Andrés Duque, Spain, 2018
When you go to watch a documentary film, you have expectations – to learn about a new subject, to become more historically informed. This film took a fresh approach and in the end I liked it, though I’m still a bit in the dark about the Karelia region between Finland and Russia. It’s one of those regions with a strong cultural identity that doesn’t fit into current national borders and is forever changing hands. And there were mass killings there by Russia in the 30s and 40s.
But the film kind of presented this without comment or explanation. For most of the film we are with the Pankrat’ev family who live in the woods, the five kids and mum and dad seemingly having a very simple, idyllic life out in nature, meditating communally, painting, playing, reading history books and keeping the faith. There are moments where Duque just films the landscape. Others with interesting abstract visuals.
Then we switch to an interview with a woman who is part of a project to remember the massacres, who helped her father uncover and identify mass graves. Then it finishes back with the lovely family. We assume the two are connected, but there’s nothing explicit to say this.
So we draw our own conclusions. In the end, I felt it was a fresh approach to a difficult subject that seemed to say ‘bad shit happens but life carries on and communities rebuild’. Certainly not your traditional historical documentary.
All in all I’ve been a bit disappointed this year with the films I’ve seen at D’A. Maybe I just chose wrong.