On seeing it, one would think that Belarusians have decided to shoot a feature film about their famous countryman. However, Yelena Petkevich’s appearance indicates that the film is an animation. The idea of shooting several films devoted to famous Belarusian personalities was born at Belarusfilm after the success of ‘Fairy Tales of the Old Piano’: a series of cartoons on famous composers prepared jointly with a Russian Studio. Our directors — Irina Kodyukova, Vladimir Petkevich and Yelena Petkevich, created four musical biographies: of Beethoven, Bach, Profiev and Chopin. Moreover, Ms. Petkevich was awarded a prestigious animation award: the Golden Eagle. There is no one more suited to shoot a film on Marc Chagall.
“When I was asked to prepare this film, I was close to losing my motivation,” the director admits. “It was a true challenge to work on Bach and Strauss; this was difficult and responsible work. I understood that the same situation would occur during my work on Chagall. Why did I agree? I love this artist. He greatly influenced me in my youth. I was impressed with his pictures. As a student of the Architecture Department, I spent hours in the library reading his books. At that time, it was extremely expensive and I could not afford to buy it. Accordingly, I spent my time in the library, trying to copy his drawings.” The director admits that books on Chagall (she now has many, including some brought by her daughter from France) were on her table each time she was shooting a part of the film.
Ms. Petkevich has a great team. The script was written by Dmitry Yakutovich, while Alla Matyushevskaya is the art director. Jointly with director Irina Tarasova, the latter was awarded the Gold Vityaz for their Soldier animation film for children. Irina is also a passionate fan of Chagall and, unsurprisingly, the two women have no disagreements on the artist and his environment. Their Chagall in film will resemble the artist in real life.
They have no plans to distort the truth. The script is based on his ‘My Life’ book and, interestingly, facts from the great artist’s biography will be accompanied by depictions of his pictures, which aim to illustrate some scenes from Chagall’s life and his outlook. The animation will be mainly devoted to the painter’s childhood and youth: the period of his life in Vitebsk. Despite this, the director faces a tricky task: to describe thirty of his formative years in just 13 minutes, the maximum length for an animation.
The film on Chagall is serious and complicated. Belarusfilm understood this and the work has been scrutinised by the artistic council, the director is pleased by this, as she is proud of her work. Ms. Petkevich is among those who appreciate her colleagues’ opinion. “Criticism is very useful,” she explains. “Antonina Korpilova and Lyudmila Peregudova are respected film critics and their advice is extremely helpful.” The results of all this intense work will be ready after the New Year. It’s no surprise that the studio is now experiencing a revival. The success of Marc Chagall will determine whether other animation films on our countrymen will be made — including The Bear (a film on Pelageya Azarevich — one of the first Belarusian ballet stars).
Igor GALINOVSKY, the Director of the Animation Film Studio:
Animation has never produced much money. Its mission is to teach and to form tastes. Belarusian cartoon makers are involved in the process. Films such as Masha and the Bear are like chips: they are tasty and attractive. However, what we are doing can be likened to porridge: it’s nourishing and educational. All our films — even those not very successful ones — are aimed at adding to the growth of our children. Accordingly, we cannot view Belarusian animation via the prism of an exclusively commercial benefit.
Of course, we are not against making money. We are aiming for different goals. One of them is to sell a package of 180 animation films to a specialised Internet resource. The above mentioned Masha and the Bear has earned over $1m this way. As regards self-funding, we aim to reach 15 percent. This will not be easy but I hope we’ll succeed in the course of time. So far, we can boast that our full-length animation film — Nesterka’s Adventures — has paid 13 percent of its own costs.
By Natalia Stepuro