Eyes on Russia

Elections, mass demonstrations, a performance in a central Moscow cathedral and the subsequent trial of an art collective – Russia has made the international headlines again and again this year. A selection of films by Russian, Polish, Hungarian, and Dutch filmmakers in our "Eyes on Russia" program provide insights into some of the most pressing and topical issues in today's Russia. This six-film panorama focuses on the present, reflecting with seismographic precision the moods, thoughts, and deeds of Russians in the capital and the countryside, across social classes and political preferences, focusing in on the ambitious and the successful as well as the marginalized and the despairing. The program includes the most acclaimed releases of recent years, like Lyubov' Arkus' stunning filmmaking debut Anton's Right Here, the director's 4-year journey side by side with an autistic teenager, which recently premiered at the Venice International Film Festival. Born in the USSR. 28 Up centers on the young people who could be called "the last Soviet generation." Filming the protagonists, all born in 1984, for the first time when they were 7, the director revisited them every seven years, following their coming of age and questioning them about their successes, failures and hopes. What emerges is an impressive cinematic fresco of post-Soviet challenges and itineraries which stretch across the borders of Russia to Kyrgyzstan, Israel, Argentina, and beyond. Another panoramic mosaic– Winter, Go Away – features Russians looking forward to and willing to contribute to the changes in the country. It follows some of the protesters who went out on the streets of Moscow in December 2011 to demand fair elections and features an account of a serious search for alternatives with a spark of humor. Premiered internationally in Locarno, the film comes to Budapest after receiving multiple audience awards at festivals in Russia and other countries. Andrey Gryazev's Tomorrow, yet another international success among recent Russian releases, follows the less peaceful actions of the art collective Voina (War), keeping a shaky balance as it shows freedom-hungry artists lightly crossing the legal borders. The selection includes a number of more personal takes as well. Such, for example, is the chamber short The Last Days of Summer, which centers on young cadets in a military school. Aged seven to seventeen, the boys strive for success in acceptance, differently envisioning the future that awaits them. Hungarian filmmaker Gábor Zsigmond Papp also takes an intimate approach in his My Soviet Pen-Pal, where he examines issues of generational choices, late socialism and a period of post-Soviet transition through the prism of personal childhood memories. His correspondence with a girl from Moscow in the 1980s serves as a starting point for a journey of discovery through dynamically developing Russian capital, which is surprisingly not perceived by the successful and well-to-do 40-year-olds as an attractive place to live. Moving away from the capital to the remote countryside, the Dutch production Our Newspaper tells the story of an ambitious journalist's venture to start his own private newspaper for a rural readership. Documentaries create powerful illusions of the proximity, transparency, and accessibility of the protagonists we meet on the screen. At the same time, they provide an incomparable insight into the fabric of today's daily life. Though they do not cover every aspect of modern Russian life, they offer a wide range of choices and life projects, irreducible to any simplistic formulas.

Oksana Sarkisova

Unless indicated otherwise, films are screened in original language with English and Hungarian subtitles.

5 Minutes of Freedom

Kirill Sakharnov & Ksenia Sakharnova / Russia / 2012 / 86 min / Russian
Generations of dissent in Russia: the protesters against the 1968 invasion
of Czechoslovakia through the eyes of the opposition youth in today's Russia.

On August 25, 1968, a group of seven people gathered on Red Square in Moscow to protest the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact troops. Their demonstration lasted only five minutes before they were forcefully removed and detained. These five minutes of freedom in the main Soviet square cost them years in prisons and mental institutions. The filmmakers bring together the surviving protagonists of the Red Square protest with the new generation of fighters for democratic rights in present-day Russia. The film follows the dedicated young activists of the opposition movement -- the modern dissidents willing to make real sacrifices when life in a democratic society is at stake.

producer: Ksenia Sakharnova
editor: Kirill Sakharnov
camera: Oleg Mamonov, Kirill Sakharnov
sound: Pavel Fediunin, Kirill Sakharnov
music: Marina Makarova

production info:
SugarDocs Film Production
tel.: +7 916 178 1913

Kirill Sakharnov: Lighthouse Lady (2012) / Stalin? Why not? (2010) / Moscow: Liverpool (2009)

Anton's Right Here

Lyubov Arkus / Russia / 2012 / 110 min / Russian
"People endure. People are finite. People fly," – the wisdom of an
autistic teenager triggered a 4-year cinematographic journey
of love, pain, and compassion.
Venice Film Festival 2012

How is it possible to feel someone else's pain? The hero of this film is an autistic boy. His life is divided between an apartment on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg and a mental hospital. The distance between the protagonists and the filmmaker shrinks with every passing minute, and the director herself becomes a character in the story. The stunning debut of Russian film critic Lyubov Arkus follows Anton Kharitonov through a variety of traumas and institutions, encompassing not just his parents, caregivers and friends, but also the film crew. Anton's Right Here is a first-person documentary which exposes the inadequacies of care-provision in a Russia where mental disorders are still a source of considerable social stigma.

