Czech animated short Suzie in the Garden to premier at Berlinale

'Suzie in the Garden'

Czech animation is celebrating another international success. The short film Suzie in the Garden (or Zuza v zahradách in Czech) by director Lucie Sunková has made it to the Generation Kplus Competition section at the upcoming 72nd Berlinale. The 13-minute film about the adventures of a girl in a gardening colony will first be screened in the German capital on February 10. 

Suzie in the Garden is based on a children’s book of the same name written by Jana Šrámková. It tells the story of a little girl called Suzie, who spends a lot of time with her parents in a gardening colony outside the city, full of mysterious corners and places to explore.

Lucie Sunková | Photo: MAUR film

Director Lucie Sunková says that while based on the book, the film also reflects her own experiences from childhood:

“We had a cottage where there were various nooks and crannies, and it was surrounded by other old houses. There was this grumpy man living in a mysterious garden not far from us. I was both attracted to it and terrified of it.

“It was a feeling that I think everyone gets in childhood: that they have a place that they are afraid of, but at the same time they are also terribly interested in.”

Like the animator’s previous five short films, Suzie in the Garden is made using the technique of oil painting on glass, where the image and its movement is created by gradually repainting and smudging the brush strokes.

All this happens directly under the camera on a multiplane table, which consists of three glass plates placed above each other. Lucie Sunková again:

'Suzie in the Garden' | Photo: MAUR film

“Phase after phase is painted and smudged in several layers on top of each other. I started with the technique of oil painting on glass during my studies at school. I have always been interested in this specific artistic approach in animation.”

The preparatory phase of the film alone, which entailed painting a total of 90 backgrounds, took Lucie Sunková five months. Filming in the studio, where the 13-minute film was put together from a sequence of over 17,000 hand-painted frames, took another nine months.

The director says being selected to Berlinale is an incredible success for her:

'Suzie in the Garden' | Photo: MAUR film

“I think it opens the way for the film to be screened at other festivals. I hope that it will reach as many viewers as possible, even though it’s a short animated film, which always makes it more complicated, because there isn’t a sufficient distribution platform here in the Czech Republic.”

Czech animated films have marked a string of successes in recent years. In 2020, the animated short film Daughter won a nomination for a student Oscar. Last year, the animated feature My Sunny Maad won the Jury Prize at the Annecy Film Festival and is currently nominated for a Golden Globe Award in the Best Picture-Animated category.

Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Martin Hrnčíř
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