April 16th, 2010

drawing, old man

15th Open Russian Festival of Animated Film

The 15th Open Russian Festival of Animated Film took place a month ago. This is the main yearly event for Russian animation, a place where (in theory) ALL animated production from the country is gathered into one place for professional critique.

I haven't posted until now because I wanted to present a comprehensive "overview", so I waited to hear reactions as well as for some of the competing films to appear online.

First of all, an overview of all the prizes and audience ratings may be found at this Wikipedia article. The jury consisted of five well-known directors: Mikhail Aldashin, Vladlen Barbè, Ivan Maximov, Dmitriy Naumov and Mikhail Tumelya. They could be in the jury because they had no films of their own this year, which was the case for most of the well-known directors in animation. Recently the government has drastically cut support for all filmmaking (by about half) - in addition to that, they stopped giving funding to many projects that they had already agreed to pay for, so production either stopped midway through or animators worked for free (not unlike the early 1990s). Pilot Studio, which was a leader just a few short years ago, only had a few small films to present.

Nevertheless, there were some good films that stood out. The top two in the audience rating by a wide margin were Valentin Olshvang's Rain in the Evening, based on an original story in which an old fisherman finds a mermaid, and Natalya Malgina's A Transgression, based on a story by Chekhov. Both of these are extremely talented directors. Malgina earlier directed what I though was the best Russian animation from 2007, The Dog Door, while Olshvang's last film was About Crayfish, from 2003, which won the festival Grand Prix in that year. This new film of Olshvang's, only his third, was made by himself in his home without the help of a studio over the period of three years. He used a technique similar to Aleksandr Petrov's paint-on-glass, but with watercolours and pastels instead of oil paints and with extra layers added above the drawings.

The entire film has not been posted online, but a short clip can be seen here:





Malgina's excellent film "A Transgression" is about a genteel man who suddenly finds a baby on his doorstep, and his efforts to escape from his past. English subtitles have been added by the "Cyber Brothers" group which Malgina is part of. I highly recommend you download the film here and watch it:
http://www.sendspace.com/file/hfk2vv (this is the version that has English subtitles. Be quick; the link will expire soon...)




The film that won the Grand Prix was 6th in the audience rating. It is called "Winter", by Aleksey Alekseyev, and is part of his "Log Jam" series. To me, it seems similar to many popular Western Flash-animated web series that I've seen, but in Russia it is apparently something novel. According to Mikhail Tumelya, some of the jury's awards were given not to a film that anyone felt was the best, but to the one to which nobody objected, and this was also the case for the Grand Prix. This film is not online yet, but you can see some of the other films from the series here.

Rim Sharafutdinov's "August, the Month of Winds" (no relation to the well-known book by Vladislav Krapivin with that name) garnered no awards and was just 10th in the audience rating, but has been the most talked-about film after the festival, and seems to be attracting the most attention from the public. It's a huge film made almost entirely by one person from the remote republic of Bashkortostan. It was heavily criticized by Yuriy Norshteyn in the press conference. Many people were confused by the ending. This plot summary (courtesy of scarydoll) seems to make the most sense (read after watching the film): Three demon-buddhas are sitting with magic teeth. A blue gollum walks past and steals the teeth from one of the demons, then runs away. The demon-eagle cannot stand this; without his teeth he is not whole. From this moment, the cartoon begins. After various adventures (including body changes), the man/demon takes back his teeth from the gollum. He says farewell to the beautiful woman, apologizing for accidentally involving her in the events. Then he returns to his place, puts in his teeth and becomes an eagle again.



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Links to all available other films from the festival can be found here. I will just talk about a few films that have no dialogue (so don't need subtitles).
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drawing, old man

More Soviet-era translations

I am now aware of two more people on Youtube doing translation work, thanks to a recent message from julia2night: hastings1987 and jkhelgi. I think that neither of them are native English-speakers because their translations have some small errors here and there, but they're not bad.

hastings1987 has at last provided a translation for Anatoliy Petrov's groundbreaking film "Heracles Visits Admetus" (1986) ("Heracles" is the earlier Greek name for "Hercules"). You can read about the full story of this film here. (if subtitles don't show, click on the triangle in the lower-right corner and turn on CC)




Despite the amazing animation, done in a difficult art style without any rotoscoping (though you can see some of the compromises that Anatoliy Petrov had to make from time to time, such as using still images), my main objection to this film is that Admetus is an egotist and not a very sympathetic character - certainly not cruel, but petulant like a child. It is unclear to me why a cool cat like Heracles would count him as a good friend. I have two favourite scenes from this film: Admetus meeting the blind man in the hills (a very powerful segment), and Heracles' dance at the end (which is just fun and a great example of character animation)

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