producer: Sergey Selyanov, Alexander Golutva, Konstantin Shavlovsky
editor: Georgiy Ermolenko
camera: Alisher Khamidkhodzhaev
sound: Aleksei Antonov
music: Max Richter

production info:
CTB Film Company
tel.: +7 812 326 8330

Born in the USSR: 28 Up. Children of Change

Sergey Miroshnichenko / Russia, UK / 2012 / 104 min / Russian & English
Dreams, fears, and hopes of today's 28-year-olds in Russia. Revisiting its protagonists
every seven years, the film provides a unique glimpse into the turbulent life trajectories of the "last Soviet generation."

Following the idea of Michael Apted, film director Sergey Miroshnichenko documented the lives of the "last Soviet generation" from across the former Soviet Union. Starting when they were seven – just before the collapse of the communist empire – the director returned to the protagonists every seven years to re-examine their lives, decisions, and opinions. Now 28 years old, most of them seem rather disillusioned with the modern Russia in which they find themselves. While some are pining for the old order of their childhood, others are determined to master their own destinies.

producer: Sergey Miroshnichenko, Jemma Jupp
editor: Alexandra Marchenko, Arthur Anayan
camera: Vyacheslav Sachkov, Yuri Ermolin
music: Ilya Demutsky

production info:
Ostrov Studio
125009, Moscow
Bryusov per. 2/14 stroenie 8
tel.: +7 495 983 0335

selected filmography:
River of Life (2011) / Born in the USSR: 21 Up (2005) / Georgy Zhzhenov. Russian Cross (2002) / Moscow Angel (2001) / Unknown Putin. Peace and War (2000) / Born in the USSR: 14 Up (1998) / Time of Great Lies (1996) / A Minute of Silence (1995) / Born in the USSR: 7 Up (1990) / The Past Seems Like a Dream (1988) / Lady Tundra (1987) / Island (1981)

The Last Day of Summer

Piotr Stasik / Poland / 2010 / 29 min / Russian
7- to 17-year-olds growing up
in a military school 700 km from Moscow.

Piotr Stasik's film gives an insight into contemporary Russia by focusing on the young students and their everyday life at cadet school in Penza, 700 kilometers from Moscow. The director follows young boys of different ages, showing how the school shapes their lives, how their personalities change, and discovering their hopes and dreams. We observe the process of growing up – from a 7-year-old who is learning how to read to a 17-year old who is finishing school and has to decide about his future. This film is a journey to the times of childhood and a story about the difficulties of entering the world of adults.

producer: Jacek Nagłowski
editor: Anna Dymek
camera: Piotr Stasik
sound: Maciej Diduszko
music: Tomasz Gwińciński

production info:
Centrala Sp. z o.o.
tel.: +48 697 991 639

selected filmography
Andrzej Wajda: Let's shoot! (2008) / Above Pavements (2008) / 7 x Moscow (2005)

My Soviet Pen Pal

Gábor Zsigmond Papp / Hungary / 2011 / 54 min / Hungarian & Russian & Italian & English
A search for the director's long-time Soviet teenage pen pal turns into an unexpected journey.

This story started thirty years ago. I was a seventh grader in the January of 1980 when I got a Soviet pen-friend. Our Russian teacher handed out some envelopes with Cyrillic writing on them saying that those were our pen-friends. I was lucky because mine was a girl from Moscow. Her name was Julia. We corresponded for three years and though we never met in person, I have kept all her letters. Now I decided to travel to Moscow, find her, and make a film about our childhood during the socialism.

producer: Gábor Zsigmond Papp
editor: Bence Bartos
camera: Zoltán Lovasi
sound: Attila Bánk

production info:
Bologna Film
tel.: +36 20 435 7454

selected filmography
The Enemy is among Us (2010) / East-West Passage (2009) / Spy in a One Horse Town (2009) / Balaton Retro (2007) / The Life of an Agent (2004) / The School of the Empire (2003) / Budapest Retro II. (2003) / Budapest Retro I. (1998) / Tandori (1996)

Our Newspaper

Eline Flipse / The Netherlands / 2010 / 58 min / Russian
A devoted journalist couple starts a private newspaper, challenging the state-run media in the Ulianovsk region.
An unforgettable tale of dedication and desperation.
Best Documentary, Hot Docs 2011

