Slovak Impact

Posted by on Apr 17, 2010 in Experiences | 9 Comments

Last night, I attended Slovak Impact, ASIFA-SF’s screening of student films from Slovakia. It ended up being a great show. Michaela Copikova, one of the filmmakers was there. Currently, she is studying at the Academy of Art. Before screening the shorts, Michaela gave us some background on what influenced the films, what life was like growing up in Slovakia, and the challenges that the filmmakers face in trying to produce films in Slovakia today.

For those unfamiliar with the country of Slovakia, it is a fairly small country in Eastern Europe. After WWI, Slovakia succeded from the Hungarian empire and along with Monrovia and Bohemia, formed a common state, Czechoslovakia. From WWII up until 1989, it was under communist rule and finally in 1993, Slovakia became its own sovereign state.

Michaela explained to us that she along with the other filmmakers belonged to the “Generation of Confusion.” Her generation was born into the communist regime and grew up exposed only to state approved entertainment. She described that the only films, animation, and television she could see were only those produced by other communist countries. These films were drastically different from what we are used to seeing in the US. The films tended to be much more dark, violent, and very pessimistic. There were no stories of hope, no fairy tales, no Cinderella stories. [See end of post for clarification.] After the iron curtain fell, thus began an influx of culture and ideas. Teachers were confused on what to teach the students and the people, in general, were confused on what to make of this new cultural liberation. That was the birth of the “Generation of Confusion.” Michaela explained that even though her and her fellow classmates were now free to express themselves in whatever way they could, they still felt attached to the films of their childhood and wanted to carry on the tradition. A tradition that would surely be lost and forgotten.

Here are some of the films from the screening that I was able to find online:


This is Michaela’s film, About Socks and Love


This is Boris Sima’s film, Today Is My First Date


This is Peter Budinski’s film, Birds of Prey


This is Andrej Kolencik’s film, Busy-Body and Boar Strike Again

A couple other great films that I couldn’t find posted anywhere to view were Viliam by Veronika Obertova and Catch Him! by Boris Sima.

My grandfather’s family is from Slovakia. They immigrated to America at the end of the 19th century. My last name, Kallok, is actually of Slovak origin. It was great to see that animation is a passion in Slovakia and I am glad that I had a chance to support my heritage. Hopefully, one day I will have a chance to go and visit.

*As both Michaela and Vava pointed out in their comments, the statement I made about the themes and content of Czechoslovakia film during Communist control is not an accurate description. Please read their comments for a clearer understanding of the films they grew up on. I apologize for any wrong or inaccurate information.

9 Comments

  1. Jason Scheier
    April 20, 2010

    Hey Tim,

    Those shorts were all incredible, so meaningful and unique! Thank you very much for posting them here for all to enjoy!

    Take Care,

    Js

    Reply
  2. Michaela
    May 2, 2010

    Hey Tim, thank you for your great blog presentation! Big thanks to you. I’m going to post it to my friends as well! And please feel free to contact me anytime. Best, michaela c

    Reply
  3. vava
    May 2, 2010

    Hi Tim,

    thank you for posting your feelings and thank also to Michaela for helping to organize the screening.

    I’m a Slovak animator that belongs to the new generation, I also grew up in communism. I’d like to say that the character of creation before 1989 was not exactly the kind that you decribed (The films tended to be much more dark, violent, and very pessimistic. There were no stories of hope, no fairy tales, no Cinderella stories.)

    Most of the animated films created in Czechoslovakia during the communist decades were simple, witty TV series aimed for children, that emphasized the importance of love, family and friendship, they had educational dimension and violence was totally eliminated. There was no big production background, so the filmmakers usually didn’t use classical drawn (Disney-like) animation, but puppet, cut-out and simple kinds of drawn animation techniques instead. We all loved them as kids.

