Animated Films Closer to the Audiences

No professional animated projects were completed in 2012 but the upcoming year 2013 promised all the more interesting works in Slovak animation. These promises were kept and we were able to look forward to new films and other positive things. Slovak animation managed to use all the distribution channels and thus access new audiences.

We will start with cinema distribution. Within Project 100, two new Slovak animated films were released in cinemas by the Association of Slovak Film Clubs (ASFC). The short Moon (Mesiac, 2012) by Ondrej Rudavský, a Slovak visual artist living abroad, was screened before the restored full-length feature film by Alain Resnais Hiroshima My Love (Hiroshima Mon Amour, 1959). In his film, Rudavský plays out his own tried and tested themes that form part of the broad range of his visual (not only audiovisual) works – spirals, complicated masks, technical and simultaneously mystic creatures, angels, multiple identical characters, decorativeness. He eschews the narrative elements, emphasises the stylistics and visual art in order to trigger the associative thinking of the audiences. Creation is an intuitive mater for Rudavský and he apparently also requires intuitiveness on the part of his audiences.

By contrast, Ivana Šebestová bases her short drama Snow (Sneh, 2013) on a story and narrative. It was screened before the full-length feature film Snow White (Blancanieves, 2012) by Pablo Berger. Šebestová remains faithful to her style of cut-out animation and the theme of partner relations. A slight shift was thus made in the technique she uses – physically cut materials are animated using 3D computer software – and also in the theme – “love” is presented against a background of the ideas, life and customs of Eastern philosophy. Snow is an introspective view into the inner world of the heroine living in an illusion in which the audience also partakes by using classical narrative elements (the narration is limited, the audience knows only what Maja knows).

As the screening of short films in cinema distribution has encountered huge problems in the post-1989 market economy, the outcome has been that animated films can be screened only at festivals (no return on investments). In 2013, we witnessed several attempts to resolve this problem. Hence, Slovak animated films could have been viewed in cinemas also as part of new distribution projects – short film blocks. The ASFC distributed in cinemas the first part of the Slovak Shorts series and, in addition to a documentary and feature film, the animated Pandas (Pandy, 2013) by Matúš Vizár and older tWINs (2011) by Peter Budinský were also screened. The success of the co-produced Czecho-Slovak sci-fi Pandas caused a sensation in both countries – the film won the third prize in the Cinéfondation Section (students’ film competition) at the Cannes IFF. The film is a refreshing boost for the Slovak animated scene. Unlike thetendencies of contemporary authors who focus on the individual inner world of the heroes, provide generally valid moral truths or offer entertainment based on the reflection of the film form (for instance the genre and style of feature films), Vizár names and opens many current political, economic and social topics in one compact unit. However, he does not attempt to preach: he employs humour and irony to depict the evolution of a panda influenced by the irresponsible behaviour of people. The ASFC plans to put together and screen a block of short films once a year.

The block of students’ films from the Academy of Music and Performing Arts Grasshoppers (Kobylky) was the second series in cinema distribution. The Academy and the distribution company Continental Film always released a new collection of students’ films once a month. Hence, in 2013, animated films from the Animation Studio at the Film and Television Faculty of the Academy of Music and Performing Arts were also screened in cinemas. The young active animator Andrej Gregorčok who also collaborated in the making of Snow had two comedies in the selection: a film about a jealous bulb Lighta (2012) and the parody on Frankenstein Frankenhand (2011). After the department was established, a stream of women directors who deal with women’s themes of human relations came into being and the latest generation also includes a few women. As for the block of short films, Martina Frajštaková presented her graduation film Terra Nullius (2011) and Mária Oľhová The Bubble (Bublina, 2012). While Oľhová leaves the story at the intimate level of one couple, for Frajštaková the relationship between a man and woman constitutes a metaphor of the unhealthy relation of man towards nature. Veronika Kocourková’s student film Love at First Sight (Láska na prvý pohľad, 2011) deviates slightly from this wave; nevertheless, this film is also about the relationship between a couple, albeit in the form of a slapstick comedy. Thanks to the Grasshoppers, another film by Peter Budinský was screened in cinemas in 2013; this time it was a film he made in his fourth year at school (he made it as part of a student exchange programme), Bird of Prey (2009), about the transferability of violence. The 2013 film selection concluded with the clay animation (less frequent at the Academy) Mr. Carrot (Pán Mrkva, 2013) by Tomáš Danay about an invincible vegetable and the treacherous food-processing technology. This film represents the second, in this case not thematic, but stylistic wave at the Academy for which stylised animated blood acts as a sort of symbol of freedom and simultaneously an explicit element distinguishing animated films for children from films for adults.

Television is another distribution channel that is not very frequently utilised in our country. After several years wait, we were at last treated to a brand new original Slovak bedtime story last year (and Ivan Popovič continues his older project If I Only Had a Screw Loose! (Mať tak o koliesko viac!)). The cut-out animation Mimi and Lisa (Mimi a Líza, 2013) is about the friendship between a handicapped and healthy girl. Seven episodes have been made so far, with a further six in the production stage. At the same time, the book Mimi & Lisa was published, representing an interesting promotional step in the context of Slovak animation. The RTVS broadcast the new series during the Christmas week.

In 2013, animated films also began to be distributed via the VoD service. The charged Piano system offers the possibility of seeing three animated films on Vizár’s Pandas (2013), Dust and Glitter (Prach a ligot, 2011) by Ove Pictures (Michaela Čopíková and Veronika Obertová) and an older film by Ivana Šebestová Four (Štyri, 2007) told in a mosaic manner.

The TV series originally made for TV JOJ called Local TV (Lokal TV) continues on the web. In addition to the series itself, the animators from the InOut studio also make a lot of bonus materials – independent programmes dedicated to the individual characters; thus, the project expands continuously. The successful completion of the Mayhem (Virvar) project and the issue of the double DVD, consisting of a selection of 16 Slovak animated films made from the late 1990s to the present day, were the final surprises of 2013. Slovak animation is getting closer and closer to its audiences and let us hope that it will get even closer. Because film doesn’t actually exist without the eyes and ears of the audience.

Eva Šošková

This work was supported by the Research and Development Support Agency on the basis of Contract No. APVV-0797-12.