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Jirtdan (1969) by Aghanaghi Akhundov and Yalchin Efendiyev

Jirtdan (1969)
by Aghanaghi Akhundov and Yalchin Efendiyev

We are incredibly excited to announce Kino Klassika’s first animated restoration… Jirtdan (1969)!

 

ANIMATION IN AZERBAIJAN

Azerbaijan has a rich animation heritage reaching as far back as the 1930s. When looking back at Azerbaijani animations it’s evident there are two phases of production. The first movement began in 1933, when Azerbaijanfilm Studio began prepatory work with materials imported from Moscow. The studio succeeded in completing their first fully animated film, ‘Cat’ in 1938.

Unfortunately, the beginning of the war placed a juncture in Azerbaijanfilm Studio’s ability to produce further animation work. The necessary facilities were not provided to the studio until the late 1960s. 

‘Jirtdan’, a short film about a folktale bearing the same name, was completed in 1969.  This began the much awaited second phase, commonly recognised as the golden period of animated filmmaking in Azerbaijan. Recently, the 50th anniversary of Azerbaijani animation was celebrated during the second ANIMAFILM Festival in October 2019. This anniversary marked the release of ‘Jirtdan’ and the glorious golden period that followed. Over 20 animated films were produced at Azerbaijanfilm Studio in the 1970s alone. But, out of all of these wonderful films, Jirtdan or ‘Dwarf-Jirtdan’ has remained a favourite of Azerbaijanis. For decades, this film has been deeply embedded in the culture and remains a favourite of children today. 

 

THE STORY

‘Jirtdan’ is one of the most beloved Azerbaijani folktales. The word Jirtdan means tiny or dwarf in Azerbaijani. The tale is about a child, much smaller than other children his age, who instead finds his strength in intelligence and cunning. Despite his small stature, he is victorious in beating the div and leading himself and his brothers to safety. 

The ‘div’ is a quintessential folktale villain. Huge, hairy and disposed to eating children, he is an embodiment of evil. In Azerbaijan’s very own David and Goliath style parable, Jirtdan’s heroism challenges children to use wit and cunning instead of force. It is the story of the underdog, and the unexpected heroism of the vulnerable, which every culture has a version of. Another tale from the western canon ‘Jirtdan’ has parallels with is ‘Hansel and Gretel’. Famously, a brother and sister manage to outsmart a witch who intends to eat them and find their way out of the forest. 

These tales are kept alive through the generations by oral tradition. Variations to these tales, such as our animated film, can imortalise this beloved story and allow its legacy to remain in culture. 

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