Tatyana Chistova: Convictions

It’s absurd theatre! Well, I have tried it myself in 1967. To be called for military service in the Danish army. I chose the easy solution to take one (completely useless) year of service at the air force instead of the two year’s civil service it was back then, where you sent to the forest to sweep leaves up against the wind.

The young ones in this film had all applied for civil service because of their convictions. They had to appear (see the photo) in front of a committee to present their case, one could almost say pitch their point of view. As in pitching sessions the panelists sat with papers and only a few of them were to say something. The rest sat with stone faces that communicated that they did not like, what they saw and heard.

Take Roman Fedorov and his excellent speech for pacifism with references to Sakharov, Bertrand Russell, classic Russian literature – he gives his statement while the camera shows the non-reaction of the judge, who probably finds Dostojevski and other writers totally irrelevant for the case of Fedorov, the clever and brave young man, whose father is also interrogated about his (and the son’s) convictions.

There’s a nurse, uniformed military men, a woman who puts all the questions – in the room where Viktor enters asking for ”alternative military service”, because of his, as he puts it, ”non-traditional sexuality”. His case is discussed, a nurse comes in and says that she does not think homosexuality is a decease… But the camera and the sound catches the leading lady at the table saying to the military man next to her: ”… maybe he is insane”!

And the there is the well-formulated young man, who is there with his mother and who does not want to be drafted, ”to go and fight our brothers in Ukraine”. His appeal for ”civil service” is rejected… cut to a soldier’s choir and close-ups of young men, who have joined to ”do their duty”.

This is where the director comments directly on the consequence of the absurd theatre, which is a reality in Russia today, some call it mobilisation. The film shows a generation gap between the young ones who claim for pacifism and the stone-age panel, who has to act according to some paragraphs, they don’t understand. Is it a sad film, of course it is, on the other hand you feel happy to see the bravery of the young ones, who dare stand up for their convictions.

Objections – yes, the quotation of Vonnegut in the beginning is difficult to read and un-needed… would have preferred a small text at the end with info on the duration of military service in Russia today as well as info on how many who actually get ”civil service”.

On the other hand I salute that the director has refrained from easy critical comments in editing, the panels and the youngsters speak for themselves. See the film, it has some kind of a happy ending for the involved.

Russia, 63 mins., 2016


Share your love
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.

Articles: 3866