14:46 09 Oct 2023

Volunteers start Ukrainian animation course to fund restoration of archive films with proceeds

Projector Creative & Tech Institute and Dovzhenko Center created a charity video course, "A Brief History of Ukrainian Animation."

The series of lectures was designed to present Ukraine's rich, more-than-a-century-old animation industry that can attract and enthrall modern viewers. 

The volunteers from two organizations told Rubryka that the proceeds from course purchases would help support the restoration of Ukrainian archival animated films.

What is the problem?

The Dovzhenko Center, the largest Ukrainian film archive, needs help restoring animation films the organization collected over the years to preserve their uniqueness and history. 

Many films in the Dovzhenko archive are in bad shape, as they had been stored in different and often incorrect conditions before they got to the center's collection. Wrong air humidity or sudden changes in temperature led to fungal infection, drying out, and burning, so films lost their quality. Some films have sustained mechanical damage due to long use and now have cracks and tears.

"Of course, when the films get into the hands of our specialists, we try to stop all these destructive processes, restore them, and continue to keep them in proper conditions," says Aliona Penzii, a leading film expert at the Dovzhenko Center. "However, time takes its toll. Even when everything is stored properly, the destructive processes continue — especially if the film has a tough past. We need to make every effort to digitize these films and disturb them as little as possible in the future."

The Dovzhenko Center currently has resources only for digitization, which is often insufficient to preserve films that require more serious restoration with image and sound. The archive's team has neither special equipment nor specialists for the task but the center is ready to entrust the job to professionals on the market.

"I will give you an example: there is a simply incredible animated film, 'Charivnyk Okh' by the famous director Davyd Cherkaskyi. This film can be characterized as a mystical musical in the Ukrainian baroque style. It's an extremely beautiful film, which is based on folk songs," says Penzii, pleading the case for unique Ukrainian animation. "We have a Russian-language version in good condition and a Ukrainian version with a very damaged image and sound. We still screen the Russian version, but we dream that with the help of professional sound engineers and restorers, we will be able to bring back the Ukrainian version." 

According to the Dovzhenko Center, unfortunately, many films had the same fate. During Soviet Russia's occupation of Ukraine, Ukrainian cartoons were created in two audio versions: Ukrainian and Russian. However, Ukrainian copies were made ten times less, so, unfortunately, fewer of them have been preserved, and they are in much worse condition. In the time of Russia's war, trying to destroy the Ukrainian nation and identity, it is crucial to return precisely the Ukrainian versions to the audience.

What might happen if we don't address this issue today? First, people will not have access to an incredibly fascinating and important layer of Ukrainian culture. When young generations of Ukrainians watch old Disney or European films, they won't even imagine what films Ukrainian artists created at the same moment in history, what discoveries they made, and what topics they were concerned about. Second, not everything is durable. Despite being considered one of the most reliable materials for storage according to archival standards, film still loses its qualities, so it needs digital copies.

What is the solution?

To make this urgent work happen, the Dovzhenko Center first wants to educate society about how multi-faceted and important the animation industry is for culture in general. With the Projector Institute, the archive initiated a video course, "A Brief History of Ukrainian Animation."

Representatives of the Dovzhenko Center — film expert and film critic Aliona Penzii and Ukrainian cinema and animation researcher Oleh Olifer — worked to create the program, selecting iconic pictures. They offer everyone to learn the history of Ukrainian animation from its beginnings in the 1920s to the present day and immerse themselves in the context in which animation directors created their works.

How does it work?

The video course has six video lectures and costs ₴1500 ($41). All proceeds will be directed to restoring archival films of Ukrainian animated works at the Dovzhenko Center.

You can register for the course now, but it will be available on the Projector website on October 30. Those who register for the course before this date will get a 5% discount. The promotional code will be sent in the mail after registration. The course is available at the link.

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