Aleksandr Sokurov – Spasi i Sokhrani aka Save and Protect (1989)

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A retelling of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary as a surreal story of universal suffering, the film emphasizes the heroine’s internal transformation as she slowly loses her grip on reality. Her erotic fascination with rich clothing and her almost childish desire to seduce and to be lost in passion is brilliantly contrasted with the small-town life that leaves Emma tragically isolated in her passionate attempt to bridge the gap between spirituality and sensuality. Continue reading

Artour Aristakisian – Ladoni AKA Palms [+Extras] (1993)

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Palms is Aristakisyan’s astonishing portrait of people who live on the margins of life and exist outside normal society. Profound, spiritual and hallucinatory, Palms is remarkable at every level and one of the most visionary films of recent years.

Narrated by the director addressing his unborn son, the film is compassionate, revelatory and bold in its originality and was awarded the NIKA (Russian Oscar) for Best Documentary in 1994. This is its first-ever release on DVD.

“I would like the film to answer the need for community – to show how people are tied together, sometimes paradoxically” Artur Aristakisyan

A short excerpt from the Booklet essay by Graeme Hobbs

Perhaps surprisingly for a film populated almost entirely with beggars, Palms has nothing to do with charity. Its real subject is proximity. In its relentless depiction of life at the margins and with its discomfiting jabs of authenticity, it is an affront to personal space. Why should this be so? Continue reading

Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov – Luna Papa (1999)

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Synopsis

“Mix some Monty Python with the violent black humour of Yugoslavian director Emir Kusturica, add a little South American magic realism, and you might have some idea of what goes on in the thoroughly strange and enjoyable Luna Papa, a movie set in the contemporary world of Central Asia. Within the context of its comic, fantastic narrative, about a pregnant teenager and her search for the father of her child whom she has never seen, there`s a darker impression of life revealed in this journey through the outlying former Soviet republic of Tajikistan where gangsterism, military brutality and violent surprises are a normal part of existence.” (Globe and Mail, February 2001) Continue reading

Oksana Bychkova – Eshche odin god AKA Another Year (2014)

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A young married couple in today’s Moscow: He’s an unemployed guy who gets some money by giving rides to strangers at nights (the illegal taxi driving so common in Russia). She’s a young graphic designer who just got her first job. The film tracks their unstable relationship throughout a year. Both have different backgrounds and pursue different goals in life, and gradually the differences, no matter how insignificant, become fatally important for their relationship.
Oxana Bychkova makes a poignant portrait of a young, immature love and subtly shows how feelings inevitably become routine, against the will of the lovers. This unsentimental and touching drama unfolds gradually but its pace is engaging and has genuine tension. Continue reading

Aleksandr Sokurov – Chitayem Blokadnuyu Knigu AKA Reading Book Of Blockade (2009)

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The lengthy siege of Leningrad during World War II cost a million civilian lives. In Alexander Sokurov’s documentary, various people – actors, journalists, students, soldiers – read eyewitness accounts about this ‘historic and cultural disaster’, to use Sokurovr’s words. Continue reading

Angela Gallardo Bernal – 10 Days In North Korea (2013)

10 Days in North Korea takes the audience on a trip around Pyongyang, the focal point of power for the North Korean regime, to speak with citizens of what the filmmakers consider a very interesting “social experiment” that has been going on for about seventy years.

The film kicks off by demonstrating the allegiance of the Pyongyang workforce – interviews with an accomplished biologist and a few factory workers convey a genuine high opinion of “Grand Marshal” Kim Jong-un and enthusiasm towards contributing to the regime’s collective productivity. The terminology used to describe the government’s control over their daily lives is they are being “protected.” Continue reading