Irina Demyanova came up to me at the Baltic Sea Forum in Riga: Tue, it is time for you to come back to Minsk. You were there 20 years ago! I would like to invite you back.
Right she is, I was in Minsk to meet filmmakers two decades ago. I travelled with Ilze Gailite, we represented the Baltic Media Centre and had meetings, that included a presentation of something new called “pitching”. That is one of the things that Yuri Goroulev remembered, when I met him in Minsk a week ago for the 22 edition of the Listapad festival.
I was there for three full days – hospitality warm, perfect organization, good programme for documentaries, which was what I was looking for and at. And – as my Russian language skills do not exist – the festival generously offered me, and other guests, a personal guide. Veronika Bondarovich, young filmmaker-to-be, took me around to films and to the lecture on documentary I made at the festival, where she and Lizaveta Bobrykava, head of the industry section, translated/interpreted my school English so well.
I had time to watch four Belarussian documentaries and meet with the
directors to talk about their new projects. They were all of good quality, most of them so-called self-financed in a country, where public funding is little and restrictions many. Daria Yurkevich, living half time France half time Belarus, has made a 13 mins. long documentary called “Easter” on outdoor church ceremonies, beautifully shot, has been to the festival in Clermont-Ferrand this year. Equally cinematically impressive is “Adam”, a portrait of a 80 year old man, 20 mins., made by Yulia Gonchar, her first documentary where she performs a wild editing, quite refreshing! Another talent is Artem Lobach, who had been to Ukraine to film the 25 minutes long story about bohemian Pavel, who left Crimea after the Russians came. Title “Road to Damascus”, Lobach wants to make a follow-up – with Pavel’s family in Crimea.
The longest one, 61 minutes, the one that was awarded as the best Belorussian documentary at the Listapad festival, was “Guests” by Andrei Kutsila, who has been to the Baltic Sea Forum several times and took part in the series “15 Young by Young” produced by Latvian Ilona Bicevska. Kutsila’s film, shot in the countryside of Belarus and in Italy, tells the story about Aliaksiej, a young man who operates his life as a disciple of Mother Teresa, having set up an asylum for poor and disabled people. Kutsila, who has done camera and editing as well, has stayed a long time at the house of Aliaksiej catching the stories of some of the inhabitants, who are being taken care of. He has found the right, slow rhythm, he lets the scenes develop, he gets close but does never lose a respectful distance in the room where 4-5 are sleeping. The work of Aliaksiej (called brother Luigi when he is in Italy) is constantly under threat from the authorities – considered to be illegal.
The jury for the international documentary competition, headed by Artchil Khetagouri, did a good job. Main award for Best Documentary (like at DOK Leipzig), “Brothers” by Polish Wojciech Staron, Sergei Loznitsa got an award for his brilliant “The Event”, Ostap Kostyuk from Ukraine got an award for “The Living Fire”, “for believing in the preservation of authentic national culture in the process of globalization”, and there was a diploma to Lithuanian Giedre ickytė for her “Master and Tatyana”. All these films have been praised on this site.