little Italie [s]
2001 Vikings [s]
2003 Paraboles [s]
2005 Ma Vie en l'air
2008 Le Premier Jour du reste de ta vie (The First Day of the Rest of Your Life)
2011 Un heureux événement (A Happy Event)
2012 Zarafa [co-d]

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