Mykyta Lyskov - The Developer of Ukrainian Animation Since we are now experiencing the cold winter months, CineSud Magazine is travelling back to this summer, remembering the highlights of the most popular summer film festivals.
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Mykyta Lyskov - The Developer of Ukrainian Animation

Since we are now experiencing the cold winter months, CineSud Magazine is travelling back to this summer, remembering the highlights of the most popular summer film festivals.

Today we would like to introduce to you a new born star, the king of Ukrainian animation Mykyta Lyskov who talks about his childhood dreams, about running away from home, about working with musical groups and his award-winning short animation Kohannia. Though the title means “love” in Ukrainian, the film does not give the audience what the title might suggest.

"I did not think that animation could be so free and speak on modern topics."

10 december 2019

Childhood dream

Mykyta’s desire to be involved in filmmaking, and particularly animation, started when he was just eight years old. He was spending summer with his grandmother. Since there was no Internet then, the director was waiting for Soviet cartoons about Cheburashka (also known as "Topple" in earlier English translations - a character in children's literature from a 1966 story by Soviet writer Eduard Uspensky) to be shown on TV. It was 1991, the year when Ukraine became an independent country, therefore all the restrictions concerning censorship which were normal in USSR, were eliminated and new cinema content from abroad began to penetrate into Ukrainian television. Mykyta says: “I clicked through the channels and waited for the cartoons to begin, but instead there was a strange film, partly animated. I remember one scene from it: Two flowers rubbing against each other that looked like female genitals. It was curious and disgusting at the same time.” Only ten years later the director realized that it was The Wall, the eleventh studio album by English rock band Pink Floyd. It was Mykyta’s first encounter with independent animation and he believes that this incident strongly influenced his life and led him to become part of this art.

Running away from home

When Mykyta Lyskov was 24 years old he found out that there was a university in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, where animation was taught. He was amazed as he could not even imagine that this profession was preserved after the collapse of the Soviet Union. At that time he was studying design at another university in his home city Dnipro, but Mykyta quit it immediately without any hesitation, told his parents about it and moved to Kiev in order to make his dream come true. The director remembers: “Only after I had entered Kiev National I.K. Karpenko-Kary Theatre, Cinema and Television University to study animation, I informed my parents. For a long time they could not understand why I dropped out of my university in Dnipro and left for another city.” Mykyta really liked studying in Kiev because in the hostel where he was living he met other students who, just like him, were fond of cinema. They learned a lot from each other and shared their experiences.

The most important subject for Mykyta at university was the story of animation. While studying, the students were shown films by Priit Pärn and Igor Kovalev. It was a true shock for the director, something incredible. He comments: “I did not think that animation could be so free and speak on modern topics. Phil Mulloy also delighted me with his minimalism, as well as Marcell Jankovic and his Son of a White Mare.” These authors influenced Mykyta and his future works. He was trying to imitate them and follow their example. The Ukrainian director is also very grateful to his animation teacher Elena Borisovna Kasavina. Thanks to her, Mykyta learned how to animate and breathe life into the heroes of his films. However, when Mykyta Lyskov graduated, he felt that there was nothing more interesting in Kiev left for him, so he returned to Dnipro and began to make his animation movies there.

Production of clips

On Mykyta’s website it is possible to find music videos produced by him, especially for the band Dolphin. It is one of the first rap groups which was founded after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mykyta Lyskov listened to their music when he was at school. He was in awe of the songs’ lyrics because he considers them to be very sincere and honest. The Ukrainian director says: “It was a dream of my childhood to get acquainted with the writer of Dolphin’s songs and make a joint project and after almost 15 years, it happened. I was incredibly happy.”

Though Mykyta creates music videos, it is important for him to only work with music that really appeals to him, and that happens very rarely. Then he just sits down and starts drawing, ideas come by themselves. The director says that he cannot work by order. Sometimes musical groups ask Mykyta to make clips together but he often refuses, as he is not interested in the commercial aspect.

