OIFF: Homeward, Deerskin, and Putin’s Witnesses

Monday, the 4th day of the International Contest of the Odesa International Film Festival, witnessed one of the most important moments: the premiere of Homeward (Evge) directed by a 27-year-old Nariman Aliev.

Aliev was born in the Crimean village of Petrivka in 1992. He studied at the private Institute of the Screen Arts and the Kyiv Karpenko-Kary University of Theatre, Cinema, and Television. He is a co-founder of an organization of young filmmakers Contemporary Ukrainian Cinema. His debut film is called Crimean Stories – a short film of three stories filmed on the peninsula: Coming at Dawn (2013), I love You (2014), Without You (2015). Without You was selected in the Generation 14+ contest in Berlin, and Homeward was shown in the Cannes’s Special Mention section.

Aliev presents a traditional Crimean Tatar family as a backbone of his films. In Homeward, the death of Nazim Bekyrov, a volunteer killed in the Donbas war unites his brother and father who hadn’t been on speaking terms – Alim (Remzi Bilialov) and Mustafa (Akhtem Seitablaiev). The father wants to return the younger brother to Crimea where he’d built a house and wants to bury the elder son in his native land. Alim joins the trip not entirely on his own volition.

ОМКФ: повернення додому, шкіряне безумство й свідки Путіна

Shot from the film Homeward

Seitablaiev leaves his usual line of a cruel fighter, even a domestic tyrant, to get, closer to the final, quite a deeper image of a parting patriarch who is suffering from a terminal illness and guilt over his sons. Alim is a rebel as all young people are supposed to be; it makes his dramatic growing-up hurt even more. Even though Bilialov is not a professional, he manages to find the right intonations intuitively. However, Aliev could have missed his debut if he had focused on the family conflict only.

Inner freedom comes to Alim with the realization of the meaning of the trip. This impossible trip was not just an initiation into the adults’ world but rather an acceptance of a more complicated and higher role which is too difficult for his father to carry. Physics of family quarrels and compromises become metaphysics of the family as well as the opposition against damnation of history which catches up with Alim, Mustafa, and all their family.

The only thing they have left is faith and dawn.

They should come back home: alive or dead.

One more film from the last Cannes Festival (Directors’ Fortnight program) is Deerskin (Le Daim by Quentin Dupieux) which is an example of absolutely different cinematography: blasting, endlessly meticulous, Descartes-style rational, being deeply engaged with psychoanalysis. I suppose only the French cinematography with its surrealistic past could give birth to such a film.

ОМКФ: повернення додому, шкіряне безумство й свідки Путіна

Shot from the film Deerskin

Jean Dujardin, who got famous due to the Oscar film Artist, acts a 44-year-old George. He is bored with bourgeoisie routine, so one day he flees to a remote village where he buys a highly expensive shammy jacket which he had dreamt about. This new piece of clothing becomes his alter-ego quite fast. He speaks to it. Makes a film about it. And then it starts to make him kill those who wear other jackets. It wants to stay the only jacket in the world.

This hilarious and a bit spooky comedy can be associated with Luis Bunuel, but it doesn’t copy him. Such characters remind you that films are entertaining, and entertainment can be an avant-garde challenge.

Certain surrealism was observed in the last film of the festival day. Putin’s Witnesses is a name which brings something apocalyptic and ironic at once. Putin is depicted as a kind of a god who needs loyal acolytes to feel powerful.

The author of the film, a documentary director of Ukrainian origin, Vitalii Mansky was once also one of them when made quite a complimentary film Putin. The Leap Year in 2001.

The film starts on December 31, 1999, when Yeltsin announced Vladimir Putin to perform the President’s duty. The film unites two chronicles: a half-official version of Putin’s life and a private one filmed in Yeltsin’ apartment.

ОМКФ: повернення додому, шкіряне безумство й свідки Путіна

Shot from the film Putin’s Witnesses

We see Putin visiting his school teacher, communicates unofficially in his campaign headquarters, meets Tony Blair, attends the place of the terror act. However, another thing is amusing: a total enthusiasm Putin is welcomed with both in Yeltsin’s apartment and his headquarters. In the latter, Mansky shows and names Lesin, Pavlovsky, Surkov, Chubais, Kasyanov, Shvydkoi, Yumashev, Dmitriy Medvedev. Almost all of them have been thrown away out of their officials’ positions, became the opposition, some – mysteriously passed away. And when you have a look at this colorful company of liberals, democrats, anti-communists, former dissidents, you ask yourself again and again: did they really believe this short intelligence agent will listen to their orders till the end?

Taking into account all these – they must have persuaded themselves which was their own mistake.

But the film’s final scene focuses not on the witnesses, but on people. On regular Russians on the streets.

Mansky shows their faces for a long time.

People are silent.

As always.

To be continued.

Dmytro Desiateryk, The Day – exclusive for opinionua.com

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