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Keep it in Motion - Classic Animation Revisited: 'Tower Bawher'

Every Thursday, Chris Robinson offers a spontaneous take on films from animation’s past. This week: Tower Bawher (2005) by Theodore Ushev

Influenced by Russian constructivist artists like Dziga Vertov and the Stenberg Brothers, and featuring the dynamic score by Russian composer Georgy Sviridov, a litany of lines, shapes, colours, and sounds storm across and around the screen of Tower Bawher. They go up. They go down. They come together and just as quickly fall apart. Tower Bawher is an intense existentialist film about our often frustrating and restless drive to fight through the muddle and clutter of mediocrity and suppression in search of the stuff that makes us. In the end, though, the paradox is that no matter how far we climb, seek, or find, everything falls apart. Things come together, but only for a moment. That’s the route of the ride.

 “I start doing it one night in April [2005],” says Ushev. “I was in a deep depression. Tzaritza was not going well.” During a particularly restless night, Ushev woke up and remembered an idea he had to use the Sviridov’s score. “For many years, this piece was the music for the evening news of the Soviet state TV. This program was broadcast every Friday.”

While the television hummed in the background, Ushev’s father worked on his own art, and also on more conventional propaganda posters that he made solely to earn a living. The memories of these evenings struck a chord with Ushev. “It was like an absurdist stage decoration. Before the news, there was usually a Russian children’s programme on. Typically, it featured very, very slow Russian animations like Norstein’s Hedgehog in the Fog.  I’d fall asleep immediately. Then, suddenly, I’d be awakened by the uplifting Sviridov music, with turning globes, and the lines of the Dynamic building of Communism.”

And so it was during a sleepless night in April that Ushev decided to make the movie. “I was not able to sleep during the entire process. It was like being in a trance, like I travelled back thirty years with a Time machine. I didn't think about festivals, or if the movie will be finished. I was just diving into my memories, like a "Cartesian theatre". It was like a letter.”

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A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.