Created as her 2018 graduation film from the Estonian Academy of Arts, Nata Metlukh’s Pura Vida follows four friends on a messy adventure as they travel from New York to Costa Rica. Matching the chaotic storyline with a purposefully scruffy aesthetic, Metlukh’s film is a hectic watch that perfectly captures the mayhem of this kind of vacation (a refreshing change to the highly polished travel videos the internet is flooded with nowadays!).
In my early twenties I headed off with four friends for a hedonistic three week holiday in Ibiza, our heads filled with dreams of beautiful beaches, sunset parties and superclubs. The reality was a vacation filled with violent sunburn, dilapidated accommodation and excessive drinking, from which my liver has never fully recovered. Much like for the friends in Pura Vida it was a life-changing experience, just not as I had initially hoped.
Metlukh’s animation captures this feeling of a dream holiday turning to a nightmare perfectly as her adventuring quartet find themselves lost, poisoned and generally at odds with their new environment. Somehow surviving the ordeal, the friends return to New York, where their exploits have changed their outlooks on life and most of them just seem happy to be home.
Admitting, in this making of post, that her film was much more focused on visuals than story, Metlukh set out to make a purposefully rough aesthetic style to compliment the chaos and disorder of her narrative. Setting herself certain rules in production, which included using less images per second, hand-drawing zooms and using backgrounds that appear unfinished, Metlukh has crafted a scruffy style that is actually meticulously designed and carefully considered.
If you’re a regular on Vimeo, you might have stumbled across Nata’s work before, with her Vancouver Film School grad film Fears collecting a Staff Pick and racking up over one-million views and counting. Pura Vida was somewhat of a personal pick for me as I think I liked it more than some of my other S/W team-mates, but something about Metlukh’s style and sense of humour really spoke to me and if Fears and now Pura Vida are anything to going on, I strongly believe she’s an animator to keep a careful eye on in the future.
On a side note, I’m often asked how we discover films for Short of the Week. Some are submitted, some come from festivals, but Pura Vida, like a lot of others, came from the years we’ve spent building a network of filmmakers, curators and programmers to follow. S/W alum Sean Buckelew liked the film on Vimeo, that was a good enough recommendation for me to watch and a week later we have the film on our site!