Marina Razbezhkina: Optical Axis

Well, it did get no awards at the DOK Leipzig. The jury chose the docudrama/neo-realistic/hybrid ”Stop the Pounding Heart”, another art house film from the US. Beautifully made, but not very original as is this work of Razbezhkina, known for her own work and for her film and theatre school, that stood behind the fine ”Winter, Go Away”. Where her students dealt with opposition politics in Russia, Razbezhkina went to Nizhniy Novgorod (according to wikepedia the fourth biggest city in Russia, 400 km East of Moscow) to make a film with ordinary people, who look at themselves and their life and working conditions facing life-sized photos of those, who were at the same place with the same work (or no work) 100 years ago. This trick from the side of the director gives the film a light tone at the same time as you get to meet charismatic characters with their own look at the world.

Take for instance the old man who for the film and his younger student simply makes a wooden spoon. The camera stays with him during the whole production, we see the many instruments he uses to cut and carve, and hear his comments to the process and to the wonderful photo of a group of people performing the craft a hundred years ago. It’s marvellous as is the long sequence where you see the homeless and poor get out of their beds at their communal residence to get ready to be transported to the place where their equals stood when photographed. They communicate with the photo, find ”themselves”, their alter ego’s, and reflect on their hard lives and how they ended up without their own home. And so on so forth, nurses and doctors, visitors and priests at the local church (PHOTO) and at the end a small visit to the bank, where a different class present itself.

It’s people, faces, it’s made with warmth and intelligence, no finger-pointing, no easy anti-Putin declaration, but a clear, original starting point with a consequent tribute to the photographer, who took all these great photos, Maxim Dmitriev, who – says a text at the end of the film – ”was in love with reality”. As is Marina Razbezhkina.

Russia, 2013, 90 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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