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Mati Kutt receiving his Asta Parim Film Award award

Estonian animators are always in the fore front of creativity on the International Animation scene.  New films by Priit Parn, Kasper Jancis, Rao Heidments, Mati Kutt, and Hardi Volmer frequently win top awards at animation festivals worldwide, so the competition for an award at the Estonian Asta Parim Film Awards is very stiff.  The awards honor the best of the best of the country’s film and animation each year.
On 5 January 2011 the Asta Parim lauded the remarkable talents of Mati Kutt with the prestigious Eesti Filmiajakirjanike Uhing (Estonian Film Journalist’s Union Award) for his latest film Taevalaul (Heaven Song).  The statuette was accompanied by a €2000 award.
The 45 minute stop motion film is an ode to all of us who want to fly and described as a “philosophical journey through time and eras, people and their behavior and thoughts. . .” about the human mind, ego, superegos, and id.  Kutt believes that Freud was more a writer than a philosopher. Freud called the brain “the theater where different plays are enacted on several stages and only one scene is enlightened”.  In Taebalaul these plays are shown in the human brain.
In presenting the award to Mati the jury statement called the highly creative and imaginative animation “A film that exceeds the gravitational force of the Surrealists and rises to the heights. . .”  In 2009 while I was attending Animated Nights, Mati took me on a tour of his workshop in the prestigious Nuku Film Studio and I had an opportunity to see his storyboard and some of the characters for the film.  I have been a big fan of his work for quite a while and so I have been looking forward to seeing his latest film.
Taevalaul premiered in Tallinn, Estonia on opening night of the Animated Dreams Animation Festival, 19 November 2010 to an enthusiastic packed house. I am sure that this amazing film will play at festivals this year so we’ll all have a chance to see and enjoy it.
image from Taebalaul

There is a black cloud hovering over the award however, which is the sad news that Nuku Film (Nuku means puppet in Estonian) is in a very dangerous financial state.  The prestigious Nuku Film studio is the home to many extremely talented animators and is a major force in the stop motion and puppet animation world. They have also traditionally given many young animators a chance to hone their craft working with top professionals. Now their funding has been cut by 15% in 2011 and their reserve savings are greatly reduced.   The entire team was forced to take a three week unpaid leave recently.
To add to the financial woes, their spacious studio located in an old factory building which made socks during the Soviet era has been sold and it is feared that the new owner will raise the rent considerably, out of the renowned studio’s reach. Iwasfortunate enough to be at Animated Dreams for the 50th Anniversary of Nuku Films two years ago.  At the cabbage, black bread and vodka studio party in celebration of the mile stone I was fortunate enough to see the larger than life puppets that they had created for one of my favorite animations The Brothers Bearheart directed by Riho Unt along with many of their other sets, puppets and shelves full of awards.  It would be a tragic loss not only to Estonia but to all lovers of high quality animation if Nuku Film Studio was forced to close.