My Favourite War
Animation has proven to be a powerful medium for stories about wartime and cultural revolution. A global canon is being built to represent our recent history: such films range from Persepolis‘s perspective of the Iranian Revolution to Cartoon Saloon’s Afghani coming-of-tale The Breadwinner to Ari Folman’s Lebanon War memoir Waltz with Bashir.
Like these incredible features, My Favorite War is based on a personal truth, that of the director Ilze Burkovska Jacobsen, who grew up in Latvia during the difficult transition from post-WW2 to the Cold War. For her, the Second World War didn’t end until 1995, when the last Soviet military base in Latvia was shut down. Her epic testimony is a remarkable retelling of a regional history often unexplored in cinema. Competing in the Oscar race for Best Animated Feature, the compelling storytelling presents a strong case for the film to be on the final ballot for the Academy Awards.
The 20-year Soviet period of Latvia intercepted the potential of a regular youth: the filmmaker dramatises her memories of enlisting in the children’s Communist party, digging up the remains of a potential Nazi and living under the paranoia of a foreign attack. Furthermore, her father – a successful city manager and proud Communist Party member – died in a car crash whilst Ilze was still young. Her mother worked as a propaganda specialist who exaggerated the USSR’s work on the frontlines. It was “a suffocating job”, according to the daughter who sensed her mother’s relief when Gorbachev came into power and promised to restore the economy.
The art style resembles the acclaimed Great War video game Valiant Hearts and similarly uses simple yet sophisticated illustrations to profound effect. The images fill in for the unseen faces – the everyday people such as this family, whose significant history is contextualised and immortalised through these renditions. With its colouring book style, the aesthetic is somewhat crude, but it doesn’t need the sophisticated details to be as impactful as the films of Yuri Norstein, the Russian maestro who crossed similar thematic territory with his film Tale of Tales.
The filmmaker seamlessly intercuts her animated recreations with archival images, news clips and present-day visits to her childhood territories. She pays tribute to her family with nicely assembled home video recordings and there’s a lovely montage dedicated to her grandfather’s paintings, which carry a weighty historical power. My Favourite War is about a youth unlearning the bias of a propaganda machine, and when we witness Latvia’s liberation in the film’s final moments, Ilza confirms that her conscience was on the right side of history after all.
My Favourite War does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Glasgow Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Glasgow Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for My Favorite War here: