Alexander Mihalkovich: My Granny from Mars

Yevpatoria, Crimea, Ukraine, occupied by Russia since 2014. A song from the film about the city:

“Here the sea gives me so much tenderness and love and health for years to come. Gardens and wonderful colors are all around, the joy of life is here to stay…”

And the film shows you, how attractive Yevpatoria is at the seaside, where the granny Zina lives, Ukrainian she is, being visited by Sasha, the director of the film, 30 years old – and by her children and grandchildren as well as neighbours and her sister, who all come to join the celebration of her 80th birthday.

Zina with her beautiful face, combing her hair… some fine sequences in what I

find the strongest conveyed layer in a film, that is built as a musical or at least is full of music: the layer with grandchild and granny, the love between them, her worry about his profession, about him not having found a partner in life, about… all the clichées which are not clichées but that´s how grannies are (I am on my way to be the same as a grandfather!), at least the caring and strong ones from the generation, who remembers the second WW and the fight for life afterwards. Zina remembers the airplanes from that war, now there is another war going on, where she as Ukrainian is surrounded by Russian orientated citizens. Isolated, wishing to move away, but “I have moved enough in my life”.

Zina has not been to a restaurant for 30 years, in the film she goes to one near the sea with the family to celebrate, she gets presents from the neighbour, who is in her 90’es, forgotten on that occasion are the discussions about politics. The framing is the musical, as the director calls it, when he takes a photo of granny and her son, who came for the celebration from Israel, where he lives. The daughter comes from Belarus as the director, whose first feature film this is.

Chapeau for the director to have chosen the many songs, several of them song by the old ladies in the film, to be a red thread of the narrative, it gives the film a poetic dimension, where it could have been far too easy and bombastic to go for the Ukrainian/Russian theme the whole way through. For me it is there, it is understandable.

I was, a year ago, at the Sarajevo Film festival part of a jury put together by the Jihlava Film Festival with Current Time TV as the sponsor. We gave (from 10 candidates) a shared main prize to “My Granny…” with this motivation:

“For a choice of charismatic protagonists, treated in a highly cinematic way, and for the sense of absurdity in a difficult and unstable environment.”

Long Live, I hope, a granny like Zina! A universal character.

Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, 2018, 73 mins.

Photo: Granny to the right, her sister to the left.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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