11 January 2024
The global animation scene has recently witnessed the meteoric rise of two exceptional Czech talents, Daria Kashcheeva and Diana Cam Van Nguyen. Their innovative and boundary-pushing animation has propelled them onto the global stage, attracting the attention of industry professionals across Europe and Hollywood. As they continue to gain prominence, both filmmakers are now poised for their next milestone, a feature-length debut.
Written by Martin Kudláč for CZECH FILM / Spring 2024
Known for her innovative approach to storytelling and visual style, Daria Kashcheeva has made a name for herself on the global independent film scene with her auteur projects exploring personal and societal themes. Characterized by a willingness to push the boundaries of traditional animation, Kashcheeva’s work speaks to a diverse international audience, and has established her as a fresh and authentic voice beyond Czech animated cinema.
Born in Tajikistan, Kashcheeva studied musical direction at the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music in Moscow, where she also gained experience in theater sound design. Her evolving interest in visual narratives led her to study animation at Prague’s Film and Television School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU). Kashcheeva produced several notable short films while at FAMU, including In a Dumpster (2017), which features everyday refuse animated in stop-motion style, indicative of her creative approach to storytelling.
Oasis (2014) is a 2D computer-animated short in which Kashcheeva’s intensive soundscape complements the visuals of a woman’s search for peace in an urban setting, underscoring the animator’s preference for detailed, solitary creation. Her digital cutout anidoc Prague: A Foreigner’s Perspective (2017) provides insight into the lives of expatriates in Prague, melding personal identity with the larger context of city life. Kashcheeva’s talent was propelled onto the international stage with her film To Accept (2017), which garnered acclaim at Cannes after winning the Nespresso Talents contest, establishing her as a filmmaker with a unique voice and perspective.
However, it was the puppet film Daughter (2019), her bachelor’s graduate project, that really raised her profile in the world animation community. The film employs an imitation of handheld camera technique, a creative choice influenced by the Dogme 95 movement and films by the Dardenne brothers, to enhance the narrative of a nuanced father-daughter relationship. Kashcheeva’s direct involvement in the sound design, leveraging her musical background, adds to the film’s authentic ambiance. The film’s accolades included the Cristal for Best Student Film at Annecy, the Short Film Jury Award for Animation at Sundance, and a Student Academy Award, culminating in an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Short. Kashcheeva’s acclaim from Daughter led to her being invited to join the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Following Daughter, Kashcheeva’s talent piqued the interest of Hollywood agents, yet she chose to remain in the European independent film sector, with its relatively greater artistic freedom. Kashcheeva’s latest project—her master’s graduation film, Electra (2023)—reimagines the Greek myth within a modern context. In 26 minutes, Electra, which debuted at Cannes (La Cinef), combines live-action, pixilation, and stop-motion to explore the titular character’s emotional odyssey in the wake of her father’s disappearance. The film features a complex visual language, using life-size dolls and symbolic elements to depict Electra’s metamorphosis. The film has gained notable recognition, including screenings at Annecy, a BAFTA shortlisting, and the Best Short Film award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Alongside her personal filmmaking endeavors, Kashcheeva collaborates with NGOs and cultural institutions, selecting projects that resonate with her artistic ethos. As she accompanies Electra on tour, she is also giving talks on the intricacies of her animation methods and production hurdles encountered during the making of her films, offering insights aimed at assisting fellow filmmakers in realizing their creative projects. One such master talk of hers was featured at National Film Board of Canada.
Meanwhile, Kashcheeva is developing her first feature-length film under the aegis of the Czech production company nutprodukce with Lukáš Kokeš as creative producer. The script explores the theme of gender identity and the concept of moving beyond traditional binary classifications. For this project, Kashcheeva is considering a combination of live-action and animation, following the approach she utilized on Electra. As always, her style is characterized by a willingness to look beyond conventional narrative forms and techniques—for her debut, she plans to embrace the science-fiction genre.
Throughout her career, Kashcheeva has deliberately sought to expand the boundaries of traditional animation, seeking a cinematic expression that connects with audiences and challenges artistic norms. Her body of work embodies the evolving landscape of modern animation, blending avant-garde techniques with approachability, transforming personal narratives into relatable, immersive stories.
