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Magia Russica (2004)

A poetic view of Russian animation and of cultural and social transformations Russian society has been gone through. It is about multi faceted and humorous animation, almost never exposed to western eyes.


(as Masha Zur),


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Credited cast:
Garri Bardin ...
Iosif Boyarskiy ...
Eduard Nazarov ...
Himself (as Yuri Norstein)
Aleksandr Tatarskiy ...
Masha Zur Glozman ...
Herself - Interviewer (as Masha Zur)


In 1935, three Walt Disney films were screened in Moscow. Fyodor Chytruk, then a young art student, saw these films and didn't believe his eyes; he was convinced that he had seen a miracle unfolding before him. What he didn't know was that one day he himself would become one of the greats of Russian animation. Through his personal story, we discover a magical art form that remained closed behind the Iron Curtain for decades. Compared to the other arts - especially literature and theater - the animated films, considered a children's art form, passed relatively easily through the strict censorship of the Soviet Union. Like all Soviet institutions, the animation studios Soyuzmultfilm enjoyed full government support, a fact that provided the artists with generous production budgets as well as distribution in 112,000 cinemas around the USSR. This situation allowed for the development of a tradition of animation style that was not only for children. Magia Russica moves between the sights ... Written by Yonathan Zur

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Release Date:

5 October 2004 (Israel)  »

Also Known As:

Волшебная Русь  »

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Did You Know?


Garry Bardin: If you are not a romantic, and you don't have a sense of humor, you have nothing to do in Russia.
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User Reviews

A good, poetic introduction to Russian animation
17 January 2009 | by (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews

This documentary film is a good introduction to Russian animation for those who are not very familiar with it. It covers a number of the more famous films and artists while also spending a lot of time on Russian culture itself and on what was behind the films that they made. It is indeed poetic, and the films that are covered are excellent. Despite that, I did find some flaws in this film.

First of all, while the material and interviews are excellent, I felt that the film as a whole lacked a solid unifying theme, and so by the second half was beginning to feel stretched out. There feels just a bit too much randomness in the overall edit, as if the directors couldn't quite decide where to go and simply decided to put in their favourite footage without worrying too much about direction.

My second "complaint" (though it probably would have little affect on someone unfamiliar with the subject) is that the material covered, while good, does not give an accurate impression of the sheer scope of ideas of Russian animation. It focuses almost entirely on the more popular works of the Soyuzmultfilm studio, though even there, it misses some very big things along the way. Aleksandr Tatarskiy (who directly taught nearly 60% of the Russians in animation today) and Pilot Studio (the first private Russian animation studio, which he founded), for example, are barely given any mention at all. Neither is mentioned any animation from other Soviet republics, some of which was very famous, nor what existed before Soyuzmultfilm's founding in 1936.

The focus of the film seems to be a relatively small, though mostly representative, selection of films from the Soyuzmultfilm studio, the atmosphere in which they were created, and what the people from that old school are doing today and think about where the art form is headed. One gets a sense that the directors are more akin to fans of Russian animation rather than researchers, so what emerges is a somewhat unfocused but sincere film about the films that they love best.

Having said that, there is a lot of interesting material in here. We are given tours of Garri Bardin's and Yuriy Norshteyn's studios (and see a very short segment of the unreleased "Overcoat"; Akaky Akakievich looking for fleas in his tattered coat).

I seem to have bought the last existing DVD copy of this film with English subtitles, so unless it is re-released, good luck finding it...

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