By Rachel Papulkas
A wizard's greed and a kingdom at stake become the catalyst to a young peasant discovering what it truly means to be courageous in the short animation The Knight's Hart.
Screening this October at the Greek International Film Festival Tour of Canada, the 30-minute animation follows a young, idealistic farm-boy named Col -- a peasant who dare dreams of foregoing the path planned for him and instead proving himself as a knight. When his passion for knighthood is met with the ridicule of fellow farmers, the protagonist's determination is hardened. Equipped with nothing more than a sword and makeshift armor--and a small bout of clumsiness that makes the film's protagonist endearingly charming--Col sets off towards the king's castle. His intention, of course, is to inquire about becoming a squire. But when his journey unexpectedly leads to rescuing a princess from capture, and becoming a wrench in the plans of a wizard plotting to take the throne for himself, Col is embroiled in a series of tasks that will determine once and for all if he can become the knight he knows he is destined to become.
An engaging, charming, family-friendly film, The Knight's Hart is reminiscent of many storybook fairytales. It asks the audience to tap into their own belief in magic and, ultimately, themselves. Walking along with the protagonist on his journey, the fictional kingdom is brought to life by a cast of characters as colourful as the world around them: a lowly but kind-hearted peasant (voiced by Voula Kosta), a devious wizard (Takis Sakellariou), a resolved princess (Eirini Aspioti), an old man in the woods, and a mysterious deer endowed with wisdom (both voiced by Tasos Tziviskos). It's a tale of good versus evil, kindness over greed, and courage reigning victorious over fear. These are messages as old as time, and ones often explored in children's media, but ultimately result in a feel-good story that families will appreciate.
The core message of the film--fighting through your doubts and fears--is deeply personal to writer and director, Vivi Markatos. While the film is set in a non-specific time-period, there are many autobiographical elements layered into The Knight's Hart. Markatos, who is a freelance illustrator and filmmaker based in the United Kingdom, drew upon her own upbringing as source material. Born in mainland Greece (inspiring the castles depicted in the film), Markatos from an early age recognized her passion for storytelling. Passionate about drawing and illustrating, a young Markatos was highly influenced by classic Disney films and anime. Art was a fun creative outlet, but also a way to explore emotions during the hard times of her teen years. Declaring to her family by 13 that she wanted to be a professional artist, her dreams were quickly discouraged by them. With her family pushing her to pursue a more financially stable career, Markatos felt their pressure. Unhappy with the pursuit of any other career field, Markatos eventually found herself at a crossroads. Deciding to walk the life path that would fulfill her most, she set aside the hesitations of her family, and pursued art.
After working with dubbing studios, and obtaining a Bachelor's in Theatrical Design, Markatos set her sights on producing what would become Col's story. Publishing The Knight's Hart first as a book in 2018, it was with the help of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Greek Film Centre that she was able to produce the 30-minute, frame-by-frame animation in 2021. Markatos is credited as the animations writer, director, concept artist, editor, and 2D animator. However, she is the first to say that it takes a village to create an animated film. Joined by a talented crew of voice actors, special effects artists, editors, and more, the team had only 6 months (negotiated to 11) to turn their dreams into reality. Working within a budget of 12500 Euro, and an initial runtime of 15 minutes, it was through tenacity and dedication that The Knight's Hart came to beautiful fruition.
Markatos's own beginnings are sure to resonate with many who dare to break outside the expectations others have for them. It is also why Markatos and the team behind The Knight's Hart are passionate about the film's child demographic. With her own childhood influenced heavily by stories, Markatos hopes her film can be a source of encouragement for the future generations -- to find strength in their values, and not be afraid to fight for the future they want for themselves.
Since it's 2021 release, The Knight's Hart has won over 5 awards and received 2 nominations. With the film now set to screen at The International Greek Film Festival Tour of Canada, The Knight's Hart is a standout feature for being one of only 2 animated films being showcased. Reflecting upon what makes animation special, Markatos explains that animation "is not only one type of art. It's a bunch of arts combined together - great composers, great actors throughout the film, great artists with their drawings, sculptors for stop-motion and backgrounds." Markatos likens it to a "symphony" of noise and elements, multiple talents and skillsets complementing the other to craft a cohesive experience. Animation is a genre that Markatos is excited to see platformed to a wider Greek audience. Support from the Greek community will hopefully encourage investors to invest in more animation -- a genre that employs a multitude of artists and talent.
"We have proved through history and culture what we are made of and what we can make. Greece can come back culturally." Markatos believes. "Animation is a medium that can combine the arts, and Greece has a lot of history of the arts and talented people."
For information on how to buy tickets to see The Knight's Hart, please visit gifft.ca.