Welcome to Chechnya (2020)

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Image via miff.com.au

I couldn’t look away from this gripping documentary about the awful abuse and murder of LGBT+ people in Chechnya. What at first seems a story about gay people, becomes something much more universal where we can see the awful ripple effects of persecution, the terrible cost and how easy it is to become a refugee.

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DAU. Natasha (2020)

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Image via indiewire.com

On the surface, this may seem like a standard arthouse movie about 1950s Soviet life. As it is, this small but intense story of two canteen workers in a secret Soviet research institute is hard to look away from but, when you learn more about the DAU project, it becomes remarkable.

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Don Juan (2015)

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don-juan-jerzy-sladkowskiWhat a powerful documentary about our ability to be destructive to those we love. Oleg is a young Russian man with autism. He lives with his mother who wants him to be normal, sending him to multiple therapies, berating him for not being a ‘real man’ who can support and protect her. We can see she carries a bitter well of resentment and her only focus is Oleg. Continue reading

The Event (2015)

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THE-EVENT-1Like Ma, this film was a little challenging to enjoy as it made no concessions for the knowledge-base, or lack of it in my case, of its viewers. Made entirely of found footage with no narration or explanation, we watch the events unfolding in Leningrad in 1991 as the Soviet Union collapses. Continue reading

Pioneer Heroes (Pionery-geroi) (2015)

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I got lost in this Russian film. Not lost as in ‘so absorbed with the story I lost sight of myself’, lost as in ‘I have no idea what’s happening’. It started well. We are in the 1980s Soviet Union watching children practicing to become Pioneer Heroes, the youth movement modelled on Lenin and the values of the Soviet Union. Three in particular we get to know – Sergeyev who wants to be like all the other kids but also wants to be a hero, Katya, who struggles to keep her grandfather’s bootlegging a secret as it is against the rules of the PH, and Olga, an anxious girl who relies heavily on Katya’s confidence and decisiveness. Continue reading

The Red Army (2014)

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I now know a lot more about Soviet ice hockey than I did before. This US (though billed as Russian) documentary is quite an engaging look at the USSR national ice hockey team, developed under Stalin to show to the West the superiority of the communist way of life. Continue reading

Under Electric Clouds (Pod elektricheskimi oblakami) (2015)

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When you miss the start of a film, you can’t help feeling you’ve missed some important aspect of the plot that would have made it comprehensible. That’s how I felt with this Russian film. The first twenty minutes consisted mainly of a guy wandering through a blighted ice-covered landscape carrying a radio. Enigmatic, beautiful in lots of ways, tragic. Then it cut to another chapter and another and it became clear that there was nothing really finished or linear about this film. There were a brother and sister grappling with change after their father’s death, a man who kept returning to his childhood in his dreams and disaffected, drug-affected youths searching for a 12 year old taken hostage. Maybe there were more, that’s when I left. Continue reading