2ANNAS 2024. Review of “Debris” by Ilze Ance Kazaka

Clean, playful, and introspective – these are the defining attributes of emerging director’s Ilze Ance Kazaka’s latest animated short, Debris/Gruzis. Already named the best in the National Competition of 2023’s RIGA IFF, it was also screened as part of the Baltic Short Film competition at 2ANNAS, the oldest short film festival of the Baltics. The festival’s theme this year is all about the human mind and its workings – to which Kazaka’s work is perfectly aligned.

The protagonist of Debris is a humanised figure, its counterpart – a box of noisy, messy, even colourful bits and pieces. The world of the protagonist is that of a minimalist nothing, no objects besides oneself, no noise besides its footsteps. Even the character themself is all but some concise lines. Removing the sudden obstruction of a box is just logical. However, after a near-film-long struggle they take on a different strategy, for no problem goes away by just crude force. Delicate tangles – in boxes or otherwise – take delicate detangling.

The film is made in a style that is recognisably Kazaka’s. As an illustrator and animator, she has polished a crisp achromatic look, demonstrating her draughtsmanship and artistic discipline. In Debris, the author has used this to her advantage: the simple visuals and artistic choices help with clarity. The protagonist is a line – then the clutter is a textured, dimensional shape or a coloured line. The main character has no individualised features, rather they are an idea.

Secondly, Kazaka’s animation is essentially playful. Since no dialogue is used, the bulk of the story is carried by movement and shapes which in turn are driven by their absurdity and metaphorical, associative nature with language and other aspects of reality. Interestingly, despite employing a highly controlled style, Kazaka almost completely ignores the spatial relationship between objects (it is never truly clear how big or small the protagonist is) – because that is not the point! What’s important is their filling –the meaning instilled in the lines – and their inner workings as well.

The theme of Debris is that of the mind. As the protagonist’s head explodes and they resort to manually, carefully sorting the box, revealing miniature copies of their body parts and finally putting them in the void of their stomach, it becomes clear they were fighting for their own inner peace. A similar idea was featured in her last short film Nerves on Nerves/Nervi uz nerviem (2018): a collection of struggles with audial overstimulation and the drive to rid oneself of it.

One could say Kazaka’s films are essentially animated. In a truly East European sensibility of animation, they are based almost exclusively on movement and absurd twists of visual expectations, while using minimal sound. After all, animation is not reality. It is a play of the mind.

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