Ars Gratia Artis is 1970 animated film directed by Dušan Vukotić, produced by Zagreb Film & Janus Film. The film won awards at the film festivals in Belgrade, Atlanta, London etc.
Dušan Vukotić (1927 – 1998) was a cartoonist, author and director of animated films from Yugoslavia (Montenegrin from Bosnia and Herzegovina, living and working in Croatia). He is the best known member of the Zagreb school of animated films.
Vukotić was born in Bileća, Bosnia and Herzegovina (at the time Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes). He came to Zagreb to study architecture in 1948. He became a contract caricaturist for the satirical weekly Kerempuh. This paper initiated the production of cartoon films, and after the first film directed by the brothers Neugebauer was released, the animated film company Duga was established in Zagreb in 1951. It was there that Dušan Vukotić made his first cartoon film Kićo (How Kićo Was Born, 1951).
In spite of the fact that the company was quite successful as a production house, it was liquidated as a result of the national economic crisis. The filmmakers were scattered, but Dušan Vukotić, infected with the possibilities of animation, continued to make 30-second trailers (13 in total) with collaborator Nikola Kostelac in his apartment. In the trailers he experimented with stylized design, minimized animation and timing. On the basis of this work, Vukotić became one of the leading figures in the newly established Cartoon Film Studio (Studio crtanog filma, 1956) of the company Zagreb-film which specialized in short films.
The stylistic features of the trailers became a pattern on which the studio’s style was shaped for some time. The studio started a dynamic production with numerous authors. Its first film was Vukotić’s The Playful Robot (Nestašan robot, 1956). The studio’s first appearance at foreign festivals was at the Cannes Film Festival in 1958 and that was a tremendous success. Three of Vukotić’s films were shown among seven other studio films, and the studio’s production was dubbed »The Zagreb School of Animation«. Vukotić’s permanent defiance of tradition and routine, his eager search for new thematic, stylistic and production pathways eventually led him to further innovations.
The international success of the Zagreb »School« and Vukotić personally was crowned by an Academy Award for Vukotić’s Surrogate (“Ersatz”) in 1962, the first Oscar for a foreign animated film. As a result Vukotić became not only famous abroad, but he was treated as a kind of a hero in the ex-Yugoslavia. He was invited to hold lectures, to be a member of various juries and committees, as well as a member of the party elite in Croatia and Yugoslavia.
In his new position he turned to feature film production and from 1966, he made a total of three feature films - a fantasy tale for children, Sedmi kontinent (“The Seventh Continent”, 1966), an action movie, Akcija Stadion (“Operation Stadium”) about the resistance of Zagreb students to the Ustaša regime in 1941, and the science fiction/horror parody Gosti iz galaksije (“Visitors from the Galaxy of Arkana”, 1981).
He also made combined feature and short animated films (Oscar nominated The Play, 1963; A Stain on the Conscience, 1967; Ars Gratia Artis, 1970).
Vukotić eventually became a professor of feature film direction at the Zagreb Academy for Dramatic Art from the founding of its Film department in 1967 until his retirement in the early 1990s. After 1973, he was a member of the Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts.
At the time of his death, Vukotić was preparing a production of his new science fiction movie, co-written by the Croatian science fiction writer Aleksandar Žiljak. He died in Krapinske Toplice near Zagreb at the age of 71.
Vukotić won a total of 146 awards, including three life achievement awards. “His work is proof that great works of art, the core of the world’s cultural inheritance, can be created in small national environments too.”