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Latvia's oldest animation studio closes its doors, has no more money

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drawing, old man

Latvia's oldest animation studio closes its doors, has no more money

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drawing, old man
An article on Telegraf.lv breaks the news about Dauka studio. (a much shorter English-language article can be read here)

Here's a lovely cartoon made at Dauka in 1996, directed by Roze Stiebra. It's called "The Sad Cow":


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Translated article:

Dauka, which has over the course of 40 years released children's cartoons which several generations have grown up on, is indefinitely suspending its work because of a lack of resources. Producer Ansis Berzinsh believes that the reason is that the studio's films are oriented not at international film festivals but primarily at the domestic children's audience.

Thanks to Dauka were born the popular "Fantadrom", "Little Bath for Hares", "Ness and Nessie", "Cat Windmill", "Uncommon Rigans" and many other films, about 130 in total. Many of them have been noted at film festivals, and can be viewed at the portal www.pasakas.net and other sites. A DVD collection has been published consisting of 95 animated films.

And so on June 16, Dauka invited friends and the press to its home at Shmerl 3, rented from the Riga film studio, in order to say goodbye and to show a new cartoon from the famous Roze Stiebra and the young director Mikus Straume called "How Brother Rabbit Overcame the Lion". It is the fourth film in the series "Stories of the World's Nations". The studio never did get the money for this project from the National Film Centre of Latvia (NFCL). But it did manage to finish the movie with the miserly resources from the Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia. And then it was silent...

According to Ansis Berzinsh, Dauka cannot keep its premises when there are no projects. Nevertheless, the studio is not yet announcing bankruptcy, and continues to search for partners and other possible ways to continue its work.

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The position of the NFCL was laid out for the press by its director Ilze Gaylite-Holmberg: there are studios which don't receive state funding for many years already, yet nevertheless successfully continue work. Dauka simply needs to learn the experience of such animation production companies as JetMedia and Rija, which combine commercial work with art and search for sponsors or coproduction partners themselves.

The representatives of NFCL underline that they can never give more than 40% of the funding for all the projects that are submitted to the contest for consideration. Experts have to compare and reject the less relevant projects. And so in 2009, 10 out 19 projects were funded, and Dauka was left out because of comparative "irrelevance". The same thing happened this year, when the experts could support only 7 projects out of 16. Of course, the studio's contribution to Latvian film is undisputed. However, in today's difficult conditions, state funding cannot be guaranteed to a single studio; all must compete as equals.

Out Children Suffer

"Of course, I'm guilty of our studio having almost no cooperation with international partners," admits Ansis Berzinsh, "but I think that the Film Centre's relationship to the genre of animation is a serious mistake. They don't consider the cultural interests of Latvia's children's audience. In other countries, children's projects in all areas and genres are funded separately, while in our country they are considered old-fashioned."

The studio exists to create Latvian films for Latvian children which are founded on the traditions of Latvian culture. Other producers of animation mainly orient on film festivals. This is a completely different sort of production, which is almost not shown in Latvia. Most of those films are made more for the adult audience. The Film Centre supports precisely this festival route. And our children suffer.

Commentary

Kristine Matisa is the Chief Information Officer and head of film distribution of NFCL

- Kristine, so basically the studio itself is to blame, because it doesn't seek out other partners besides the government?


- Yes, you could put it that way. Although you couldn't say that Dauka was left completely unfunded - last year, it received money from the Capital Culture Find... All must submit projects into the competition, and if their projects are compared unfavourably with others, that means that they're simply less interesting. Nobody will grant money simply for the studio to not die. The government grants money for a concrete film which the government, probably, needs at that moment.

Everyone can say nice things about his own project. But today, a fundamental unwillingness to cooperate with international partners is simply suicide.

Robert Vinovskis, a member of the NFCL's expert committee and producer of documentary cinema

— Gopodin Vinovskis, in what specific way is Dauka studio's project "irrelevant"?


- It isn't bad by itself, but in context. In my view, the film "How Brother Rabbit Overcame the Lion" was less original artistically - in visuals and direction. This African story is very simple, and the cartoon is oriented at the youngest audience. The moral is very important, which is: the rabbit betrays his friends, and when it's his turn to be eaten by the lion, he cleverly tricks the king of the animals into a well. Oh, what a clever fellow - he tricked his friends and saved himself!.. And children are supposed to look up to this character?!
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