September 19-29, 2019
Istanbul Modern Cinema starts off the new season with a program titled “Another Russia”. The program focuses on the less well-known side of contemporary Russian cinema, famous for its deep and intricate psychological dramas within the cinema of the 21st century, with films from the last decade of genre cinema and films that have gained box office success in Russia despite being less known internationally – many of which that have not been shown in Turkey. Rather than presenting a depressing and lost Russia, the selection offers diverse films in terms of style and genre, from comedies to thrillers; alternative characters and stories regarding the changing identities of the young population within the quickly globalizing society following the demise of Communism. For example, Zoology (Zoologiya, 2016) portrays a middle-aged woman with a tail, and her struggle for life. The story of Natasha, who lives with her pious mother in a conservative town, is a representation of all individuals who have been marginalized because they don’t fit the norms of society. Directed by Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov The Man Who Surprised Everyone (Tchelovek Kotorij Udivil Vseh, 2018), is an adaptation of a folk tale, depicted through the story of Egor, a forest keeper living in a poor Siberian village. In the film, Egor decides to change his gender as a means to cheat death, and begins to wear women’s clothing and make-up. Another film included in the selection is Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari (Nebesnye Zheny Lugovykh Mari, 2012) that illustrates folkloric narratives within the culture of Mari through the story of 23 women while it examines pagan rituals.
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THE MAN WHO SURPRISED EVERYONE
CELESTIAL WIVES OF THE MEADOW MARI
A RUSSIAN YOUTH
ARRHYTHMIA (ARITMIYA), 2017
Russia, Finland, Germany | DCP, Color, 116’ | Russian
Director: Boris Khlebnikov
Cast: Aleksandr Yatsenko, Irina Gorbacheva, Nikolay Shrayber
Oleg is a very practical ambulance attendant. He is quite professional at his highly demanding and stressful career even though he is privately an alcoholic. The steps he will take in response to the problems he and his general practitioner wife face will have repercussions that are going to impact not only him but also everyone around him. Arrhythmia is an effective drama focusing on the human relations in present day Russia and the health sector through the marriage of a young couple.
A RUSSIAN YOUTH (MALCHIK RUSSKIY), 2019
Russia | DCP, Color, 72’ | Russian
Director: Alexander Zolotukhin
Cast: Vladimir Korolev, Mikhail Buturlov, Filipp Dyachkov
Alexey is a Russian soldier sent to the battlefield of World War I, at the young age of 15. With an excitement that comes with youth, Alexey is filled with the hope of becoming a gallant soldier decorated with medals. However, things will not go as expected when he finds himself in the middle of combat. Due to the mustard gas, Alexey loses his sight, and is left to serve as a listener. He must raise an alarm in case of enemy airplanes' approach. Adopting a Brechtian attitude in this first feature and assisted by a score consisting of Rachmaninoff’s works, the director Zolotukhin offers a striking and poetic experimental cinema experience.
BEANPOLE (DYLDA), 2019
Russia | DCP, Color, 130’ | Russian
Director: Kantemir Balagov
Cast: Konstantin Balakirev, Andrey Bykov, Olga Dragunova
Beanpole depicts the mental and physical devastation of war in the post-World War II Leningrad in 1945. Following the two women, the film illustrates how war can destroy, not only buildings but human relationships, family ties, and even perceptions of gender and identities. In Beanpole, Balagov utilizes a claustrophobic visual language similar to the one he used in his earlier film Closeness (Tesnota) to portray the trauma war inflicts on the survivors, particularly on the women. After having won the FIPRESCI prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2017 for his film Closeness, the young director won the same prize for the second time with Beanpole, this time also winning the Best Director Award in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes in 2019.
CELESTIAL WIVES OF THE MEADOW MARI (NEBESNYE ZHENY LUGOVYKH MARI), 2012
Russia | DCP, Color, 106’ | Russian, Mari
Director: Aleksey Fedorchenko
Cast: Yuliya Aug, Yana Esipovich, Vasiliy Domrachyov
Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari presents 23 short stories about the Mari women, living on the west of the river Volga, and offers a snippet into the ethnic group’s character using a poetic narrative. Living somewhere between their own magical world and the realities of rural Russia, the place allocated to sexuality and death by the Mari people is depicted via the different characters throughout the film. Portraying the pagan tribe still surviving in Western Russia using a documentary-like structure, the film also includes highly intriguing folkloric details.
