The Russian Resurrection Film Festival is considered one of the largest and most well respected film festivals outside of Russia. Travelling to Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra, the festival offers an insight into Russian culture through some of the most imaginative and creative cinema you’ll see.
After some welcome speeches, including the Russian Ambassador and ex-Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, opening night kicked off with the Australian premiere of Odessa (2019). Directed by Valery Todorovsky, Odessa is based on true events of a cholera outbreak in the town of Odessa in July 1970. We see this outbreak and subsequent quarantine lock down from the perspective of one family.
Boris (Evgeniy Tsyganov) arrives with his eight year old son Valery (Stepan Sereda) from Moscow to visit Boris’ in-laws ahead of his wife’s arrival. However the outbreak ensures that not only can she not arrive, but he cannot leave. As temperatures soar and cabin fever sets in, tensions run high in the family between grandparents Grigori (Leonid Yarmolnik) and Raisa (Irina Rozanova) and their two daughters Mira (Evgenia Brik) and Lora (Kseniya Rappoport). Family secrets are revealed and feelings of dissatisfaction with one’s life permeate the film, causing Boris and his family to behave erratically and in the face of consequences.
As a society we have a tendency to place a rose-coloured spin on the past but Odessa rebukes these notions through topics of divorce, abortion, infidelity, pedophilia and domestic abuse. While these conversations are woven in to form the fabric of the film, with no one topic at its centre, they are conversations which would have been considered taboo in the 1970s. In particular, a discussion about the KGB is startling and as revelations unfold, genuinely heartbreaking.
While the majority of the film is portrayed through Boris, there are moments when we are given a glimpse into the mind of his son Valery. There is something incredibly innocent about an eight year olds view from a car window as it speeds through sunlit streets, or how he see his Grandmother as she tries to feed him fruit. These scenes shot from the young boy’s perspective are a stark contrast to some of the heavier conversations that unfold.
The cinematography is beautiful, picking up on details of everyday life so easily missed or dismissed, such as the way dust particles dance in a shaft of sunlight. A superb cast make this effortless to watch and as secrets are revealed there are moments of heart-wrenching honesty that will stay with you after the lights come up.
The line-up for this year’s Russian Resurrection Film Festival looks impressive, in particular, Mistresses (2019), Journey to China: The Mystery of the Dragon’s Seal (2019) and Leaving Afghanistan (2019) are sure to be highlights.
But it wouldn’t be an opening night without an after party, and as we danced the hopak next to the Russian Ambassador, it seemed in such stark contrast to the film we had just seen – but perhaps that’s the point.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Russian Resurrection Film Festival is on in Sydney until 17 November 2019. For more information and to book head to the Festival website.