Dustin Grella: Prayers for Peace

By Staff Writer Anja Ivic



In the sea of French flags all over social media I was seriously tempted to write an ode to the art, culture, lifestyle –anything or everything. Of course, due to the transmission of influences and the world being a “global village”, the world owes a lot to the French. The problem that arises from picking a French topic is obvious - I really don’t know  where to start. As I am not French, I am trying to avoid the unnecessary online pathos ibyy analysing the short animated movie made by Dustin Grella, Prayers for Peace.

Dustin Grella is an American animator and documentary filmmaker who is also known by the name Dusty Studios.  I often cite Prayers for Peace as one of my favourite animations.  It is filmed from the perspective of an individual who makes a memory of his late sibling, without any intent to stress nationality or political stance. just an individual grieving the loss of his brother through a short animated narrative. I remember first seeing it at the Supertoon festival in 2011, on the island of Brač, Croatia. A warm, summer nigh it was, interrupted by this emotionally heavy narrative. Deprived from any exaggeration, Prayers for Peace instantly made me forget all of the other movies seen that night. It opened so many other narratives with its own content.

The stop animation is done using a blackboard and pastels to first draw all of the scenes and then photographs them and merges them into one work. The audio dimension consists of the author’s voice narrating and audio effects including as bombs and fire.  The end of the video is narrated with the voice of his late brother, his last known recording before he was killed. The quality of the drawings and Dustin Grella’s aesthetics cannot be disputed, as he is faithful to a childish style, but pure vocabulary and his use of colour work together to point out certain crucial components. For example, contouring a figure with yellow in an overall grey scene immediately makes them the key part of that particular excerpt of the story.

Surely, the most appealing segment of the animation is its gradual development. The drawings in the video build up from one second to another and it seems like they never culminate in a finished scene, as they immediately transform into the next depiction, continuing the story. The intimacy of the hand which searches through a pile of nametags has a masochist touch to it, as Grella is searching for his own last name.  The raw instinct that leads him to search for the nametag is present in the whole video, which is made as an emotional reaction to him finding his brother’s name. Grella provides us with a clear, untainted emotion, emptying his mind and heart into this short animated movie. 

Not to waste any more time ,here is a link to Prayers for Peace: