Animation Shorts

Animation Shorts

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Animation Shorts

Bus Stop /Остановка, 2016
Color animation, 7 minutes
Director: Nina Bisiarina
Studio: Snega 

How Much Does the Cloud Weigh? / Сколько весит облако?, 2018
Color animation, 5:30 minutes
Director: Nina Bisiarina
Studio: Snega 

Little Big Dream / Маленькая большая мечта, 2018
Color animation, 5 minutes
Director: Nina Bisiarina
Studio: Snega

Running after Wall / Бег за стеной, 2020
Color animation, 10 minutes
Director: Liana Makarian
Studio: Pchela

Anna, Cat-and-Mouse / Анна, кошки-мышки, 2020
Color animation, 5:27 minutes
Director: Varia Iakovleva
Studio: Pchela

Once upon a Time There Was a House / Жил-был дом, 2017
Color animation, 5:09 minutes
Director: Svetlana Andrianova
Studio: Pchela

Lucky Ticket / Счастливый билет, 2019
Color animation, 4:12 minutes
Director: Svetlana Andrianova
Studio: Pchela

Very Lonely Cock / Очень одинокий петух, 2015
Color animation, 5:46 minutes
Director: Leonid Shmel'kov
Studio: Soyuzmultfilm

Lola the Living Potato / Лола живая картошка, 2018
Color animation, 17:18 minutes
Director: Leonid Shmel'kov
Studio: Shar

About a Mother / Про маму, 2019
Color animation, 7:20 minutes
Director: Dina Velikovskaia
Studio: Shar

Ties /Узы, 2019
Color animation, 7:40 minutes
Director: Dina Velikovskaia
Studio: Pchela

Animators

Nina Bisiarina lives and works in Ekaterinburg. She has worked as an animation director at Snega studio since 2005. She also teaches at a children’s art studio. Bisiarina’s films have consistently received awards at various animation festivals, including Suzdal and Krok. Her films include Sparrows are Children of Pigeons (2005), Trip to the Sea (2008), Celebration (2015), Bus Stop (2016), How Much Does the Cloud Weigh? (2018), Big Little Dream (2018), A Lynx in the Town (2019).

Liana Makarian graduated from VGIK (Russian State University of Cinematography named after S. Gerasimov) in 2015, where she specialized in animation directing. She has worked at NISI MASA European Network for young cinema and participated in personal and group exhibitions. She has directed several animated films, including Parable of the Blind (2017), Running after Walls (2019), and Sugar Show (2020), all of which received awards at various festivals.

Varia Iakovleva graduated from the Art Department of VGIK and from the school-studio Shar. She worked as art-director on the film The Nose or the Conspiracy of Mavericks by Andrei Khrzhanovskii. She is director of The Square (2016), Anna, Cat-and-Mouse (2020), and Life’s a Bitch (2021), which received awards at animation festivals. She also works as a book illustrator.

Svetlana Andrianova is the director of multiple animated films, commercials, and TV program credits. She graduated from VGIK in 2004. She is the member of the Union of Cinematographers of the Russian Federation. She directed Green Teeth (2011), Two Trams (2016), Once upon a Time There Was a House (2017), Lucky Ticket (2019), Three Sisters (2020), and other films. Her films have received multiple awards at Russian and international festivals.

Leonid Shmel'kov’s first degree is in book illustration. In 2009 he graduated from the school-studio Shar as an animation director, and later studied with animation director Priit Pärn at the Estonian Art Academy. He is the director of multiple films that have received national and international awards, including My Personal Moose (2013), Pearfall (2013), Very Lonely Cock (2015), Lola the Living Potato (2018), and many others.

Dina Velikovskaia graduated from VGIK (2011) as a specialist in puppet animation, and then studied drawn animation at the school-studio Shar. She is the recipient of multiple national and international awards and the Laureate of the Presidential Prize of 2018. Her films include Bridge (2009), My Weird Grandfather (2011), About a Mother (2014), The Cuckoo (2016), and Ties (2019)

Program Participants

Curator: Olga Blackledge (Bethany College)
Introduced by: Laura Pontieri (Independent Scholar)
Respondent: Michele Leigh (Southern Illinois University) 
Discussion Host: Olga Blackledge(Bethany College)




Olga Blackledge — This panel presents films by six contemporary animation auteurs: Nina Bisiarina, Liana Makarian, Varia Iakovleva, Svetlana Andrianova, Leonid Shmel'kov, and Dina Velikovskaia.

The imagery in Nina Bisiarina’s films is constantly in flux, it is illusive and unexpected. She blends reality, fantasy, and dreams, and her characters as well as the spaces of their existence defy any laws or order. Bisiarina’s films do not usually have much of a narrative, even though there is always a story in them. Rather, this is a story of emotions and feelings translated into vibrant animated imagery.

Bus Stop (2016) is set in a rural space, where the highway goes through an autumnal windy and rainy countryside, and where the grey fields meet the sky of the same color. A woman who misses her bus happens to meets a blind man and his dog. This meeting moves her, literally and metaphorically, resulting in a change in her trajectory and mood. Bisiarina masterfully uses the line as a tool that simultaneously creates the objects in the film and merges them with the environment and its elements.

