10-05-2010

Latvian short film success in Cannes

For the second year in a row, Latvian short film has been selected out of several thousand films to participate in the official short film competition in Cannes. This year Jurgis Krasons' ten minute 2D animation To Swallow A Toad follows Laila Pakalnina's short fiction Silence in 2009. It is worth mentioning that Jurgis Krasons was a production designer to Silence, and now - in the role of the director - presents a talented and interesting filmmaker, whose name is worth remembering in the international circles.

It is not for the first time that the name of Jurgis Krasons appears in the international context. The graduate of Latvian Academy of Arts with a MA degree in Arts has been working as a production designer in more than 20 Latvian and international film productions since 1998, among them as a set designer in Invincible (2001; dir. Werner Herzog) and as an art director in Honey Baby (2004, dir. Mika Kaurismaki). At the moment Jurgis Krasons with Latvian colleague Martins Milbrets works as production designers on ambitious Japanese TV series Clouds above the Slope, those shooting in Europe takes place in Latvia, Estonia and France.

Jurgis Krasons passion for animation started at Rija Films studio in late 1990s, when he began to learn the craft of animation and worked as designer for two animation films. To Swallow a Toad is his second animation film as a director, following his directorial debut The Black Box (2006). Rija Films is known for helping young artists in their craft and welcoming animation ideas that are new, original, and able to compete internationally. Producer of Rija Films, Vilnis Kalnaellis will attend this year's Cannes festival along with Jurgis Krasons. Rija Films stend will be open at the market Marche du Film, where productions of Rija Films studio will be promoted and distributed along with other internationally interesting Latvian films, as Rija Films has taken up distribution of Latvian films since beginning of 2010.

The title of the animation To swallow a Toad comes from a Latvian saying that can be translated as "to put up with something" or "tolerate a humiliating situation". It refers to a stereotypical self-understanding of Latvians as a very patient and tolerant nation - even at their own expense. Filmmaker and critic Davis Simanis writes that Jurgis Krasons has created a visually engaging and highly daring look at the ways individuals evolve and adapt. Dad, mom, and son are trapped in city life of endless humiliation: they are bullied by violent schoolmates, monstrous neighbors, and legitimized shallowness, however they still are teaching each other to "swallow it".

Jurgis Krasons adds up to the strong animation auteur tradition along with internationally known Latvian animators Signe Baumane and Vladimir Leschiov. Both of them earn a lot of prestigious festival attention and prizes. Vladimir Leschiov's Wings and Oars (2009) premiered at Annecy and received "Golden Dove" at DOK Leipzig, but Signe Baumane's Birth (2009) premiered at Berlin, and competed in Annecy, in addition Venice film festival made a tribute to Signe Baumane in the program Giornati degli autori in 2009. All three Latvian auteurs have their own profound style appreciated internationally, and once coined term "Baltic New Wave" in animation might not be an exaggeration anymore...

TO SWALLOW A TOAD

2D animation, 2010, 10'

Original title: Norīt krupi

Director: Jurgis Krasons

Script: Ivo Briedis

Cinematographer: Martins Vela

Music: Andris Barons

Producer: Vilnis Kalnaellis

Production Company: Rija Films

SINOPSIS - Once some "round" intellectuals lived in a small town. They were smart, kind, farsighted and successful. The reason for their success - they could swallow toads and endlessly tolerate things. But some who were "square" also lived in the small town. They were pragmatic realists - good was repaid with good, evil with evil, and no toads were ever swallowed. They lived in peace until one day a "square" discovered that the "rounds" swallow toads...