Russia | DCP, Color, 100’ | Russian
Director: Dunya Smirnova
Cast: Anna Mikhalkova, Yana Troyanova, Anna Parmas
Depicting the friendship of two women from different layers of society who meet on a train, Kokoko is a romantic comedy portraying the lack of communication between social classes following the fall of communism. Lisa is a highly intellectual anthropologist, and when she meets and invites Vika, who is much less educated, to her house, a series of endless parties begins. A year after her film Two Days, which illustrated the problems of intellectuals, Smirnova brings forth the class issues of Russia to the movie screens once again. Through the story of these two completely different women who share their happiness as well as sadness, the film portrays the class dynamics in Russia, which have shifted following the fall of communism.
LIVING (ZHIT), 2012
Russia | DCP, Color, 119’ | Russian
Director: Vasiliy Sigarev
Cast: Olga Lapshina, Marina Gavrilova, Sasha Gavrilova
Using a language that is as stark as rural Russia, Living delineates the stories of three different people who have lost family members. Director Sigarev utilizes long takes and a static camera, which supplements his realistic approach. The film sheds a stark light to the dark side of the Russian society through the measures taken by these characters who seek refuge away from their struggles against the devastating consequences of death.
THE MAN WHO SURPRISED EVERYONE (CHELOVEK, KOTORYY UDIVIL VSEK), 2018
Russia, France, Estonia | DCP, Color, 105’ | Russian
Directors: Alexey Chupov, Natalya Merkulova
Cast: Evgeniy Tsyganov, Natalya Kudryashova, Yuriy Kuznetsov
The ordinary life of Egor, a state forest guard in rural Russia, is turned upside down when he learns that he has cancer with only two months to live. He seeks help from a local shamanic magician, but nothing changes. As a last resort, he decides to follow in the footsteps of Zhamba, a folk tale character, who supposedly had cheated death. This is a road less traveled, and will surprise everyone around him and put him at odds with the patriarchal attitudes of rural Russia. With an observant narrative, the film examines the position Russia takes in response to questions of gender.
WINTER JOURNEY (ZIMNIY PUT), 2013
Russia | DCP, Color, 90’ | Russian
Directors: Lyubov Lvova, Sergey Taramaev
Cast: Aleksandr Alekseevskiy, Mariya Biork, Sergei Dorofeyev
Free spirited Erik is a gifted opera singer who is preparing to bring Schubert’s Winter Journey (Die Winterreise) into life at an important competition. Pressured continuously by his music teacher who finds him inadequate, Erik crosses paths with Lyokha, a thief who came to Moscow from a small town. Representing different classes of Russian society, these two characters that are both fed up with their lives, decide to stand shoulder to shoulder and act in unity. Focusing on alienation and homophobia, Winter Journey depicts the Moscow spirit with successful cinematography and Schubert’s music.
ZOOLOGY (ZOOLOGIYA), 2016
Russia, France, Germany | DCP, Color, 91’ | Russian
Director: Ivan I. Tverdovskiy
Cast: Masha Tokareva, Aleksandr Gorchilin, Natalya Pavlenkova
Natasha is a middle-aged zookeeper. Nearly invisible at her work and in her social life, she is extremely unhappy. One day she wakes up to find she has a tail. This Kafkaesque turn opens up new opportunities as Natasha starts to accept this new and impossible to ignore transformation. Becoming stronger with her anomaly, Natasha can now take braver actions. Zoology delivers this fairytale like story using an open-ended allegory.
THE DAUGHTER (DOCH), 2012
Russia | DCP, Color, 110’ | Russian
Directors: Aleksandr Kasatkin, Natalya Nazarova
Cast: Mariya Smolnikova, Yana Osipova, Igor Mazepa
Inna is a young girl living with her father and little brother in rural Russia. Living quite conservatively, Inna’s life changes after she befriends a new girl named Masha who moves to her town. There is a serial killer in town who is murdering young girls who are not conforming to the community’s norms and traditions, and the parents are all on pins and needles. A thrilling police drama, The Daughter portrays the clash of modern life and tradition in this eerie setting through the family and social life of Inna. With its arresting cinematography, the film invites the viewers to think about right and wrong as well as how and by whom the guilty and innocent are judged.