towerbawher.jpg towerbawher.jpg

Tower Bawher

Tower Bawher

NFB director Théodore Ushev writes to let me know that his gorgeous Constructivist-flavored short Tower Bawher is now viewable for free on the NFB website for at least a couple of weeks thanks to their World Animation Day celebration. Check it out HERE. Ushev’s work also appears on the Brew as the illustrations for Chris Robinson’s column “Alone, Stinking and Unafraid.”

  • AliasMcNoName

    It never ceases to amaze me how it is that the NFB remains a virtually unknown entity in this country. As a Canadian, I’m proud to know that my tax dollars are going to support work that virtually no one will ever see. That is a shame since 3 minutes of swirling European text is certainly worth repeat viewing. I seriously cannot understand what the NFB actually does. It seems to be largely an old-boy’s club of animation insiders who fund private projects and then watch them with other insiders. I live in Toronto and I work in animation, but I know that if the NFB were to suddenly lose its funding and disappear few people (largely those not on its payroll) would be greatly saddened by the loss. I watch film after film released from the NFB and I ask myself “what the heck is the point of any of this?”

    But then again, maybe it’s just me.

  • Nice! Watch the Ushev piece while stoned on vodka and it’s even better.

  • Tom Pope

    Fantastic! Brings to mind Lang’s Metropolis.

  • chris robinson

    Hey Alias McNoName (which about says it all really)

    It’s just you.

  • I love that there’s so much animation to watch on the NFB website. I got my friend hooked on “BLACKFLY”
    black fly, little blackflies! always the blackfly no matter where you go!

  • Dave

    Alias, it’s just you. Recent NFB animation has been amazing, including The Danish Poet, Tutti-Putti, Sleeping Betty, Jeu and much more. Yes I do wish it had a wider audience, but it’s also funding gifted animators to develop their work.

  • chris robinson

    Another note about the NFB’s ‘invisibility’. That’s a valid point actually, but that’s not the fault of the NFB, but rather the government of Canada. For example, why isnt the CBC (Canada’s government broadcaster) mandated to show NFB (Canada’s government studio) films?

    What drives me nuts though is this assumption that the NFB is the only part of the animation community that reaps benefits from the Canadian taxpayer. That’s absolute nonsense. Ever hear of a thing called Tax Credits. Virtually every Canadian animation studio receives them. One could complain about the NFB making artsy films at the taxpayer’s expense, but is it any better that the taxpayer is paying for a load of teen/kids tv animation that’s barely suitable for monkeys?
    Hell, we wouldnt even have an animation industry without studios getting a lift from taxpayers. You don’t want us to pay for Euro art films and I dont want to pay for inane YTV garbage. It all evens out.

    It’s quite funny how absolutely ignorant animation industry people in Canada are about the workings of funding.

  • theodore ushev

    I don’t know if it is important, but actualy in this movie there were not so much Canadian Tax dolars involved ( except for paying the music copyrights for the Sviridov’s music ). I did it in my freetime and nights, as I was working on another NFB project + designing several web sites there. Didn’t get paid for it, I gave it to NFB for free, and they did the postproduction+distribution. Yes, and I know many people who are making their movies with NFB, without getting paid for them.

  • Dave Knott

    That was absolutely brilliant! If I hadn’t read that it had been produced in 2006, I serously would not have believed that it was a modern creation. I guess if it weren’t for the snappy timing (the only give-away to its cultural heritage), I would have bought that it came from the original era it pays homage to: 1917. I could watch this short hundreds of times and still get something new from it: different ways to animate graphics and shapes, choices of shapes, layers of various opacities; all of it building towards…a collapse! Such an egghead pleasure!!!

  • red pill junkie

    Well I think it was an amazing short: the textures, the colors and the geometric figures. The only thing that I regret is that I don’t have a fast enough internet connection to watch the thing without loading pauses :-(

  • Simon P

    Wow, I just saw this animation on a Festival ( and it blew me away (especially with visual stereo effects)! Nice work! Theodore, where did you find your soundtrack? I can’t find Time Forward soundtrack anywhere…

  • theodore

    To Simon. Simon, this was a tricky part. It is fairly unknown composer, and I found it in a very old recording on LP in Second-hand music store in Prague. It was recorded in 1958. It was kind of archeology work…

  • AliasMcNoName

    I am aware of the grants that the government gives to fund terrible projects. I am also well aware of the fact that the NFB is not the highest funded project in the country. I’ve also seen (and liked) Madame TutliPutli.

    My only point is that “what difference does any of this make?”

