Julén & Alexievich: Luybov Love in Russian

Julén with the first name Staffan, experienced Swedish documentarian, shares the same appreciation for Svetlana Alexievich as I do. Click the link below for a text I wrote about her after reading her beautiful book ”Second-Hand Time” during the summer of 2017. In that text she describes her documentary working method as a writer:I don’t just record a dry history of events and facts, I’m writing a history of human feelings. What people thought, understood and remembered during the event. What they believed in or mistrusted, what illusions, hopes and fears they experienced… That made her book one of the best if you want to understand the Soviet Man.

Staffan Julén has for years followed Alexievich, when she is

practising her method for a new book on Love, the most difficult one she has been involved in, she says; As we Russians/Belorussians seldom bring up love and happiness in our conversations. And it is conversations that Julén has caught: Alexievich with her small tape recorder on the table, often with chocolate or biscuits brought along to the one, she is talking to and with images from their homes, kitchen after kitchen, it makes you feel at home and welcomed to follow talks, which are down to earth and personal, like we talk to each other. It’s conversations in city appartments – gosh, there are many tall appartment buildings in these countries – or in the countryside. As an example: The woman on the photo talking to Alexievich is full of life, when she talks about her marriage with a KGB man. A marriage that did not last – he had to leave, he could not endure her strong wish for freedom and independence. And there is the young couple with two children, happy they are, having difficulties in finding words for that. Contrary to the woman in the countryside, a widow, who has nothing but beautiful memories of her long life with Him. Love and death.

Alexievich includes herself in a conversation with a fashion designer, ”we have not been succesful with love, she says”. She appears the whole way through as the warm person you can find in her books. She cares. She makes people open up.

A main character is the painter Vladimir, who talks about his complicated love relationship with a woman, he loved but who did not love him, it turned out. They married, she got a child, not his, a child with cerebral palsy. In some moving scenes you see Vladimir and Anyushka together.

I am so happy that Staffan Julén and Svetlana Alexsievich have made this fine balanced film and I am looking forward to the book that is built on the conversations that are transcribed, she, the transcriber, is in the film listening to the tapes and putting the words down on paper via a typewriter of the kind I remember from the 1980’es. Wonderful to see that and her reactions to what she hears.

The film had its premiere in Sweden November last year, Danish premiere in April this year. And many festivals are waiting I guess?

Sweden, 2017, 89 mins.


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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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