Olga at work. Photo Credit: Anete Melece.

Olga at work in “The Kiosk.” Photo Credit: Anete Melece.

Many of us often envision changing our professions or pursuing our longtime dreams or passions, but that is as far as we get — lost in a world of fantasy that we are either too scared or too pragmatic to pursue beyond the realm of our imagination. But then there are those who despite the risks and fears, strike out on their own, showing others that if you believe in something strongly enough, you can make it happen – all you have to do is take that first step.

When we first meet Olga, the character from Anete Melece’s animated short The Kiosk, which had its U.S. premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this past week, she is going about her daily duties as a newsstand owner and conversing eagerly and cordially with clients, often providing them with what they wish to purchase before they reach the stand. As the night settles in, it becomes evident that the kiosk is not only a place of employment for Olga, but also one where she lives, both figuratively and literally. One day, an uncanny situation leaves the plump and lonesome woman jubilant, as she embarks on a journey she had only daydreamed about – until now.

Full of cheerfulness and adventure, the brightly-colored scenery and quirky characters found in the award-winning short — reminiscent of watercolor paintings or children’s books — showcase the illustrative talent that Melece possesses. But The Kiosk isn’t the first short-film for this Latvian-born animator and graphic designer. In 2007, she created the eight-minute film Vilma doesn’t work today, a story about “Varis, a man with four bags beneath his eyes; Mirdza, seller of the sour-cream; an old Lung that spat a chewing gum in the face of a Mitten; and a Megapixel, which slowly digitizes the world.” Discovering a new-fangled passion for attending film festivals, Melece told GALO that this is only the beginning of her innovative stories as told through animation. Taking time out from the festival, the lively Switzerland resident discussed a certain kiosk in Riga, which served as inspiration for the story, and what her character might be up to next.

GALO: Your short touches on an important subject matter through the character of Olga: people often fall into a monotonous lifestyle, doing the same thing day in and day out, while dreaming of getting away or doing something different with their lives. However, most of them never take that first step, unlike Olga who due to a mere accident goes on an unexpected adventure that changes her life. Why do you think people are often afraid to pursue their dreams and embrace change?

Anete Melece: Because change is the opposite of the place we call our comfort-zone. It’s a nice place to be, but after a while, it stops providing us with the means necessary for growing. Fear of failure and simply laziness can keep one stuck there for ages. It requires courage or some kind of a kick from the outside world for one to be able to get out of that zone.

GALO: The concept of the short is both charming and unique in that we see Olga living in her kiosk, unable to exit it, because of the lifestyle she has been embracing. Is your short also a commentary on the ever-growing obesity problem that many nations worldwide are starting to face?

AM: One could see it like that and it wouldn’t be wrong, but that was not my intention. For me, the film is about being stuck, not fat.

GALO: It is amusing watching Olga interact with the customers throughout the cycle of a day, comforting them and often knowing what they need or want before they speak. Where did the inspiration for this film and character come from for you and why did you decide to place Olga in a kiosk, instead of inside a home or office – what made this location important?

AM: I don’t know how the idea of the kiosk came about. It was there right from the very beginning and I didn’t even consider an office or some other place. While working on the storyline, I was doing some research, and one day I was sitting in a real kiosk — observing the people, situations and doing sketches. The owner of the kiosk, Edwin, has been working there for 17 years and he knew almost all of the people coming there. For many of them, it seemed like a place that is more than just a kiosk. Besides the newspaper, lotto or chewing gum, they came to hear their daily “how are you?” that sometimes transformed into never-ending chats. Edwin has very patient ears and a good heart, so he became a source of inspiration.

GALO: At the end of the film, we see Olga in a setting that was inspired by her dreams. Do you think she will eventually travel again, or will she fall into the same trap as before?

AM: At the very end of the film, we can see her reading the mountain issue of her favorite travel magazine, so I would like to think that she is up to something.

GALO: Even though we can hear the characters speaking in the film, translation is not necessary as their actions are commonplace and understood despite language barriers. If there is one thing that you would like the viewer to take away from your film, what would it be?

AM: People who are in a good mood are a better version of themselves, so I would be glad if my film could improve their moods a bit.

GALO: Your film premiered in the program Flight Delays at the Tribeca Film Festival. What has your experience been like at the festival thus far and what have you enjoyed most about it?

AM: It’s my first time in New York and I am grateful that such a wonderful festival has brought me here and made me feel very welcome. Of course, I like to see good films, but the biggest treat is to meet the filmmakers and the Tribeca Film Festival is providing us with the perfect circumstances for that. Events, get-togethers and parties with all the necessary social lubrication — they are really good hosts.

GALO: Apart from the film, you are also involved in illustration, animation and graphic design. Can you tell us a little bit about some of the projects you are currently working on as well as those that you would like to pursue in the near or distant future? And besides the festival, where else will viewers be able to see your film?

AM: A while ago, I made little animations for a Latvian documentary that will premiere at the beginning of May. As I like to visit film festivals now, it looks like I will have to make a new animation film. Besides that, I’ll keep doing various illustration jobs, including one for a poetry book for children.

For those interested, it is possible to order a DVD of The Kiosk on the homepage of our production company www.viragefilm.ch.

The Kiosk Trailer from Anete Melece on Vimeo.

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