Watch This: Baigal Nuur - Lake Baikal

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

I've got the most incredibly beautiful art to share with you today. Premiering at Sundance Film Festival, Baigal Nuur - Lake Baikal, by artist Alisi Telengut, is an entrancing visual feast. 

Watch This: Baigal Nuur - Lake Baikal

From the sounds to the movement, it's a short glimpse into how Lake Baikal was formed; the film shows millions of years of the creation of Lake Baikal (the oldest and deepest lake in the world).

Of particular note to me was the movement of weather, lava, and water, and much later, creatures (especially that horse! The eagle!), growth, and fire. The colors and materials are stunning.

Watch This: Baigal Nuur - Lake Baikal

It is a triumph of imagination, of genius, of artistry. This extraordinary short film is breathtaking, endlessly creative, and has deeply enriched my life.

Highly, highly recommended.

Watch This: Baigal Nuur - Lake Baikal

Alisi Telengut is a Canadian fine artist of Mongolian roots living between Berlin and Tiohtià:ke (Montréal). She is a PhD candidate at the Konrad Wolf Film University of Babelsberg in Germany and a tenure-track professor at Concordia University’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in Canada who creates animation frame by frame under the camera to generate movement and explore hand-made visuals. Telengut is a two-time Sundance alum—NUTAG-HOMELAND in 2017 and THE FOURFOLD in 2021—whose films have won numerous awards, screened or exhibited internationally at countless festivals and galleries, and contributed to ethnographic and ethnocultural research in the arts.

We were lucky enough to speak with Telengut about her film, materials, the voice artist, animation, and more. Here's what she had to say...

Alisi Telengut

Please tell us about your new film, BAIGAL NUUR - LAKE BAIKAL...
It's an animated short film that reimagines the formation of Lake Baikal with animated paintings, tangible objects, and textural materials, created frame by frame under the camera. It features the voice of an Indigenous woman who can still recall some words in her endangered language, Buryat (a Mongolian dialect). 

Watch This: Baigal Nuur - Lake Baikal

Why did you focus on Lake Baikal? And how did you find Marina, who voiced the powerful words?
The lake's the oldest and deepest freshwater lake in the world. Besides, Mongolian is my mother tongue and Buryat is a Mongolian dialect spoken mostly in the region of Lake Baikal in Siberia. In other words, it's a minority language within a minority language. The fact that the language has different dialects across many regions reflects its richness in nomadic heritage. During the creation process of the film, I learned that this Indigenous language is highly endangered due to the ongoing colonial reality and post-Soviet policies in education.

Marina, whose voice was featured in the film, is a friend's mother and a Buryat diaspora living in South-West Germany for almost thirty years.

What materials did you use for your art?
The animation was created using mixed media on a single piece of metal. As I envisioned the formation of the lake and the islands along the lakeshore, I began collecting small stones, crystals, and various objects from my daily life and through friendship. The crystals, in particular, were hand-harvested in the Alps in Switzerland by a friend who grew up in the mountains. With her familiarity with regional geology, she knew the techniques for finding these crystals.

Watch This: Baigal Nuur - Lake Baikal

What were the challenges of researching and creating this spectacular art from such a distance?
The primary challenge is that I haven't been able to travel to this area. Initially, it was due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, and later, it was because of the ongoing Russian-Ukraine war. My research was based on the photos I've seen and texts I've read. But these sources cannot fully capture the experience of witnessing the vivid landscape in person.

Can you please share more about your animation process?
The animation technique, or workflow, is called under-camera animation, created straight-ahead by hand, on a single surface. The movement is generated by manipulating paint and objects frame by frame on the same piece of metal. If I make a mistake during the animation, I can barely go back to correct it. It's an accumulative practice.

Watch This: Baigal Nuur - Lake Baikal

How can people find your work? 

What's up next for you?
I'm collaborating with another Sundance Festival alum on a mixed-media animated short film that explores the concepts of breathing and our interconnectedness with the more-than-human world.

Running Time: 8:55
Language: Mongolian (Buryat dialect) with English subtitles
Website | IMDB 

Director/Writer/Producer/Animator: Alisi Telengut
Voice-Over: Marina Dorzhieva
Sound Designer: Christian Obermaier
Sound Mixer: Jochen Jezussek
Animation Advisor: Christina Schindler
Khomus (Jaw Harp) Performer: Spiridon Shishigin

All photos courtesy and copyright Alisi Telengut, published with permission