    In this country we seem to make either artsy films or terrible commercial ventures. I don’t think either does the public much of a service.

    Apparently I’m the only one who feels that the NFB should find a way to bring art to the PEOPLE, not just itself. If the work is not culturally relevant then what is the point. I’m not saying it should be made, but saying that one waste of public money is balanced by another, is not a terribly convincing argument. (I realize the funding for this particular project was not largely provided by NFB, but I am speaking generally).

    I think it goes to the heart of why art is made? Is it just a commercial product? Is it just a luxury for insider filmmakers? Is it a hobby for specialized fans, like those who religiously attend the festivals year after year.

    Frankly, I am not convinced. Everyone says that things are bad because there is no money. People say the population is too small, too diverse, or too thinly concentrated. The NFB, in my opinion, should be trying to reach the average non-animation-insider tax payer.

    But If I’m alone on this, I don’t mind being the last guy wondering “what if?”

    I say all that by way of response to the specific comments about what I said earlier, and by no means wish to take away from the film in question.

  • chris robinson

    Well… Alias, that’s the big question in general isnt it? What’s the point?

    But please, tell me who the average non-animation tax payer is? I’d like to know cause I suspect those ‘types’ don’t even watch Nelvana’s work either. Why arent our studios making works for the ‘average’ tax payers.

    Furthermore, let’s not forget that the NFB has made some extremely popular films. I grew up on a lot of this stuff. You gonna tell me that the Cat Came Back or Danish Poet aren’t for average folks? Ryan isnt necessarily for the non-animation tax payer but that’s been one of the most successful NFB films in years.

    Anyway, these films are made by Canadians. That alone should be sufficient. They are taxpayers, They have something to say about the country and the world they see around them (Theo’s film is actually quite a personal film about his father). They are telling stories. What we need are not better stories, but better readers.

    And anyway, why all this onus on the NFB? As i said, why am I paying for Captain Flamingo and hoard of animation tv that I’ve no interest in watching and that my kids dont even like? Why can’t Canadian animation studios make better work?

    And, let’s assume for a minute that there are these average folks you describe, maybe they’d like the stuff if they had a chance to see it. I’ve shown a lot of stuff to non-animation tax payer friends of mine and they are always impressed with what they see.

    But, I dunno..should we be doing the equivalent of live action and funding Men with Brooms?

    Anyway, what a typical Canadian attitude. let’s do stuff for the average people. let’s make everything average. Average can kiss my ass. Average suggests a person who is dead, who has found their cave for life. Who the fuck wants to reach mediocre people—on a mediocre ‘artist’

    I know where you’re coming from Tom Dick and HArry, but I just think that that’s a naive –and potentially dangerous– perspective.


  • AliasMcNoName

    Such a thoughtful response requires an equally considered response (my apologies for thoroughly thread-jacking this entry on CartoonBrew):

    I think that we agree on one major point: people might like this stuff, if they got a chance to see it. That’s part of the problem, who is the audience for this work? Animators? Genre fans? The public?

    I would disagree with your characterization of the average Canadian. I think that Canadians have a tremendous amount of experience and developed sensibilities, something that we owe in great part to multiculturalism. I don’t believe that we are mediocre, in fact I believe that the audience is bored to death with what it gets. Canadian Television is terrible in large part. Canadian movies, what few ever see the promotional light of day, are often also terrible. So what are Canadians supposed to do? We just watch stuff from the States and Asia. Is it right to blame the audience, when the creators refuse to rise above their own mediocrity?

    I think that if the work were actively presented to them, that they would develop a greater interest in Canadian films. Truth be told, I never heard of Ryan until the Academy Award. If American accolades are the sole definition of success, then why not just hire Americans and be done with it? I’m joking of course, but what is ‘success’?

    Why are we funding Captain Flamingo? That is really the question at the heart of the matter. If the commercial work is terrible and the artistic work is at worst invisible to the audience then what is the problem? If our artists are making paintings to hang in their own rooms and to their friends and other insiders, then that is a problem. I perhaps hang too much blame on the NFB, but I don’t believe that it is improper to suggest that the organization is largely invisible to the average Canadian.

    When I was a kid, they showed NFB shorts on TV all the time, what happened to that? Now we either import from the states, who are importing more from Japan, or we make our own terrible shows not worth even watching for free.

    What I don’t like is the seeming lack of interest that the NFB has in the ‘average Canadian’. Like anyone not in the know is not worth trying to reach. Isn’t the point of the NFB to promote Canadian culture to Canadians and the rest of the world? How is that really going? If you want a typical Canadian attitude, how about an organization that is just happy to keep getting funding and making films that it likes, with no higher ambition than to be part of an American award show.

