This short, long KROK

The 16th International Animated Film Festival KROK, a 20-year-old regular event, was shorter in 2009 than usual. Nevertheless, the quality of the competing films and the number of professional discussions and fun clubs was no inferior to feature-length movie competitions.

The joy of meeting old friends and colleagues, the opening ceremony in the Cinema House, staying and dining on board the Zirka Dnipra (Dnipro Star), making jokes, talking with each other, and dancing non-stop until morning — to an outsider all of this could look like a big celebration or even a feast in time of plague. Only those who create animations, work painstakingly in the silence of a studio on their own or with a team, and think of the tiniest details know that the mystery of this art is reinforced greatly by such rare occasions to communicate with colleagues, learn about their findings, and celebrate together. The festival is precisely this kind of non-stop working celebration.

From the very first day the animated films that participated in the competition were shown. The jury was evaluating every work presented. There was not enough room for all those who wanted to listen to master classes given by such stars of animation as Aleksandr Petrov, winner of the Oscar award, Igor Kovalev, holder of all conceivable world animation awards, Eduard Nazarov, KROK’s co-president and the creator of such widely popular characters as Winnie the Pooh and The Dog in Soviet cartoons, and others. Every morning in between film showing sessions there were discussions expertly conducted by Larysa Maliukova. In the presence of its creator every film was discussed in great detail by journalists and animation experts, experienced animators and debutants.

A great number of films that were not a part of competition but were shown during the festival presented the entire spectrum of world animation. The films that absolutely deserved being included in the program but were not (just because it had to have some limits) were shown in the program called “The Protuberances of Consciousness.” Mikhail Aldashin planned the program in such a way that the audience was able to familiarize itself not only with innovative findings in animation but also with the possibilities of co-production. Despite geographical distances Croatians and the Japanese, Germans and Austrians, Americans and Englishmen together create films combining ideas and finance.

KROK presented a special program to mark the 50th anniversary of Ukranimafilm studio, including internationally noted films produced by Ipolit Lazarchuk, Volo­dymyr Dakhno, Iryna Hurvych, and Volodymyr Honcharov, as well as by the living classics of animation like Davyd Cherkasky, Yevhen Syvokin, Natalia Marchenkova, Yelena Kasavina, Iryna Smyrnova, and others. The presentation evoked the mixed feelings of excitement and sadness, because these great films that have been created in the last 50 years may have not worthy successors —the Ukranimafilm studio is virtually not operating now.

The retrospective showings of the jury members are an invaluable school for any animator. Among the jury members were Joan Gratz (USA), Oscar-winning creator of claypainting technique; Violetta Kolesnikova (Russia), veteran of Soyuzmultfilm studio who has drawn the characters for Bremenskie Muzykanty (The Bremen Town Musicians), Shaybu! Shaybu! (Go! Go! Go Team!), Siniy Shchenok (Blue Puppy), many characters of Fyodor Khitruk; the lively and cheerful Monique Renault (Netherlands); and the “synthetic” Frenchman Jean Rubak — a philosopher, physicist, subtle artist, and a professional musician.

It has been a tradition to end the festival with an animated film created during the festival by the youngest participants. Guided by Olena Kasavina and inspired by the 20th anniversary, it turned out great. A mistake was made in the captions to this film: instead of wishing to meet again at KROK-2010 a caption said KROK-2100. Hopefelly, the festival will live that long, but even now it has an increasing number of problems. Iryna Kaplychna, KROK’s general director, has spoken briefly about them in an interview given to The Day.

Ms. Kaplychna, what is the main idea of the festival? Why are so many titanic efforts exerted for its organization?

“KROK is, above all, an opportunity to get together for all animators who want to see each other and each other’s works. The festival is a big get-together — a professional one. This is obvious in everything, from presentations of competing films to the entertainment events. The festival and its awards can be a help to some in promoting their films and finding financial support for future works. There is no market here but many leading producers and distributors are always present. Our film ground often becomes a launching platform for joint projects.”

This year the festival was on the verge of a failure because of the hard times. What is your forecast for the future?

“Every year we have to face the same problems. Unfortunately, we understand that our life does not get any better. The economic crisis has changed many things in our relationships and in our plans. But if even in these conditions we were able to spend nine days on the festival boat, I do hope that we will keep KROK. The only thing that can ruin the festival is if the 20-year-old friendly tandem between Ukraine and Russia will cease to exist. Neither Ukraine, nor Russia will be able to cope with organizing this festival. I hope that the existence of such a unique institute as KROK, which ranks so high in the world, will not be threatened by any political games.”

For the first time in many years the KROK’s regular patron Francois Salomon did not come to the festival. Did he stop supporting you?

“Fortunately, this is not true. Thank to him we have the prize fund just like we used to. And I am sure it will continue to be like that. However, the crisis has influenced him, too, and now he is having some very important meetings connected with the future of his business. His love and financial support are with us anyway.”

There were the usual holidays of animated films for children in every city where the festival boat stopped. What about this year?

“We had to choose the places where the boat stopped due to the shorter duration of the festival. We had stops in the cities where local authorities supported our initiatives. Everything that is organized for children within the framework of KROK is done for charity; the only thing that is needed is the support of the local authorities. We had a meeting with kids in Zaporizhia, but it did not bring as much pleasure as the meetings we had before. A lot still depends on who is in charge of the arrangements in the host city. The authorities in Kherson said a polite ‘no’ to the event under the pretext of preparations for Teachers’ Day. Five meetings in Sevastopol were a great success thanks to the initiative of the municipal authorities and the local cinema bosses.”