In his animated film Ülo Pikkov visualises the experience of Stalinist repression and deportations, investigating how they have been transmitted across generations. Over 30,000 people were deported to Siberia from Estonia, while in Latvia it has been estimated that over 60,000 people were deported, leaving a present sense of loss to many if not most families. Pikkov writes: “The body remembers more than we can expect and imagine. It remembers the sorrow and pain of our predecessors. Hence, each body holds all the stories in the world. Our bodies keep alive the stories of our parents and grandparents, as well as of their ancestors. But how far back is it possible to go in bodily memory?” As a part of the film we encounter yarn puppets in a cattle car that render cultural memory and its bodily dimensions visible. As the train moves, yarn unrolls from their bodies and runs out of the car through cracks in the walls. “The puppets are characters who are together by chance, people who were forced from their homes, stuffed into cattle cars and taken away from everything that was near and dear to them.”
Pikkov’s work is representative of Estonia’s strong animation tradition, which has occasionally crossed into visual art. Since its creation, Body Memory has been screened in over 170 international animation film festivals, where it has received numerous awards.
Ülo Pikkov is an internationally renowned filmmaker, producer and film scholar. He studied animation at Turku Arts Academy in Finland and since 1996 has directed several award-winning animation films (Empty Space, Tik-Tak, Body Memory, Dialogos). He has published articles on film and written fiction books for children and adults. Pikkov is the author of Animasophy, Theoretical Writings on the Animated Film (2010). For 10 years he was the associate professor of the Animation Department at the Estonian Academy of Arts supporting new talents in the Estonian animation scene. In 2018 Pikkov received a doctoral degree at the Estonian Academy of Arts with a thesis Anti-Animation: Textures of Eastern European Animated Film.