Media Arts

Martin Smatana is the winner of the MY HERO 2023 Global Educator Award

by Abigail Richardson from MY HERO Staff

Martin Smatana, a filmmaker and author from the Czech Republic has been honored with the Global Educator Award for his uplifting children’s book, A Year of Good News at the 19th MY HERO International Film Festival. Martin's film The Kite has also won the 'For a Young Audience Animation Award' and the 'Stop Motion Animation Award'.

153224Martin SmatanaMartin Smatana reel 

The book, A Year of Good News is a heartwarming collection of 52 stories—one for each week of the year—to make the reader feel a little bit better about the world we live in and is accompanied by unique illustrations made from recycled fabric. It is a perfect antidote to bad news stories as it is filled with happiness and positivity, and celebrates the good things in life.

Said Jeanne Meyers, Co-Founder and Director of The MY HERO PROJECT, "The book brings together stories of hope and inspiration from around the world and is accessible to readers of all ages. MY HERO applauds Martin's efforts to showcase those doing good around the globe in these challenging times."

The Kite is a short film about a boy who is given a kite by his Grandpa at the end of summer while fruit is growing ripe on the trees. The kite is strong and tosses the boy around in the air, but Grandpa catches him. Leaves begin to fall, and Grandpa has grown weak. The strong autumn wind carries him off into the cloudy sky. Seasons change, from winter to spring, and a warm breeze brings them together again. An enchanting tale about remembering those who are no longer with us.

Martin studied Animation at FAMU in Prague. The Kite was his graduation film and premiered at Berlinale in 2019, selected to the semifinals of the Student Academy Awards, included in the Film Collection of MoMA, and won over 60 international awards. 

153225The KiteMartin Smatana 

MY HERO interviewed Martin about his filmmaking journey:

Could you please tell us about yourself in relation to your film?

Hi, my name is Martin and I'm the director, writer, and art director of the short, animated film The Kite, which we shot in 2019 with a team of great colleagues and artists. It was my Master's film at FAMU Film University in Prague, where I was studying Animation at the time. I like to work manually with my hands with real materials, mostly textiles, which I animate frame by frame and try to make them alive. In my films, I love all the imperfections and mistakes that stop stop-motion animation technique brings. I like to process human themes, positive and touching stories that make my viewers and readers happy, touched and moved.

What are you doing now?

My current new role is to be a father! Our son Albert was born 4 weeks ago, so these weeks I've put my projects aside a bit and am enjoying this new stage of life with all that it brings:) It's a new, quite challenging but beautiful time for me.

When Albert and my wife Simona fall asleep and I get on the computer for a while, I try to finish my new animated film Hello Summer, which my co-director Veronika Zacharova and I have been working on since 2019 and this year we finally shot. Last week, we finished the music and sound in France and in a few days the Berlinale preselection committee will come to Prague to see the film and consider whether it will premiere at the Berlinale next year, like my two previous films.

Last month, I also finished my new book, Year of Good News 3, which will be out in a few weeks. Since the beginning of the year, each week I have picked one piece of good news from the media and created a happy illustration for it. By the end of the year, 52 positive illustrated stories will have been produced in 52 weeks - A Year of Good News. The first Year of Good News was also published in US, and I hope that this edition will do the same.

How long have you been making films? What are some of your other films?

I made my first film when I was about 12 years old - it was a short video clip for a Czech folk song that I had been making for a whole year at the elementary art school. After that I made a couple of shorter playful films and experiments, but it wasn't until I was at university in Bratislava that I made my first big film. It was called Rosso Papavero and it was a short stop-motion film about nocturnal traveling circus performers trying to impress a little boy.

Why were you drawn to making The Kite? 

I wanted to make a film that talks about the difficult subject of death, but in a simple way that is relatable to a child viewer. I decided to do that because when I was a kid myself, I remember that from a certain age, I became interested in all these existential questions, like how did I get into this world, how long am I going to be here, and what happens afterward. Of course, nobody could answer these questions, so all I could do was imagine what it would be like in the next world. In my imagination, it was a world full of soft little clouds that you could jump into, dive into, and swim around in. So it's not so bad after all, is it?

What in your opinion is the importance of the film, and what are its strengths?

I wanted to express simply and metaphorically that everything living in this world will die one day, whether it is a plant, a beetle or a human being, but at the same time to show that death does not have to mean the definitive end of existence, and that life can continue in another form in another place. I think the strength of the film is that it manages to tell a difficult subject simply and without words, only through images, gestures, facial expressions and music.

Watch the Kite HERE:

What are the issues that are most important to you (in general), and why?

The most important thing for me is to see the meaning in what I do and to try to constantly improve it. My motto in life is to spend my whole life trying to leave this world a little bit better than it was when I was born into it. In my case, it's by creating positive stories that can make people happy, cheer them up, and move them - whether it's through animated films or illustrated books with good news from the world.

How do you feel about winning the MY HERO Educator Award?

When I found out that I received not one, but two awards at My Hero Festival, I couldn't believe my eyes and I was absolutely amazed and shocked. It's a beautiful feeling to see that people like the work I do for some reason. Obviously, I would have loved to have been at the closing ceremony in person and met all the amazing people, but I'll be just as excited to meet them online. Thanks again to the whole team behind the organization of this beautiful event and also to the jury who decided to appreciate my work. It means a lot to me.

153227Martin working with textilesMartin Smatana

Watch this reel where Martin explains the creation of A Year of Good News: /2023-global-educator-martin-smatana

The Global Educator Award honors people working to create meaningful change in the world through education. Previous winners include Dr Mandeep Rai, Frances Moore Lappé of ‘Diet for a Small Planet’, Yasmine Sherif from Education Cannot Wait and Melinda Gates. See more HERE

About the MY HERO International Film Festival:

The My Hero Film Festival is an annual event dedicated to showcasing films celebrating the power of the human spirit. Hosted by Eva Haller, a prominent philanthropist and advocate for social change, the festival provides a platform for filmmakers to share inspirational stories of everyday heroes. Thanks to generous sponsors, prizes are awarded to elementary, middle school, high school, college, and professionals in a variety of categories including documentary, narrative, music video, animation, experimental, and more.

The festival aims to inspire audiences to recognize the heroism in their own lives and encourage positive actions in their communities. Learn more.

Join us for the Awards Celebration on Saturday, November 18th at 2pm (PST). Festival winners and their heroes will be on hand to answer questions and share their stories. Short clips from select films will be screened. Awards are given to winners at Elementary, Middle School, High School, College and Professional levels. Register HERE.

Page created on 11/10/2023 12:18:55 PM

Last edited 11/14/2023 10:47:49 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

Martin Smatana - Find out more about Martin's work and where to purchase his book.