Svetlana Sigalaeva: Not With Us

We have very often been informed about the terrible conditions for the inmates in Russian prisons. The released Pussy Riot members were the last ones to point out that something needs to be changed… to use an understatement.

This film, produced by the film school VGIK, adds excellently to the information that we have, not by showing but by having an ex-inmate tell her story from a point of view that (literally) is placed just opposite the prison building that is surrounded by barbed wire. Sometimes there is no water available. Sometimes the light is kept on during nights to prevent the inmates to fall asleep. The inmates (it is a prison for women) are not allowed to communicate from one cell to the other. If that happens, sounds of sirens are put on so nothing can be heard. And so on so forth, a flow of examples of physical and mental torture.

The film crew is inside the prison as well. They have filmed rehearsals and performances of songs and sketches, melancholic Russian love songs conveyed from a stage. But they have also caught faces and situations of tenderness between the women inside. Love grows between the women, not allowed of course, but families are created in the prison, as says the chain-smoking woman who is our storyteller, and who also painfully tells us her own story of relationship(s) that broke. 76 out ot 100 go back to prison – no freedom outside, better suffer inside… You could argue that the camerawork could be better but (also) in this case the content is so strong that it takes you by the heart. Good choice by ZagrebDox!

Russia, 2012, 43 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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