The natural environment is also the theme of Bisiarina’s other film, How Much Does the Cloud Weigh? (2018). In contrast to Bus Stop, however, here it becomes the premise of a conflict; a scientific versus aesthetic approach to nature. The aesthetic approach wins, leaving the main character, the meteorologist, admiring dream-like clouds rather than studying them.

Little Big Dream (2019) is formally a music video to the song “Astronaut” by the Ekaterinburg band Amor Entrave. The film tells a story about a relationship between a mother and her son, and their dream of flying to other worlds. Visually, however, Bisiarina creates two-dimensional imagery that questions the boundaries of dreams and reality, real and imaginary spaces, and the human perception of them.

Liana Makarian’s Running after Wall (2020) is also a film about dreams that explores a parental relationship, this time between a father and son. Here, however, the son, who tries and fails to connect with his father, replays their relationship in his dream. The dream is reflective of reality and the son still cannot connect with his father. But once he wakes up, reality miraculously changes, and the father takes an interest in his son. One of the recurring objects in the film—the iconic red balloon that goes back to the eponymous film by Albert Lamorisse—becomes the symbol of a child’s hope and dream come true.

Varia Iakovleva’s film Anna, Cat-and-Mouse (2020) is also a story about relationships, but here it is a sexual relationship between a man and woman. Through a window, a man spots a self-sufficient woman who lives alone with her cat. He comes to her place with the unmistakable intention of sexually assaulting her. Yet, distracted by the woman’s maternal care, he diminishes in size and himself becomes a victim. The stunning imagery of the film created by crude cut-outs with their raw plasticity seems to be making the problematic argument that the story told in the film is of primal origin.

Once upon a Time There Was a House (2017), directed by Svetlana Andrianova, tells a humorous and absurd story about the rise and fall of the tallest house in a city and about the people who live in it. Andrianova develops the story as a series of gags, using minimalistic imagery created with simple shapes and contrasting colors. She uses similar imagery in her other film screened at this panel—Lucky Ticket (2019). The story is also simple: a lost dog finds its new owners. Reminiscent of the flat imagery of children’s drawings, the films tell their stories with a lightness and insouciance emphasized by an upbeat music score.

Leonid Shmel'kov’s film Very Lonely Cock (2015) starts with a sound bite from the album Radio Africa by the Soviet band Aquarium, famous for its absurd lyrics and musical pastiche. The sound bite sets the tone for the gag-based story about a man and his rooster. The rooster lays an egg every time the man pulls a cord that seems to be hanging in the air. Once the man falls asleep, the rooster starts pulling the cord himself, and every time he does so, something unexpected and unexplainable happens—the man loses his head or his head is replaced by a pear, his shape gets changed, he gets catapulted into the sky where he hits Mario Bros-styled bricks, and so on, and so forth. The short finishes with a remake of the famous scene from Tat'iana Lioznva’s film Three Poplars on Plushchikha (1968), with the only female character in the film dressed in a swimsuit and cap singing the famous song “Tenderness,” dedicated to pilots. The car in which the man, with his rooster in the back, and the woman are sitting, however, is old and rusty, missing its wheels, and, in contrast to the taxi in the original film, is not going anywhere.

Shmel'kov’s film Lola the Living Potato (2018) is radically different from Very Lonely Cock. It tells the story of a family, which consists of a little girl Lola, her baby brother, and mother, who live in an old house that used to belong to Lola’s grandfather. Feeling lonely because her mother spends more time with her brother than with her, Lola imagines various scenarios in which she interacts with her recently deceased grandfather (whose appearance and voice belong to the famous Soviet actor Armen Dzhigarkhanian), and this becomes the most interesting and fulfilling part of her life. She does not yet know that her mother is selling the house and they are going to leave it forever.

Even though Shmel'kov’s films are different in their subject matter and in their style—absurdist minimalistic drawings in the Very Lonely Cock versus the lush Gauguinesque imagery with cinematographic day-dreaming sequences in Lola the Living Potato—there is a general sense of loss that unites them. Both have strong references to the Soviet past, and both seem to mourn its passing. The final shot of Lola the Living Potato, with a bust of Lenin looking outside from a window of the old house immersed in a pouring rain, is an image of a lost childhood that took place in a country that is no more.

Dina Velikovskaia’s films are also nostalgic, but their nostalgia is for familial relationships. Made of thin lines—minimalistic graphics in About a Mother (2015) and lines created by a 3D pen in Ties (2019)—the films explore the connections between parents and their children. In About a Mother, a mother in an African village raises three sons. She has very long hair, so long that she can protect the whole village from the rain, catch fish, and rock her children to sleep. When her sons grow up and leave the village to pursue their careers, she cuts her hair whenever they find themselves in trouble and uses it to knit and weave the objects that would save them.

The threat of familial connections that are too tight drives the plot of Ties. A daughter leaves her parents to move overseas, and her parents have a hard time adjusting to their new situation. Their ties with their daughter result in the almost complete destruction of both the parents and the daughter, and only by tearing the ties does the daughter save herself and her parents. It is a new life for her, and though Velikovskaia claims that it is a personal film about her personal story, it also seemingly works as a metaphor for the new life of animation as a medium.

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