Quitting his job at the old-style state-run regional newspaper The Leninist, entrepreneurial and ambitious journalist Andrei Shkolny launches a private newspaper in the largely rural, often snowbound Ulianovsk region on the Volga river. With only his wife to help, he self-publishes stories concerning the local community in Our Newspaper. The couple takes on local apathy, isolationism, criticism, and ridicule; they are determined to serve the local population, located over 550 miles from Moscow. Week after week, everything from writing and researching the articles to designing the layout takes place in their small home. They even work to distribute the paper with their tiny family car. Andrey and Marina's light-hearted local news quickly gathers gravity, eventually putting its creators in danger. Juxtaposing small, personal stories against the background of contemporary Russian history, Our Newspaper paints a portrait of personal integrity and bravery under increasingly desperate circumstances.

producer: Eline Flipse
editor: Puck Goossen
camera: Erik van Empel
sound: Alex Tugushin
music: Maurice Horsthuis

production info:
Elifli Film
tel.: +31 20 330 2478

selected filmography
Anybody There…? (2009) / Eat Your Enemy (2005) / Biografi (2000) / Broken Silence (1995)

Putin's Kiss

Lise Birk Pedersen / Denmark / 2011 / 85 min / Russian
The future of a rising star in the Russian pro-government youth movement Nashi
falters as she befriends a group of liberal opposition journalists.
Eyes on Russia Program

Westerners may view Russia's newly elected president Vladimir Putin as an undemocratic tyrant, but to many Russians he embodies all the qualities of a strong and charismatic father figure. A whole new generation has been united in the patriotic youth movement Nashi ("Ours"), which seeks to rid Russia of its "enemies." And quite naturally, these turn out to be anyone who does not support Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev. Masha, an intelligent 19-year-old, is the spokesperson for Nashi. She once kissed Putin on the cheek, and after that she made no secret of her adoration for this "Napoleon of the Kremlin." Until she came into contact with members of the liberal opposition, that is. Masha finds herself on the horns of a moral dilemma: does Nashi allow enough scope for her own opinions, or must she give herself completely to the will of "the party"? What follows is a coming-of-age documentary that also paints a grim picture of the Russian political climate. Open political debate is conspicuously absent, leaving no option but to take sides. Masha's kiss gradually transforms into a clenched fist.

producer: Helle Faber
editor: Janus Billeskov Jansen, Steen Johannesen
camera: Lars Skree
sound: Peter Albrechtsen
music: Tobias Hylander

production info:
Monday Media
tel.: +45 39 166 000

selected filmography
Nastya in Love (2011) / Margarita (2003)


Andrey Gryazev / Russia / 2012 / 90 min / Russian
A white phallus on the Liteiny Bridge and an upended police car in St. Petersburg – an unnerving portrait of Voina (War),
a Russian anarchist art collective.
Berlinale 2012

Tomorrow is an unnerving portrait of Voina (War), a Russian anarchist art collective whose pranks and stunts have won them thousands of fans worldwide and support from the likes of Banksy. Vor (Thief) and his girlfriend Koza (Goat) lead the group on missions with their toddler, Kasper, strapped across their backs. The overturning of an empty police car brought the group acclaim in the international art scene while landing its core members with prison sentences and international arrest warrants. Andrey Gryazev incorporates the public images of Voina performances into his film, extending them with discussions, private scenes and television footage. What emerges is a film that is not just about Voina but also with, by and for them, with the director becoming part of the artgroup in the process. The rough-at-the-edges, dogme-style adventure quickly escalates into an unforgettable and thought-provoking drama.

producer: Andrey Gryazev
editor: Andrey Gryazev
camera: Andrey Gryazev
sound: Aleksandr Dudarev

production info:
Andrey Gryazev

Miner's Day (2010) / Sanya and Sparrow (2009) / Ice Age (2009)

Winter, Go Away!

Denis Klebleev, Dmitry Kubasov, Askold Kurov et al / Russia / 2012 / 79 min / Russian
Russia on the move – a humorous and insightful chronicle
of the winter 2011 protests in Moscow, filmed by a young
generation of filmmakers.

Winter, Go Away! was filmed by graduates from Marina Razbezhkina and Mikhail Ugarov's Documentary Filmmaking and Theater School. Ten young directors went on filming for two months during the protests following the parliamentary elections of 2011 in Russia. The result was a chronicle of Russia's growing opposition mood – a chronicle of those who make the political climate and those who are dissatisfied with the makers: faces, conversations, rallies, victories and defeats prior to the presidential election. A living camera interacts with living heroes. The occasional sparks of humor and absurdity only underscore the overall seriousness of this multifaceted chronicle.

producer: Marina Razbezhkina
camera: Elena Khoreva, Denis Klebleev, Dmitry Kubasov, Askold Kurov, Nadezhda Leonteva, Anna Moiseenko, Madina Mustafina, Sofia Rodkevich, Anton Seregin, Alexey Zhiryakov

production info:
Marina Razbezhkina Studio
tel.: +7 496 1148 695