Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Films Look at Grimness of Russian Life

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Films Look at Grimness of Russian Life

Article excerpt

"Red Empire Reloaded" is the title of the 17th annual Russian Film Symposium, now underway in Oakland. "Teens Really Loaded" could be the subtitle of its incendiary closing film, Saturday night at the Melwood Screening Room.

'The Hope Factory'

*** 1/2

Russian speakers' ears - and English subtitle-readers' eyes - will be burning from the vodka-drenched, uber-obscene language of "The Hope Factory." Since Russian law bans wide domestic release of any film containing obscenities, it has been seen only at festivals. Long-reigning Symposium tsar Vladimir Padunov had a lot of trouble bringing - practically smuggling - the movie here.

It was worth the effort.

The teenagers inhabiting director Natalia Meschaninova's debut feature evince more than the usual adolescent angst in a bleaker- than-usual locale - the grim north Russian industrial city of Norilsk. Once the location of a Gulag labor camp, it's a dirty, polluted place whose ugly Stalinist apartment blocks hold kids who talk about leaving for Omsk, Krasnoyarsk, Petersburg, Moscow (shades of "Three Sisters") - anywhere in what they call "the mainland."

Our heroine Sveta (Darya Savelyeva) is a nurse at the town's factory, where huge cauldrons of molten steel make a Pittsburgher nostalgic for the late great J&L plant in Hazelwood. For her 18th birthday, her parents are giving her her own apartment there - the last thing in the world she wants. She longs to escape Norilsk and join her boyfriend, who is waiting for her in the faraway southern town of Temryuk - or so she thinks.

Meanwhile, she hangs out at a lair on Lake Dolgoye for drunken barbecues and rough talk with her male peers and the girl they all shamelessly use for sex.

Norilsk serves as Everycity - the kind that supplies the post- communist corporate and imperial capital of Moscow with what it needs. Its workers are held by good benefits and salaries and job security - with strings attached: eco-disasters, lousy health conditions and a grueling winter that lasts nine months of the year. But you can live fully there, be a singer in a local rock band or the star of a nightclub magic act (at least on annual Metallurgy Day) if you want to. …

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