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GOCRITIC! Animateka 2023

GoCritic! Industry: Masterclass on White Plastic Sky by Juraj Krasnohorský

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- The producer has shared insight on the production of this post-apocalyptic sci-fi animated feature, a co-production between Hungary and Slovakia, two countries that seldom release such films

GoCritic! Industry: Masterclass on White Plastic Sky by Juraj Krasnohorský
Juraj Krasnohorský at Animateka masterclass (© Andrej Firm)

The Animateka International Animated Film Festival in Ljubljana regularly showcases short animated films from Central and Eastern Europe, along with a handful of prominent feature films. In the Animated Feature programme, viewers had the chance to see the Hungarian-Slovak sci-fi movie White Plastic Sky [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Tibor Bánóczki, Sarolta Szabó
film profile
]
. The festival audience was in for a treat as the film was screened in two parts and was accompanied by a masterclass led by film producer Juraj Krasnohorský.

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White Plastic Sky, directed by filmmaking duo Tibor Bánóczki and Sarolta Szabó, world-premiered in the Berlinale’s Encounters section. Since then, the film has enjoyed a spectacular presence on the circuit, having been showcased in more than 50 festivals worldwide. 

In this unnerving and spellbinding animation, we’re transported to Budapest in 2123. Humanity has completely drained Earth’s resources and is facing some dreadful consequences. In this Orwellian society, people are implanted with a seed upon turning 50, turning them into trees. When tragedy-stricken Nora (Zsófia Szamosi) decides to have her implant 18 years before her time, Stefan (Tamás Keresztes) is prepared to go above and beyond to save his loved one.

The long production journey of White Plastic Sky, which was seven years in the making, is inextricably linked to the development of animation in the region. Krasnohorský, of the production company Artichoke, met Hungarian artistic duo Domestic Infelicity during the 2016 Višegrad Animation Forum (now the CEE Animation Forum). According to Krasnohorský, a Hungarian-Slovak co-production was a logical step for the feature film, given the similar state of the animation industry in both countries: as of 2016, there hadn’t been any feature-length animated films made in Slovakia’s modern history, and only a few made in Hungary. 

An absence of studios and low subsidies in both regions highlighted the problem, but when Bánóczki and Szabó presented their project at the Forum with just one visual and a rough yet provocative concept, the idea for a co-production was born. There was an almost tangible sense of trust among the creative team during the masterclass, as the producer repeatedly expressed admiration for the directors’ artistic process and insisted that no accidental decisions had been made regarding the visuals or the dramaturgy of the film.

Effectively, the worldwide success of White Plastic Sky helps to showcase the scenery in the region, since the film’s protagonists travel from Budapest to the Tatra mountains. Many production aspects which were only theoretical to begin with proved successful during the co-production process, such as the case for training young talent in the animation industry. 

Thematically, White Plastic Sky is multi-layered, highlighting ecological as well as ethical questions of science. Nevertheless, what most captured this writer's attention was the film’s exploration of the concept of plant blindness. Plant blindness refers to human beings’ inability to acknowledge the role of plants on the planet, and their assumption that plants are secondary to the planet’s fauna. Turning human beings into plants for survival and developing the idea of plant life as a whole other, elevated state of being (just without the bloodlust of John Wyndham’s triffids) directly contradicts the idea that plants are irrelevant.

White Plastic Sky is a hybrid film, using 3D animation for its surroundings and landscape and rotoscoping techniques for its character animation, and the directors are careful to keep a degree of separation between the two over the course of the story, just as the heroine is kept in an in-between state of transition from human to plant. Although the film offers grim predictions for the future of the planet, it’s also a love letter to the beauty of nature and the connections we humans are capable of building.

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