A multifaceted view, by both native and foreign filmmakers, of a country that has long been a source of mystery and demonization to the West. A program that seems to span an entire world, yet is almost entirely confined to the Russian Federation. See contemporary Russian cinema from the outside-in.
In many curated focuses on national cinemas, you get a sense of a few recurring preoccupations among the filmmakers and their subjects. These are national obsessions that the cinema naturally teases out. Yet Russia is an anomaly: the only way to truly understand the place, its culture, and its cinema is to take a step back and approach it from as many angles as possible.
The place we now call "Russia" has represented many varied governments, states, unions, and empires in recent history. This vast landmass stretching from the far side of Europe to the Pacific Ocean boasts a spectrum of ethnicities, customs, climates, languages, religions, and regional cultures. As such, the only real way to understand Russia through cinema is with as many eyes as possible.
The films in this selection do exactly that. Gulags, Gugarin, Putin, the 1991 coup d'état: its all here. Many familiar names have a place here too, including the Ukrainian Sergei Loznitsa and the Russian Viktor Kossakovsky, whose Gunda recently triumphed in the new Berlinale section "Encounters". But this all also upends our idea of Russia, touching upon subjects and ideas that, in our current media climate, are not associated with the country's image. Likewise, the visions of these artists often couldn't be more varied, their birthplaces and biographies less alike, their subjects more disparate. But in the end that is like Russia itself: a complex citadel of interconnected parts and dissonances that, from a distance, resembles a great, towering whole.
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