Tamara Stepanyan: Village of Women

Tamara Stepanyan films her characters with warmth, asks questions with respect and out of curiosity… words picked from the review of ”Embers” written more than 6 years ago on this site, link below. A true documentarian she is.

Her latest film, premiered at DOK Leipzig 2019, can be characterised by the same words. She has gained the trust of the women in the film… as well as the old men, who live in the village while their sons, the husbands of the women, the fathers of the children we meet in the film, work in Russia to come home only for the winter.

It is so obvious, why she has gained that trust. She has been there (the village is Lichk) for a long time: All seasons are in the film. But time is not enough, you also have to be caring and attentive – and a good filmmaker, to frame in the right way, to make the pauses when needed, and to let us viewers into a world of hard work for the women, in the fields, at home, in the kitchen baking bread.

Yes, there is sadness in the film, when the talk is about the poor living conditions, but there are also joyful moments around tables with food and drinks and songs that reflect the lives they lead. 

Characters, there are many with a focus on… the often crying woman, whose husband has not been home for years, he stays in Russia with their son and grandson. Maybe he will come home to stay? There is the woman – in a wonderful scene – who suggests  that her husband has affairs, while he is in Moscow. There is the woman, who sits there in the sofa with her husband, a shining couple, while he is at home. The husband who is also a boxing trainer when he is at home. All women live in arranged marriages if I got it right.

… and there is dancing, full of grace and elegance, in front of the television set – they all have television, the outside world – do you mind that I dance, she says to Tamara Stepanyan in front of a music program, in the room where two kids are already asleep.

Thank you Tamara for coming here to show the world, how we live, one of the old men say. I can only second that; I am happy to have visited a village through an open-minded and skilled director/cinematographer. And happy to see the director thanking the village women at the end of the film – for their generosity and openness.

Armenia/France, 2019, 92 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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