|ANIMATION FILM IN CZECH REPUBLIC
Dra.Eva Struskova, Närodni Filmovy Archiv, República Txeca
During the post-war years, czech animation films were awarded at film festivals such as Cannes, Venice and Lucarno; in the present days, animation films made in the Czech Republic still obtain an importan success at festivals worldwide.
Czech animated films opened the path for the usage of new materials and procedures; it has been appreciated by its fine sense of humour and the talent of Czech filmmakers. Czech cinema laid under the restrictive policy imposed by the government’s party; thus, every author was subjected to the vigilance of the government, from the beginning to the end of the work. The presidency of the totalitarian party is evidenced, for instance, in the film Ruka (The hand) by Jiri Trnka.
Jíri Trnka projectà la seva singular
poètica a les pel·lícules animades. Al principi fou creador de pel·lícules de
dibuixos animats, però aviat va optar per la titella com element bàsic
dexpressió. Per mitjà de la seva adaptació va aconseguir daplicar aquesta
tècnica a tots els gèneres del cinema i va donar via a la poesia, relats, llegendes i
mites: va posar en escena a Shakespeare, Andersen, Chejov o Bocaccio i reflexionà sobre
els mites actuals de la civilització moderna.
Jiri Trnka’s animated films are the expression of his unique poetics. He started off as a cartoonist but he soon chose puppets as his basic mean of expression. He applied this technique to all film genres and gave way to poetry, tales, legends and myths: he screened Shakespeare, Andersen, Chejov or Bocaccio and reflected on the current myths of contemporary civilization.
Herminia Tyrlova belongs to Trnka’s generation. She started working together with Karel Dodal and she worked at Gottwaldov local studio throughout her life, which she devoted to the making of films for children. Her work owns an experimental side too: she examined the possibilities of combining "real" actors with puppets in film. This imaginative filmmaker used miscellaneous types of stuff for her films. Her charming funny movies are still enjoyed by children worldwide.
Animation films are assumed by many authors as a device for philosophical meditation about human beings’life and society. This position distinguishes the works by Jiri Barta, whose films are based on visual metaphors and the most innovative animation techniques. His stories, which outstand because of its expressive atmosphere, do always bear a secret or moral message.
Jan Svankmajer’s films own a very remarkable place within the history of animation. Svankmajer was a painter; graphic artist; set designer; puppeteer; author of artistic objects, tactile poems, three feature films and artistic tricks. Svankmajer belonged to the Czech Surrealism movement and conceived animation techniques a a mean to translate his visions and hoaxes.
The current situation of animated films in Czech Republic is quite similar to the one in other European countries. The new media are opening new ways are opening new ways for experimentation and fantasy in the field of art.
Animation has gained an importance for the making of TV commercials and is an essential part of children’s entertainment. Despite this situation, filmmakers stumble over hard difficulties when it comes to find sponsorship to produce their projects
Fine Arts academies have attained a great importance to ensure the future of animation films. "Animation Film" as a subject, owns a preponderant importance at the University of Fine Arts of Prague (whose main educator is Jiri Barta). The Animation Film Department, directed by Bretislav Pojar, at the Faculty of Cinema and TV.
Women are also getting through animation in a thrustful spirit: a few years ago, Michaela Paltov’s film Reci, Reci, Reci (Words, Words, Words) was nominated to an Oscar award.
(Dr.Eva Struskova works at the Närodny Filmovy Archiv in Prague. She is currently researching on the history of film in her country).
GROUND ZERO / SACRED GROUND
Karen Aqua, USA
In 1991-92, I spent 5 months as an Artist-in-Residence at an art colony in Roswell, New Mexico, in the Southwestern United States. My film "Ground Zero / Sacred Ground" was conceived and inspired by my experiences there. I returned for a second residency in 1995, doing further research and film production. The film was completed in 1997.
A few weeks after my arrival in New Mexico, I visited the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site. This ancient Native American rock art site, located in southcentral New Mexico, contains over 10,000 petroglyphs (pecked and incised images), created by the Jornada Mogollon people between 900 and 1400 A.D.
It was late afternoon, and the golden light enhanced and defined the petroglyphs. I had the sense that the rocks were alive, and that I was surrounded by a world filled with power, spirit, and mystery. As the sun set behind the western horizon, a full moon was rising to the east above a snow-covered mountain peak. From the commanding vantage point of this high ridge of petroglyph-covered rocks, one had a 360-degree view of a vast landscape, with a sky changing from day to night above it. This was truly sacred ground.
For me, the power of the petroglyphs is heightened by their sense of place within the landscape. These are not artifacts on display in a museum, removed from their original setting and context. Rather, we can witness these images in the environment in which they were created: under the same sky, sun, and moon...facing the same mountains, walking in the footprints of those who came before us. I am in awe of these rocks, these images created by human hands hundreds of years ago. Silently, wordlessly, they touch upon something timeless and enduring which lies deep within the human spirit, linking us all.
To the west of Three Rivers, beyond a small mountain range known as the Sierra Oscuras, lies the vast White Sands Missile Range. There, on July 16, 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated. Ground Zero, the Trinity Site, lies a mere thirty-five miles from Three Rivers. The juxtaposition of these two sites points to the striking contrast between the two worlds which created them: one which accepts and reveres the power of the natural world, and the other which strives to control and manipulate the forces of nature.
During my time spent in New Mexico, I was struck by the presence of these contrasting worlds existing side by side. In 1992, in response to this experience, I began work on an animated film exploring these opposing forces and their relationship and effect on one another.
The film is a tribute to the petroglyphs and the culture which created them. It opens with a landscape of petroglyph-covered rocks, silent witnesses to the passing of the ages and the changes taking place on the earth. A cataclysmic event (the Trinity blast) takes place, releasing the images from the rocks. Springing to life, these released spirits unearth remnants of their past and reconstruct the ancient culture from which they came. Created in a time of harmony, balance, and respect for nature, they awaken in a time of disorder and imbalance. Once dormant relics of the past, the empowered rock images call into action the ancient rituals and wisdom to transform and rebalance the world.
(Karen Aqua has been working as an animator since 1976)