Diana Cam Van Nguyen is a rising talent among the new wave of Czech filmmakers, having won global recognition while still a student. She is renowned for her animated documentaries that explore personal and cross-cultural themes, crafted with a range of traditional to digital animation techniques. Her work, celebrated for its authenticity and emotional resonance, engages a global audience and redefines animation as a medium for complex storytelling. The narrative originality of Nguyen’s documentaries serves to challenge perceptions, inviting international viewers to see their own experiences reflected in her films.
The Czech-Vietnamese Nguyen is a graduate of Prague’s Film and Television School, in the FAMU Department of Animated Film, and has further honed her skills through an internship in Lyon, as well as an artist residency at the MuseumsQuartier in Vienna. Her bachelor’s film, The Little One (2017), explores the experiences of Rong, a young girl of Vietnamese descent adapting to life in the Czech Republic. The film captures her growth into a confident role model for her younger sister, Lilly, highlighting the significance of cultural identity.
Employing a traditional drawn animation style, Nguyen brings a sense of emotional depth and poetic quality to the film. The Little One has featured at various international film festivals, including DOK Leipzig and the Children’s Film Festival Seattle, earning such honors as an ECFA nomination for best children’s documentary and the ECFA Award for Documentary at the Olympia Film Festival in Greece.
In her subsequent short, Apart (2018), Nguyen examines the profound impact of bereavement, presenting narratives from three young people who have faced premature loss. The film integrates live action and animation, with each narrative receiving a distinct visual treatment that complements its tone and content. This blending of mediums has established Nguyen as a notable figure in the anidoc genre.
Apart has been lauded across the global festival circuit, appearing at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the BFI London Film Festival, and the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, among others. The film has reaped several awards, including Best Czech Experimental Documentary Film at the Ji.hlava International Film Festival and Best Documentary at the Zlín Film Festival, and was a finalist in the BAFTA Student Awards. Nguyen’s achievements in animation have also been recognized with the Josef Hlávka Award, underscoring her significant artistic contributions.
Her latest short anidoc work, Love, Dad (2021), deals with parental loss, using a blend of animation techniques and real letters from her father to create a deeply personal narrative. The film, which concludes Nguyen’s series on loneliness, employs a hybrid of live-action and animation, showcasing her innovative approach to the genre. Garnering international recognition, Love, Dad premiered at the Locarno Film Festival and received awards at the BFI London Film Festival and the Montréal Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, as well as nominations for the European Film Awards and Oscar consideration. The work’s impact was further acknowledged through a feature in The New Yorker’s documentary spotlight.
Parallel to her personal projects, Nguyen contributes to commercial endeavors, selecting collaborations that align with her artistic values. She maintains an ongoing partnership with the Czech production company Barletta Productions, creating animated sequences for projects such as We Have Never Been Modern (2023), the retro-pop series We’re on It, Comrades! (2023), and The Daughter of the Nation, currently in preparation for Canal+. Among Nguyen’s notable collaborations are work with the Czech filmmaker Tereza Nvotová on her documentary Unsoundness of Mind and participation in the documentary Becoming Vietnam, focused on the Vietnamese community, for the German channel ARTE.
Nguyen’s successful festival run, her increasing recognition in the film industry, and The New Yorker feature have marked her as a noteworthy talent, while her inclusion in the Czech Forbes “30 under 30” list highlighted her as one of the bright young stars in the field.
Recently, Nguyen was selected for the 46th Résidence of the Festival de Cannes, offering tailored support for scriptwriting as part of a program that includes interactions with established directors, industry professionals, and cinema institution representatives. During her stay at the Résidence, Nguyen is developing her first feature-length project, Inbetween Worlds.
Set in Prague, Inbetween Worlds, her debut feature film, chronicles the life of a 23-year-old Vietnamese-Czech woman facing a pivotal decision: whether or not to accept a marriage proposal from Vietnam, offering financial benefits but demanding her adherence to traditional roles. This premise allows Nguyen to delve into the intricacies of cultural identity, autonomy, and societal expectations of women in the Vietnamese community against the background of a young woman’s emancipation. Transitioning from anidocs to live-action fiction, Nguyen plans to integrate animated sequences, although the film will predominantly be shot live.
The director is cowriting her script together with another domestic rising talent, Milada Těšitelová. Inbetween Worlds is currently in development with producer Karolína Davidová of 13ka, who previously worked with Nguyen on her triptych of loneliness, and Jakub Viktorín of nutprodukcia for Slovakia. With the project in early development, the world premiere is anticipated for 2027, and the production team is open to international collaborations.
01 February 2024
17 January 2024
11 January 2024