The most wonderful thing that can happen to a human being has happened to me: My life became filled to the rim with Soviet era Russian animation.
First came Y the spy and shared "Hedgehog in the Fog", the story of a hendgehog who goes to visit his friend the bear and count stars with him, but gets lost in the fog. He is threatened by an owl, a bat and an elephant (seen very briefly), but also experiences a sublime vision of a white horse. This is a tale told extremely delicately. This same delicate spirit, I learned, marks all other output of the old party-run-and-administered animation studios in Moscow. If you watch the clip, be sure to wait till the reunion of the two friends, a magically delicate and funny moment.
Wishing to treat my sister more delicately, her boyfriend Dima sought for her a nickname. One night, it came to him. "Cheburashka!" he jumped off the bed.
"What the...?" said she.
"You are Cheburashka!" he exclaimed and ran to the computer. On youtube he found a clip of the old television series, telling the adventures and misadventures of a tiny, hairy, mysterious African animal that wound up in Russia in a crate of Oranges, and of his friend, Gena, the accordeon-playing alligator. Cheburashka's charm is in the fine melancholy that's cast on every moment of the doll animation. Each happy moment is a bit sad, each sad moment - a tad happy. In Gena's pipe, the true meaning of life is smoking away.
All of this magic is portrayed with great talent in the documentary film "Magia Russica", by Yonathan Zur and Masha Zur-Glozman, which somehow, by pure coincidence, got a screening in the midst of my Russian animation phase. It happened last night on the rooftop of Hayarkon 70. It was a chilly evening, but the delicate spirit of the makers of Cheburashka and other masterpieces kept us warm.
"In Soviet times we thought that people in the west were free," says one artist, interviewed in the film, "and that we were constrained by censorship, but in fact there's cencorship in the west. It is called the marketing factor." The film ends with violent scenes from an episode of "Pokemon". The delicate hedgehog, crocodile and Cheburashka are banned by the cencorship of the current, capitalist age in Russia. The equally fascinating culture of Anime and Manga thrives today, while the old Moscovite tradition is dying. What a shame that the two could not coexist. Masha and Yonathan's film is a reflection on the place charm is given in today's world. It is as bluesy and sweet as Gena's accordeon tunes.