Animation against Despotism

A seminar with Midhat Ajanovic, Nikica Gilić and Behzad Khosravi Noori
Friday 23 November, 5.30–8pm

What are the imaginable alternative futures for the past? What method of investigation or even interrogation could be used to destabilize the given narrative of the past? The image of the past perhaps demands reinvention to confirm the possibility to think about social transformation, emancipation and solidarity.

This seminar explores the relationship between world politics and animation production with Zagreb Film at the centre. It brings forth the question of how the macro politics during the cold war affected the specificities of means of production within Zagreb Film given its modernistic tendency.

Placing the idea of the third road, Non-aligned movement and cold war dichotomy on one hand and postcolonial, antifascism and solidarity in the global south on the other could elaborate on the tangible intercultural links that charts a contemporaneity of events under certain geopolitical conditions.

Midhat Ajanovic
Titoism and the idea of ‘the third road’ as ideological foundation of Zagreb School for animated film

Geographically, and ideologically, Yugoslavia stood on the border between two confronted blocks during the Cold War, but belonged to neither. The idea of ‘the third road’ was extremely popular; people really saw their country as an alternative to imperialist West and bureaucratic East.

Yugoslav regime was rarely criticized for lack of democracy; it was more fiercely attacked by the nationalist right wing, which sheds much light on the catastrophe that happened after Tito’s death. Yugoslav filmmakers rarely confronted the system; they were mostly its ardent propagators. The ‘third road’ idea was popular even among the creators of Yugoslav’s best films – members of the Zagreb School of Animated film. Still, satire was an important element of Zagreb films, but the satirical razor was directed towards actual global problems, racism, colonialism, pollution, hunger, poverty, fear of the A-bomb, war, etc. Criticism was present, but it did not include social criticism. Yugoslav system was not only spared of criticism, it was, indirectly but indisputably, celebrated. The idea of a small, spiteful country existing on the borderline between two gigantic and hostile worlds was interwoven in many films made in the Zagreb studio. A small freedom oasis, surrounded by pressures, terror and danger, was an all-present motif in animated anecdotes of the leading school’s masters. A small man abused by his surrounding, who, despite the troubles, kept fighting for his way of life, his independence and neutrality was a common denominator of the authors of the Zagreb school, regardless of their artistic profile and their filmic and visual expression.

Soon after Tito’s death in 1980, the idea of the ‘third road’ turned out to be completely ‘unrealistic reality’, just like La Grande Illusion. After Gorbachov, perestroika, the fall of the Berlin wall, and the end of the cold war, the idea of the ‘third road’ and a country in between lost its initial meaning. Yugoslavia lost its international position, and moreover, dissolved in a bloody war.

Nikica Gilić
Zagreb School and its authors in context

Zagreb School of Animated Film, representative of the tendencies towards modernist and auteurist cinema, has appeared in the context significantly different from that of Eastern and Western Block countries. Additionally, the artists of this “school” have never shared a common style; they were strongly individual, creating quite different animated films. It is therefore interesting to analyse The Zagreb School in the context of the collectivist tendencies typical for all producer-based cinema productions (both market-oriented and “socialist” ones), as well as those typical for animated film production and those typical for the socialist Yugoslavia. In order to develop in its fool (full?) diversity, The Zagreb School had to overcome the organisational growth typical for producer based productions, influence of classical style typical for animation in general and the drive towards socialist collectivism (the latter being less strong than in other European socialist countries but significant nevertheless). Zagreb School, many may argue, is so great because the individualism was allowed to flourish. But would it be possible and would it be equally influential in a country of different social and geopolitical features than Yugoslavia?

Midhat Ajanović (född i Sarajevo 1959) är animationsteoretiker, författare och filmskapare. Han studerade journalistik i Sarajevo och praktiserade animation på Zagreb film Studio of Animation (Kroatien). Mellan 1984 och 1992 regisserade han animerade kortfilmer och publicerade ett antal essäer och recensioner om film och animation. Ajanović bor sedan 1994 i Göteborg där han tog sin Phd i filmvetenskap. Han undervisar i historia och animationsteori vid olika svenska filmskolor (för närvarande vid Högskolan Väst i Trollhättan) och skriver regelbundet om film och animation. Han är författare till ett flertal publikationer som publicerats på flera pråk, bland dem The Man and the Line (2013), Den rörliga skämtteckningen (2009), Karikatura i pokret (2008) and Animacija i realizam/ Animation and Realism (2004), Animazione e relismo (2006). Han har arbetat som organisatör och konstnärlig ledare för festivaler i Podgorica (Montenegro), Zagreb (Kroatien) och Eksjö och varit medlem i flera internationella jurys.  Han har tilldelats ett flertal utnämningar för sitt arbete, som t ex 20th World Festival of Animated Film Special Award för sitt bidrag till animationsstudier.

Nikica Gilić (född i Split, 1973) har sedan 2005 en PhD inom filmvetenskap i Zagreb. Han arbetar som docent på fakulteten för humaniora och samhällsvetenskap i Zagreb, där han undervisar i historia och filmvetenskap. Han undervisar även i filmvetenskap vid Academy of Drama Art och har gett gästföreläsningar vid universitet i Berlin, Konstanz, Regensburg, Graz and Brno. Han är chefredaktör för filmjournalen Hrvatski filmski ljetopis och redaktionsmedlem av nätjournalen Apparatus (Tyskland). Han är författare till Uvod u povijest hrvatskog igranog filma (En introduktion till den kroatiska filmhistorien, 2010 och 2011), Uvod u teoriju filmske priče (En introduktion till filmnarrativets teori, Zagreb, 2007) och Filmske vrste i rodovi (Filmgenrer och stilar, 2007 och 2013). 2015 blev han associerad forskardocent vid Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies i München och Regensburg. Som tidigare ordförande för Zagreb Films administrativa styrelse är han är medlem i kommittén för Animafest Zagreb Festival och har suttit i urvalskommittéer för festivalerna 2015 and 2016. Han är en av redaktörerna för den kommande publikationen Global Animation Theory för Bloomsbury (2018).

In collaboration with Konstfack and ABF