The Dark Side of Russian Animation
The Dark Side of Russian Animation

Curated by/organisée par Maria Tareshenko

The Dark Side of Russian Animation

By Masha Tereschenko

There are many people who associate Russian animation with cute films for children, films that are positive and moral. Some appreciate it for these features while others dislike it for it for the same reasons. However, it would be surprising if the culture that produced the prose of Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Nikolai Gogol, the films of Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Eisenstein and the paintings of Kazimir Malevich and Wassily Kandinsky only produced this “sweet” animation. Both in Soviet times as now, Russian animation has had a “dark side”, less popular but quite interesting, a side that offers scary, mysterious, absurd, philosophical, depressing and just plain strange films, films that reflect the ambiguity and complexity of human life and show the opposite of the positive and more popular Russian animation culture.

Foolish Girl, by young director Zoya Kireeva, depicts the darker side of childhood. Instead of showing it as a happy and trouble-free time it depicts the first time in your life when spontaneity and emotionality are crushed against the bans and rules of the adult world. Out of Play, by famous animation artist Ivan Maximov, is a sad story of ageing toys, abandoned in a dusty attic. Against the backdrop of constant rain the toys begin their own evil games. Where Dogs Die by Svetlana Filippova is a story made using sand animation techniques and is about household pets and the inevitability of betrayal. Declaration of Love is by one Russia’s most interesting directors, Dmitry Geller, and is in many ways a paraphrase of Dostoyevsky’s famous aphorism: “beauty is a fearful and terrible thing”. The film is dedicated to Luis Buñuel and tells the story of the first aesthetic impressions of a child as it starts its fascinating and frightful first steps tpwards comprehension of the beauty and surrealism of its world. And the film The Boy, also by Geller, depicts life as a lonely and strenuous journey to one’s roots.

The Dark Side of Russian Animation collects the some of the best examples of philosophical, satirical and absurdist Russian animation from the 21st century so far. Included are not only works made in Russia and in Russian animation studios, but also a few films created by Russian directors abroad, such as the famous Milk by Igor Kovalyov and The Pole Hole by Alexei Alexeyev. The majority of these films have been awarded with prestigious prizes both in Russia and abroad, but the program also includes rare works whose distribution was limited to a few Russian festivals. For instance, Handwinged, a graduation film by Vadim Oborvalov. This graphic mystery, depicting the process of formation within the hymenoptera order of insects and which is set to the music of Franz Schubert, was very well received in Suzdal festival of 2006, but was shown only a few times in Russia. The same can be said about the animation debut of famous comic artist Hihus, a member of the art group People of the Dead Fish, who, in the spirit of national absurdist and satirical traditions, created the animation short The Man with Wind in His Head.

Beaucoup de gens associent l’animation russe à des films mignons pour enfants. Nombre de ces films sont à la fois positifs et plutôt moralistes. Certaines personnes apprécient ces travaux pour ces caractéristiques, et d'autres ne les aiment pas pour les mêmes raisons. Quoi qu’il en soit, il serait surprenant que cette culture qui à bien des égards est imprégnée de la prose de Fiodor Dostoïevski et de Nikolai Gogol, des films d'Andrei Tarkovski et de Sergei Eisenstein, des peintures de Kazimir Malevitch et de Wassily Kandinsky, ne produisait que de « l’animation édulcorée ». Tant à l'époque soviétique qu’à l'heure actuelle, l'animation russe a toujours eu un côté plus sombre, offrant de mystérieux, loufoques, philosophiques, et étranges films qui reflètent l'ambiguïté et la complicité entre les êtres humains. Le côté obscur de l’animation russe rassemble donc les meilleurs exemples de la philosophie, la satire et l’absurde de l’animation russe du XXIème siècle.

Title Director Year TRT
Wind Along the Coast Ivan Maximov 2003 6:00
Igor Kovalyov 2005 15:30
Vadim Oborvalov 2006 6:30
Foolish Girl
Zoya Kireeva 2006 6:30
Declaration of Love
Dmitry Geller 2006 13:00
The Man with Wind in His Head
Hihus 2007 5:00
The Polar Hole
Alexei Alexeyev 2007 1:30
Boy (The Rain Horse)
Dmitry Geller 2008 16:00
Out Of Play
Ivan Maximov 2011 7:00
Where Dogs Die
Svetlana Filippova 2011 12:00
Roman Sokolov 2012 6:00
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Individual tickets are available online soon  and 30 minutes before showtime for all other screenings. Passholders have priority seating at all GALA screenings (jury and filmmakers in attendance). Animation Six-Pack ticket holders are given passholder priority. 

Les billets à l'unité sont disponibles 
en ligne  et 30 minutes à l'avance pour toutes les autres projections. Les titulaires d'un laissez-passer sont prioritaires pour les places assises aux projections de GALA (auxquelles assistent le jury et les réalisateurs). Les titulaires de billets demi-douzaine d'animation disposent de la même priorité pour les places assises.

Thursday September 18th 2014
9:15 PM - 10:45 PM
National Gallery
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Saturday September 20th 2014
3 PM -4:30 PM
National Gallery
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Maria Tereschenko, Independent Journalist, Novye Izvestiya