curated by Virginia Carolfi and Margherita Fontana
This year Concorto turns its attention to a “distant neighbour” of ours: one of this year’s geographical focuses is in fact dedicated to Russia and its interesting contemporary cinematography. A country-continent, a patchwork of 160 different ethnic groups: through history, Russia has represented an essential interlocutor for Europe, both from a political and cultural point of view.
With the advent of the 21st century, Russian cinema experienced a sort of “Renaissance”. Directors such as Andrey Zvyagintsev and Alexander Sokurov started to acquire international prestige. Today, Russian cinema has strongly re-established itself as powerful through the combination of numerous elements coming from Soviet classics as well as its own contemporary style.
Russian cinema, just as any other Russian forms of art, presents a series of recurring themes: mysticism, psychological investigation, symbolism, irony, and other dark elements appear on screen as frequently as in Dostoevsky’s pages.
Just as great Russian authors shaped their language looking up to Pushkin, so can the cinematographic language elaborated by Andrey Tarkovsky be found in numerous works of depth created today.
The ambition of our geographical focus is to intercept the contemporary artistic expressions which narrate in front of our eyes the complex realities of this “distant neighbour” of ours, as well as talking about universal themes focused on the human and his relationships. The aim is to seize the “Русская душа / russkaya dusha” (the Russian soul) in its kaleidoscopic mutability: from its livid metropolitan atmosphere to its endless and fascinating steppe, from its poetry about everyday life to the seed of irresistible and childish madness which has always distinguished this nation between Europe and Asia, without forgetting the famous Russian school of animation that gets recognition since the times of the Soviet Union.
Let’s take as reference points films like Closeness by Kantemir Balagov or Loveless by Andrey Zvyaginstev, both awarded in Cannes in 2017 and both expression of a powerful cinema from a visual and emotional point of view, a cinema which is able to talk about the values crisis of contemporary Russia through very personal events. Extraordinary documentaries should also not be forgotten, such as The Celestial Wives of Meadow Mari by Aleksey Fedorchenko, which narrates stories close to fairy tales related to the traditions of one of the many populations that constitute the Russian melting pot.
The short films we selected have the ambition to mirror the current state of Russian cinema, which never fails to hold a prestigious and prominent place in the heterogeneity of current artistic expressions. Our attention focused on the small stories of a great country, on personal and family relationships, on paradoxical, hilarious, dramatic and touching events.
And if Herzog himself wandered and lost himself in the boundless Siberia with Bells from the Deep, why should not we do the same?
The selected shorts
INNOCENT by Denis Simachev (2018)
IVAN AND IVAN by Philipp Abryutin (2009)
LALAJ-BALALAJ (Merry-go-round) by Ruslan Bratov (2017)
LIONELLA by Sergey Borovkov (2018)
LISTEN PAPA by Olga Poliektova, Tatiana Poliektova (2018)
OJ! by Alla Eliseeva (2016)
OLD GOAT by Georgiy Boldugerov (2018)
PROVERKA (Inspection) by Gala Sukhanova (2013)
RODNIE by Vladimir Nepevny (2018)
SPRING by Nathalia Konchalovsky (2018)
THE FIRST THUNDER by Anastasia Melikhova (2017)
WAR & CHEESE by Ben Garfield (2016)
INNOCENT – as seen by Virginia Carolfi
Probably one of the toughest films scheduled at Concorto this year, a lightning-fast story that makes us reflect on how innocence is always subjective. In the background, the bloody conflict in Chechnya.
IVAN AND IVAN – as seen by Margherita Fontana
Philipp Abryutin’s documentary takes us to the steppes of the Russian Far Eastern, to the region of Magadan. Ivan is a young man who lives with his grandparents in the tundra. With his grandfather, Ivan Senior, the boy goes fishing, hunting and gets wood for the fire. This deep, human and natural bond will be severed on the first day of school, when Ivan and Ivan’s delicate balance will be violently disrupted.
LALAJ-BALALAJ (Merry-Go-Round) – as seen by Margherita Fontana
An unexpected ending for a group of friends dead drunk, trying to escape from a bunch of gangsters. It would be a crime to unveil anything else from Merry-Go-Round, an hilarious comedy that plunges directly into the spy story aesthetics. The Russian nation laughs at itself through its stereotypes and social dramas.
LIONELLA – as seen by Margherita Fontana
We find ourselves in a remote village in the Caucasus mountains. Here Magomed, who makes a living selling fridges, comes to know that his son, who lives in the city, is about to become father. As the geographical and generational distance is great, so is the car journey to the city difficult, spent discussing the strange and “modern” name given to the granddaughter.
LISTEN PAPA – as seen by Virginia Carolfi
The father-son relationship is something difficult. It is a good thing that animation comes to rescue us and tells us the weird story of a father who wants to swim across the Black Sea, and a son who cannot find his place in the world. A great classic set in a coastal and seaside Russia, little known but not less evocative.
OJ! – as seen by Margherita Fontana
In this hilarious comedy, a bride is trapped in the bathroom of the town hall where they are about to celebrate her wedding with a “decent person”: a normal man who is at least not an alcoholic. Another woman is there to keep her company, someone invited to the wedding. Between confessions and revelations, surprises will not lack in this little gem by Alla Eliseeva.
OLD GOAT – as seen by Margherita Fontana
Many are the ways to express one’s love, and kindness is not necessarily one of them. This is nothing new for Gleb, a grouch and unpleasant old man who has after all managed to make himself loved by the whole neighbourhood, despite his systematic mischief. A comedy that warms the heart.
PROVERKA – as seen by Margherita Fontana
The inspection performed in the short film by Gala Sukhanova (prized by the Concorto jury in 2015) is carried out by social services in the house of a young, former alcoholic mother. Only Massa, a six-year-old girl who tries to act like a grown up to hide the tragic situation, seems to be there to welcome the inspector. Sukhanova’s skillful direction reconstructs with precision and intensity the games of glances between the two characters, Massa and the inspector, who do know how things really are. Proverka provides the delicate portrait of a stolen childhood, in which the roles of care and responsibility have been reversed.
RODNIE – as seen by Virginia Carolfi
A mother, a daughter, a bad illuminated living room. A dialogue that repeats itself through every age and every place, the idiosyncrasies, hopes, expectations and the involuntary affection of each one.
SPRING – as seen by Virginia Carolfi
Nearly a Russian version of Joyce’s Ulysses, the unexpected night adventures of two characters, whose stories could not possibly be more different, but who find themselves unimaginably close. A mother who tries to get closer to her daughter and a boy who tries to push away his melancholy for at least a night.
THE FIRST THUNDER – as seen by Virginia Carolfi
Since Soviet times, Russian animation has stood out for uniqueness, care, and beauty of its drawings. The Russian school has never lost its edge and gave us through the years many masterpieces, such as The First Thunder, a dreamlike journey into the forces of nature accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack feat. Anatolij Ljadov.
WAR & CHEESE – as seen by Virginia Carolfi
It may look like a mockumentary, but it is all true: the sweet and hilarious story of a Russian computer technician, who gives up everything to produce “Russky parmesan” (yes, Russian parmesan), taking advantage of the embargo that Great Mother Russia has imposed on Western cheeses. When entrepreneurship, madness, and geopolitics come together.