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MIFF 2024 Pays Tribute to Legendary Czech Animator Jiri Trnka

Mumbai: The 18th Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) celebrated the illustrious career of legendary Czech animation filmmaker Jiri Trnka with a retrospective session titled “From Theatrical Puppetry to Cinematic Perspective – A New Journey in European Animation.” The event featured renowned ethnologist and French animation filmmaker Olivier Catherin, who shared his admiration and in-depth knowledge of Trnka’s groundbreaking work.

Olivier Catherin highlighted Trnka’s pivotal role as a pioneer of a unique genre of animation that used puppets to convey complex drama and psychological depth. Through his innovative use of body language, expressive lighting, and dynamic camera movement, Trnka brought his characters to life, setting new standards in the animation industry. Before embarking on his illustrious filmmaking career, Trnka was a prolific artist, beloved book illustrator, and author. His transition into animation had a significant impact on the field, inspiring countless filmmakers and animators worldwide.

“Trnka’s films had a monumental impact on the development of Czech animation, and he inspired the careers of generations of filmmakers globally,” remarked Catherin. “His body of work—eighteen short films and six feature-length animated films—was matched only by Walt Disney Studios in output and garnered international acclaim, from Cannes to Venice and beyond.”

Trnka’s puppet animation studio, established in 1946, became a cornerstone of Czech animation, establishing the nation’s dominance in the field. He worked alongside other stop-motion animation masters such as Karel Zeman, Hermina Tyrlova, Jan Svankmajer, and Jiří Barta. Often referred to as “The Walt Disney of Eastern Europe,” Trnka exploited the potentials and limits of traditional Czech theater puppets, transforming them into a unique and powerful cinematic language. His influence remains a significant force in contemporary Eastern European animation.

One of Trnka’s notable achievements was his short film “Zviratka a Petrovsti,” which won the Cannes Short Film of the Year award in 1946, marking the beginning of his illustrious journey in the world of animation.

The retrospective session at MIFF not only celebrated Trnka’s contributions but also explored how his innovative approach to puppetry and animation continues to inspire and influence animators today. The session offered attendees a deeper understanding of Trnka’s work and its enduring legacy in the global animation landscape.

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