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Kievnauchfilm

Entry updated 21 March 2022. Tagged: Community, Film.

Ukranian film studio founded in 1943 which initially produced science documentaries (the name is a contraction of Kiev Science Films), but in 1959 Irina Gurvich, Ippolit Lazarchuk and Nina Vasilenko opened an animation workshop that, until its closure in 1998, made over 300 films, mainly shorts, usually for television. Ukrainian animation had began in 1927 with Vyacheslav Levandovskiy's The Chaff Goby (original title Solomennyi Biychok), but was eventually cut short by the 1932/1933 Holodomor famine which killed millions in the region, a result of Soviet collectivization policies (and, it has been argued, a deliberate attempt at genocide by Stalin).

Aside from Gurvich, Lazarchuk and Vasilenko, notable directors included David Cherkassky, Vladimir Goncharov, Ephrem Pruzhansky and Mihail Titov. Kievnauchfilm's cartoons were mainly fairy stories and children's tales; but many were aimed at adults, including a few adaptions of genre works, such as Chelovek, Kotoryj Umel Letat (1968), based on Karel Čapek's "The Man Who Could Fly" (1 May 1938 Lidové noviny; original title MuŽ, který dovedl lítat?); Chelovek, Kotoryj Umel Tvorit Chudesa (1969), based on H G Wells's "The Man Who Could Work Miracles" (Summer 1898 Illustrated London News); Kak Bylo Napisano Pervoe Pismo (1984), based on Rudyard Kipling's "How the First Letter Was Written" (in Just So Stories for Little Children [coll 1902]); Srazhenie (1986), based on Stephen King's "Battleground" (September 1972 Cavalier) and Yerik (1989; vt Erik), based on a story by Andrey Platonov. In the latter, a man, Yerik, is taught how to create people out of clay by the "enemy of humankind"; his creations spread across the Earth, bringing war and revealing the foul nature of the world, which Yerik's people greet with good cheer and song – they decide to "turn the world upside down", making a new one, and so "the world ended with amusement and joy ... people found themselves close to each other and forever alone. One undertaking was ended, and another begun" (see End of the World). Given the original story was published in 1921 and reflected the recent Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war, parallels are clearly intended to be drawn with Soviet history in the late 1980s (see Politics).

Kievnauchfilm's most overtly sf works are probably as follows: The Meeting (1984; original title Vstrecha) (which see). The Meeting Which Didn't Take Place (1971; original title Vstrecha, Kotoraya Ne Sostoyalas), is, like the first, about First Contact: aliens arrive on Earth and the first human they meet is a drunkard; the experience causes them to flee. The Last Battle (1989; original title Posledniy boy) features a retired general living in a cockroach-infested dwelling; he is told there is nothing that can directly eradicate them, but new Technology that controls insect movement is available, making killing them easier: however, the general decides to use the device to turn them into an army, so he can play War games and deliver grand speeches to them; he meets an ex-air force general who has done the same with flying insects.

Also of interest are: Giordano Bruno (1984), in which the imprisoned Bruno is urged by a cardinal to renounce his theories; he initially agrees, but when a visitor tells him he made the right choice he realizes they are a manifestation of his own weakness and refuses to recant (nonetheless, the visitor has knowledge of the Near Future, comparing the fates of Galileo and Lucilio Vanini). In Tale of Moonlight (1968; original title Skazka pro lunnyy svet) a kitten leaps atop the Moon (the cat's Perception of it being small and close to a mountain top proves to be true); it plays with the Stars and ends up covered in star dust, which the cat's owner shakes off into a glass and uses as a reading light. The Whale and the Cat (1969; original title Kit i kot) features, because of confusion arising from the similarity of their Russian names, a giant cat living in the sea and pursued by whalers; and a small whale living in a house, where it chases mice. Robot Will Help Us (1975; original title A Nam Pomozhet Robot) is a stop motion film about two boys who activate a Robot in the hope it will pick up litter for them; but its definition of litter is broader than theirs. In Laziness (1979) an indolent man buys an aquarium and watches the fish at mealtimes; he does nothing as one eats all the others, then devours the man's cat – finally it leaps out of the tank, takes the man's seat and meal, throwing him into the aquarium. The man thinks he should perhaps do something, but finds himself changing into a fish; finally deciding that, providing he is kept fed with worms, he will not make waves.

The company's most well known works are probably the adaptions of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island and Lewis Carroll's Alice books, the latter as Alisa v Strane Chudes (1982) and Alisa v Zazerkale (1982), which are abridged, but add many surreal visual touches of their own (see Absurdist SF) and owe little to John Tenniel's original illustrations.

In the early 1990s, after the break-up of the Soviet Union, Kievnauchfilm's animation department was renamed Ukranimafilm. In the twenty-first century other Ukrainian animation companies were formed, their output including sf films such as Victor_Robot (2020; vt Viktor_Robot), concerning Vicky, a young girl who goes with her parents to repair a broken artificial sun (see Power Sources) built by her grandfather who is missing; Vicky meets a tiny robot, Victor, and the pair go in search for him. Another film is the short Unnecessary Things (2021), about a robot who sees an old man for sale at the Store of Unwanted Things, so buys him as a pet. [SP]

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