    The negative dimension of that era was the absence of possibilities to create authorial films for adult audience. The political censorship was so strong that it could see special (ineligible) meenings in every little innocent drawing. Plus – there was no private filmmaking, everything belonged to state and the state decided about who and what and how and when will create. It doesn’t mean that there were no films for adults, yes, there were couple of them, but they were not produced in freedom. These were the real negatvives.

    I’m very happy that you liked the collection that Michaela offered and hope you’ll enjoy more Slovak animations in future :)

    vava

    Reply
  4. Tim
    May 2, 2010

    Jason – Thanks for dropping by buddy! I am glad you enjoyed the shorts as much as I did!

    Michaela – Wow, thank you Michaela for visiting my blog! And thank you so much for helping putting the screening together. I always enjoy seeing animations that tell unique stories and differ from the types of animation I am used to watching here in the US. I hope you and your colleagues in Slovakia continue to make wonderful films!

    Vava- Thank you as well for visiting my blog. I did not take notes during the screening and so I wrote my blog from memory. I must have misinterpreted what I heard from Michaela. Thank you for clarifying my mistake. It is good to hear that the films were not dark and pessimistic like I had written. Love, family, and friendship are all important values that everyone should learn when they are young. Animation is such a powerful medium in that it can convey its message no matter how complex or simple the style maybe. I am very happy that there are so many people passionate about animation in Slovakia. I will definitely be keeping my eye out for new films!

    -Tim

    Reply
  5. Michaela
    May 2, 2010

    Hello there,

    love to see the discussion!

    Everything that Vava said is absolutely right, but what is also essential to mention is the tradition of perception animated stories by American audience. From the point of view of somebody who grew in US our works appear darker and lots of story resolutions that we find funny and hilarious will actually appear as something brutal for the local audience.

    For example our fairy tales easily deal with the character of executioner, punishment is to cut your head and we find it normal not brutal. Other example from here is that lots of parents find the movie Coraline as inappropriate for kids audience.
    Our sense of humour is though very different and the visual language as well.

    This is what I found necessary to say before the screening for the particular audience.

    Hope it is more clear now.

    Michaela

    Reply
  6. Tim
    May 2, 2010

    Hi Michaela,

    Thank you again for your reply. I apologize that what I wrote was not accurate. I did not intend to write anything that isn’t true. Both Vava and your explanations have definitely given me a better understanding of what the films were really like. I think the whole difference comes from a matter of perception. Like you said, a story or joke that is completely normal to you, could be very dark and brutal to someone who grew up watching Disney films or any other animated film produced in the US.

    Even some themes or events of Disney’s early films could be considered fairly dark (killing Bamb’s Mom, Geppetto getting swallowed by the whale in Pinocchio). In the early days of animation, filmmakers were able to get away with more risqué content in their films, whether it be violence, racism, eroticism, or dark humor, but once the production code went into effect in Hollywood, cartoons were censored and somewhat dulled down.

    In my History of Animation, my professor showed us a few films from Soyuzmultfilm, the Zagreb Studio, and a few other Eastern European studios. If these are the same films that you grew up watching, I can definitely see how the humor and visual language are different. Of the ones my professor showed me, I would not consider any of them to be particularly dark, but the stories and themes were much different that what I am used to watching.

    Thank you again for the clarification.

    -Tim

    Reply
  7. vava
    May 2, 2010

    Hi Tim,

    it is nice that you are willing to discuss and correct your opinions. Thank you for that.
    What concerns Soyuzmultfilm, Zagreb etc., yes, that’s the kind of production we grew up in.

    All the best,

    vava

    Reply
  8. Michaela
    May 3, 2010

    Thank you Tim again for your blog!

    I will let you know about animation events around here.

    Take care,
    michaela

    Reply
  9. Tim Kallok writing about Slovak Impact. | ADMIRÁL
    April 22, 2012

    […] Tim Kallok wrote about Slovak Impact on ASIFA Screening in SF. You can read more about it here. […]

    Reply

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