Soviet Union, 10 min
Directed by: Fyodor Khitruk
Written by: Fyodor Khitruk
Starring: Elena Chepoy (voice)
I only recognised Fyodor Khitruk as the director of the Soviet Winnie-the-Pooh films, beginning with Vinni-Pukh (1969), but here is another of his pleasant animated films. Winner of the Grand Prize for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival, Ostrov / Island (1973) is a genial critique on the selfishness of modern society. Animated in a minimalist fashion that recalls a simple newspaper comic-strip, this ten-minute film uses the allegory of a person stranded on a minute desert island to explore the reluctance of others to lend a helping hand if it doesn't benefit themselves. This apparently suggests the moral degradation of society as a whole, symbolised by a floating newspaper than only features news of warfare, gory horror movies, half-dressed women and gunfire. As the main character patiently awaits his rescue, dozens of passersby either ignore his waving hand or exploit his unfortunate predicament for their own gain.
Ostrov takes a simple scenario and uses it to make an obvious point, but it does so in a pleasant manner – without hardly a hint of bitterness nor malice towards the society it is condemning; rather, it exhibits something closer to quiet disapproval. Produced at Soyuzmultfilm studio, the film seems like a political work, but not one specifically relevant towards the Soviet Union. Indeed, any Western country could be accused of the injustices featured in the film. While waiting on his island, the main character is interrogated by Interpol officers, conquered by an imperialist ship, loses his lone palm tree to greedy loggers, is consoled by a missionary who promptly abandons him, is thoroughly examined by impartial scientists, and harassed by journalists. He is eventually rescued, in a genuinely bittersweet ending, by somebody whose situation is just as hopeless as his own, suggesting that basic human goodness does still exist, however discretely.