    This is turning into a bash-the-NFB thread, which wasn’t quite my intention.


  • chris robinson

    hell…I have a hard time arguing with that last paragraph—although I don’t blame the producers/creators for that…it’s the bureaucrats who run the place who are the problem.

    and I agree, the NFB needs to be more visible. They’ve only just discovered, it seems, this thing called the internet. When the CBC does support them it’s only when they win an Oscar and even then they dump the film on at around midnight during a weekday (e.g. Danish Poet). And why don’t they have an NFB channel on digital tv?

    Anyway, I agree that there needs to be some serious questioning of their visibility beyond festivals—and yeah, they do go a little too ga-ga over the Oscar…but again, really this is a question of marketing and promotion (and given the amount of money that is poured into those NFB areas, maybe we should all be getting irate at that!) not of the creators and the types of films they make (and remember, this is a place that, for all the funding they do get, has experienced pretty severe cuts in production over the years.)

    But, in some ways, the same can be said of all independent animators in Canada. Where are their films? They are average, everyday Canucks who put their own coin into their films. Why arent we seeing their work (which is funded, often, by the taxpayer via Canada Council etc..)

    Teletoon was supposed to be our big animation channel. Initially they made an attempt to show short stuff but then dropped the ball. Bravo only really shows stuff they fund through BravoFact. Moviola (digital channel) shows a bit of stuff.

    So, for me, the issue is–and has always been– TV and cinema. Why are our cinemas mandated to show NFB ‘cartoons’ before a feature? Of course…that leads us to the big issue of Canadian cinema in general which has severe exhibition problems outside of Quebec.

    ANYWAY…it’s 2:30am. I didnt intend to get deeper into this, but we are leading to some pertinent questions–and given that I wrote a report on the state of Canuck animation earlier this year and am writing a book on indie animators— these are issues very much on my mind.

  • theodore ushev

    And on everyone mind, Chris, I believe. We all know that we are talking about the same problem. Well, I didn’t expected that my film will raise those questions, because it was not intend to do. Not intend? Actualy, it was a small personal film (yes, to be hanged on my wall, so only my friends will see it, and my father ), over the struggle of the artists, who serve the ideology, politic, and the “average” people. I thought it was obvious… It is a history repeating, we don’t have to invent the things, it is enough just to see how it already happened before. We all want to be more visible, I guess… And there is always a rising question about the “canadian ” content, and how the public funded art (almost all the art is public or fondation funded, BTW ) serve the “average” public. And this was a question for centuries, since Renaissance (remember the church, Michelangelo?, and the russian constructivists, they trully believed, that the images were serving the people, before getting sent to prison, and their art replaced with the official “average” soc-realism, depicting “average” workers in heroic poses), up to now.
    And I can tell You what I think. I don’t want my movies to go to “average” public. The art is not for everybody. I don’t want my movies to go on TV (Tower Bawher got a really good live on West European and American TV stations, by the way ). I don’t want them to win Oscars, or go screened. I do them for myself, and I don’t care what the average, or over average, or under average people say about them. I only care if my friends like it, and my family. You can blame me for this, I know. Being selfish. I tell a story, or don’t tell a story, or send a message and feelings or vibes. If someone gets it, ok. If not, ok too. Well, I have a small dream. Every year, when I go “religiously” to Ottawa animation festival in the fall, there are sausage sellers outside NAC. Pretty decent saussages, by the way. My dream is that at least once, I convince one of them, to go, and see just one scrrening of those animated movies, that nobody watches. No matter like it, or not. Just to be there.
    And I know that I’ll do it. Probably, I’ll do just a movie about them. So they can see themself. This a very interestic topic. This Year, one of the sausage people gave me a sausage for free ( for the animation sake, she told me ) It was the last day. Next Year I’ll bring her to the screening. This is what I can do. That’s enough, I think.
    For the art’s sake.

  • red pill junkie

    Mmmm, THAT is a good idea for a short! A sausage seller who sees by accident an art exhibition, and realizes he likes it. And maybe starts making his sausage more “artistic”, playing with the mustard, and the ketchup to make interesting compositions… until one day he can no longer sell his “master pieces” to people, because they are gonna end up in their stomachs and he can’t bear that! So he ends up poor and secluded on his home with his art who, inevitably, is doomed to rot since it’s made of decomposible materials…That could go somewhere I think :-)