Transformation of Ukrainian animation

Mykyta Lyskov really likes animation as a form of art and believes that this art can speak on modern topics: politics, life and death, violence or inequality, etc. He comments: “However, this is not the case of Ukrainian animation. Ukrainian animation is still cartoons for children. It’s underestimated and is just an entertainment, distant from reality.” This fact terribly upsets the director, so he decided to make an animation film completely different in order to show Ukrainian reality, or in particular, his home city Dnipro, which still has not gotten rid of the Soviet influence and does not have its own culture according to the director. Mykyta says: “I emphasize my city and the people who live in it. I don’t want to move away from Dnipro but I want to change the situation, talk about it through my movie.”

Kohannia

In every new film, Mykyta Lyskov tries to implement the experience that he has gained from the previous projects. Therefore, the director considers his last movie Kohannia to be his best production so far. The crew had been working on the film for exactly a year, 12 months. Originally there was a plan to finish it in 9 months, however that did not succeed.

Mykyta says: “‘Kohannia' is a purely Ukrainian word. It is not correct to translate it as ‘love’. Kohannia is a feeling that arises in the soul and has a connection with the transcendental and divine. This is what I do not see around me nowadays, it is a forgotten feeling and condition.” That name turns out to be a game that the director plays with the audience. Viewers are expecting a movie about love but that does not happen. Ukrainians have been living with such a feeling of disappointment for three decades. They are fed with promises from politicians and in the end they are deceived. Kohannia reflects the reality of Ukrainian daily life, nevertheless it is narrated using an animation language.

One of the film’s themes is the environment. Plastic packages dirty the streets, advertisements hang on walls of houses and pillars, but people do not pay any attention to the situation around them. Plastic captures the world, it is everywhere: on trees, in the ocean, and this is not a secret to anyone. Plastic on people's heads in Kohannia is a symbol of blindness: Humankind sees the environmental problems around themselves but does nothing. To add even more drama to the film, the director uses interesting symbolisms and surreal situations such as people whose heads are being changed magically while waiting for their bus at the bus stop. The director notes that such symbolisms can be interpreted by the audience in several ways.

The movie Kohannia was made with the help of the Ukrainian state film agency. The support was received in 2017 at the Molodist Film Festival in Kiev where Mykyta was showing his film The End. The director remembers: “After the festival the producer Andrii Granytcia came up to me and said that my movie could receive support from the state. I did not believe him at once, but after we had adopted the text of the contract, I realized that it was true.” In Mykyta’s point of view, it is great to make your own movies and get paid for it. Owing to this, the Ukrainian director was able to refuse commercial orders and work the way he wanted.

Impressions from film festivals

Mykyta Lyskov tries to think less about prizes and festivals, as it often just brings disappointment, nervousness and takes a lot of energy. He comments: “I am very glad that my film Kohannia received the Grand Prix at TAFF in Finland, in Turku, as this year the jury was Phil Mulloy, a genius whose films I saw as a student and about which I cannot stop thinking.” Mykyta did not expect that Kohannia could be understood outside of Ukraine so it was a big surprise for him to win at this specific festival, as the film was primarily was made for a Ukrainian audience.

Plans for the future

Currently Mykyta Lyskov is writing a script and drawing a storyboard for a new short film. The plot, just as in Kohannia, will be located in the city Dnipro. The director really enjoyed using the animation to explore the city in which he lives. He says: “We have already applied our project for financing from the state and now we are waiting for the selection results.”

If you want to find out more about Mykyta Lyskov you can check his website and his Facebook page.

(c) All visual material is used with the filmmaker's permission.

Over de auteur: Sofia Piven

Sofia Piven is currently studying Journalism and International Relations at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. She has always been interested in writing articles and after finishing school and entering the university she wrote for local newspapers and magazines. Since January 2018 she regularly writes articles for CineSud magazine.

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