Screening & Exibition




Lucija Mrzljak


The long tradition of the Estonian animation dates back to 1930s, when the oldest Estonian film studio Tallinnfilm was founded. The studio sustained a production of early experimental films, despite the outbreak of World War Two and the suppression of the country’s cultural development during the German and Soviet occupation. It was not until 1958 that the animated film began to flourish, owing to the work of Elbert Tuganov, whose Nukufilm department within the Tallinfilm became the source of fruitful puppet and cut-out films. Joonisfilm, a department specialising in traditional 2D animation was set up within the same studio in 1971 by Rein Raamat. Ever since, the Eesti Joonisfilm has been known as a major catalyst of the unified Estonian animation, owing to its many decades’ comprehensive experience in the drawing (cel) animation and – later – computer 2D animation. Faced with a restricted scope for free expression in the times of the Soviet regime, the artist resorted to resourceful and deviant ways of art creation, seeking indirect pathways for their ideas. Many of the film directors of this era were also caricaturists whose sketches criticised the life under the occupiers’ oppression, often in a purposefully ambiguous manner. This specific approach is also very apparent in films, using metaphors imbedded with surrealist grammar and poetic double meaning devices. Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union at the start of 1990s and the restoration of Estonian independence, the previously state-owned Tallinnfilm Studio had lost their original status of a state-run enterprise and the support from Moscow. Sharing the destiny of its parent studio, Eesti Joonsfilm was officially set up on 22nd December 1993 as the independent studio owned by the directors. Among these were some of the legendary animators and directors, including Priit Parn, Matti Kütt, Heiki Ernits and Janno Põldma. The studio also provided a starting point in the careers of Priit Tender, Ülo Pikkov and Kaspar Jancis. The role of the producer belonged to Kalev Tamm. Through the course of its turbulent and changing history, the Estonian animation has developed its own and recognisable language, while retaining the flare of its experimental spirit. While being relatively a small country in geographical terms (with 1.2 million inhabitants), Estonia takes a highly prominent place on the map of world animation. The experience and the ambitions of Eesti Joonisfilm today pursue two main directions, maintaining the balance between high quality family films for wide audiences and the auteur films featured at film festivals. Films from both streams have achieved significant international success. The Estonian auteur animation is uniquely characterised by a consistent impact of combined elements including caricature, absurd humour and sensibility juxtaposed with playfulness, individuality and a multi-layered narrative approach. It has been observed by the critics have observed that Eesti Joonisfilm authors tend treat children as grown-ups and grown-ups as children. The task that Janno Põldma, Heiki Ernits and Andrus Kivirähk, authors of films in the Lotte series for children and the whole family have set to themselves stands in direct opposition to the accepted standards of the entertainment industry. Namely, their goal is to create a film from interweaving stories, continually engaging and packed with surprises, while also focusing on respect for the nature and avoidance of violence. In the period following 2000, a number of authors joined the studio, including indigenous authors such as Olga Pärn in collaboration with her husband Priit Pärn (Life without Gabriella Ferri, 2008, Divers in the Rain, 2009), Martinus Klemet, Mattias Mälk, Helen Unt, Morten Tshinakov, as well as authors from other countries such as Francesco Rosso from Italy and Lucija Mrzljak from Croatia. Many of these authors are former students of professor Priit Pärn at the Estonian Arts Academy (Eesti Kunstiakadeemia). Films made by the authors from the younger generation reflect the impact of the Estonian tradition, but also the spirit of new individualistic creativity. The screening of the Eesti Joonisfilm films and the accompanying exhibition will present the ANIMANIMA audience with a chance to see the most recent films from the studio’s production over the past five years.

Lucija Mrzljak is an illustrator, designer and animated film director. Born in Zagreb in 1990, she studied at the Art Academies in Zagreb, Krakow, Prague and Tallinn. She completed her MA studies of Animated Film in Estonia, under the mentorship of Priit and Olga Pärn. While still a student, she started her engagement as animator and director at the renowned Eesti Joonisfilm studio. Her student and professional films have been presented and awarded at numerous film festivals around the world. Working together with the Estonian film director Morten Tshinakov, she directed the film A Demonstration of Brilliance in Four Acts, winner of numerous awards including the Grand Prix of the Etiuda&Anima Krakow festival, and the award for the best Croatian film at the Zagreb Animafest. In 2018, she directed and animated the music video for The Closing Door song by the Irish musician and Oscar winner Glen Hansard. Lucija also works as a freelance illustrator; she produces illustrations for children’s books and poetry pieces and she also draws caricatures for political magazines (Le Monde Diplomatique, Her first book which she published in collaboration with the writer Tarmo Noormets in Tallinn in 2019 won the award for the most beautiful book in Estonia. She exhibited her illustration in a number of group exhibitions in Croatia and abroad (Bologna, London, Moscow, Gdansk…).