Mantas Kvedaravicius: Mariupolis

Let’s start with this information: Mariupolis is a city in Ukraine at the Azov Sea and with the river Kalmius. Half a million citizens. The war in Eastern Ukraine has reached Mariupolis. A quote from a Cineuropa interview with Mantas Kvedaravicius: ”… I came to Mariupol in March 2015 to see what was going on because it had become a front line, and the city was in an ambivalent situation: neither Ukrainian nor pro-Russian. Once I went there, it was obvious that the situation there – with a zoo and a theatre near to the front line – was unique, and something could be conveyed about the way space and politics interact with the human body…”

Kvedaravicius, whose last film (his first) ”Barzakh”, a masterpiece, took place in Chechnya, has again created a tense work of a beauty that lies in the aesthetic choices he has made with the camera, that he and two others have operated. You enjoy frame by frame, scene after scene, sequence after sequence the way he

has placed the camera and the naturalness with which the editing takes you around. Impressions: on board a fishing boat, at home with a family, soldiers playing chess, rehearsals for the celebration of Victory Day, music being played, a church ceremony, the animals in the small zoo if you can call it that, the steel factory, a wedding, a man smoking a cigarette… and the shoemaker in his workshop, the one who brings peace to the narrative. And again and again the image of the theatre buiding, inside and outside.

To the story – which makes me comment that here is a film that (as many Lithuanian documentaries do) is a total denial of the constant cry from broadcast people ”what is the story”. Here are many stories if you want to use that word. Examples: A shot from above of citizens, who one by one turn the sign of the cross on their way to the church. The camera moves up on the profile of a bearded man in action and after moments it goes to his hands which are pulling the strings of the bells that give us listening viewers the sound of beauty. And then back to the citizens on the ground. Superb! Or a Greek statue of a female body in focus with the camera following a flie moving around as if it caresses. Stories.

The editing principle of the many impressionistic scenes, many of them going back to persons we have met before (the shoemaker, the man doing illegal fishing from the bridge, the young girl who is a reporter and who we meet in the tough war scenes at the end of the film) is difficult to describe. There might be an inside/outside, conflict/peace – and there might be associations that I don’t get as I don’t understand Ukrainian and Russian.

How shall I leave this praise of a film that develops and towards the end brings images of exploded cars and destroyed buildings, and has scenes where the population is taught how to put out fire… I want to and will remember the shoemaker repairing shoes and having conversations with clients and family. A location that comes back, with peace, a statement of survival of humanism, as this great director has delivered with what is only his second film.

Lithuania, 96 mins., 2016.

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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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