With three full feature films in two years under his belt, Igor Voloshin has both received critical acclaim and provoked public debates. Nirvana (2008), a “gothic cyber-punk” about drug addiction, got Voloshin the Best Debut prize at the Kinotavr film festival in Sochi. In March 2009, Russia’s First TV Channel screened Voloshin’s Olympius Inferno, a melodrama-cum-action about Georgia’s attack on Ossetia dubbed by many critics, such as Mkheidze and Kuvshinova, a state-commissioned “agit-prop” film. His next project, I Am,competed at Kinotavr 2009, where the film’s director of photography Dmitrii Iashonkov received an award for Best Cinematography. The film continues to generate controversy: “the best film of the year or the shame of Russian cinematography?” (Mkheidze and Kuvshinova)
As its title suggests, I Am is an autobiographical film, based on Voloshin’s own script and executed as a fictional recreation of the director’s adolescence and youth in the late-1980s-mid 1990s, in the city of Sebastopol on the Black Sea. The frame for the narrative is provided by the narrator-protagonist, played by Artur Smol’ianinov, who is riding a bus at night shooting a film about his friends. He calls his film “a demo for God.” I Am has two time-specific settings: 1987, when the protagonist is twelve and hangs out with his older friends in front of an mental asylum doing drugs; and 1993, when he is eighteen and voluntarily checks into the asylum to avoid being drafted. At the asylum, the hero experiences brutality, forcible drug treatment, and quasi-memories or quasi-hallucinations featuring his now dead friends.