October 19 - 18:00 - 21:00
Russian Film Studies: screening with introduction and discussion
With living conditions in the squalid town of Nalchik, the North Caucasus, in 1998, that make Flint, Michigan, look like Beverly Hills, the only aspect of life that would seem to provide a lifeline of reassurance and continuity are the Jewish values adhered to by a small religious population there. But these are not of primary importance to Ilana (Zhovner), a stunning tomboy in her mid-20s who excels as a coveralls-wearing auto mechanic in her dad’s shop (she seems better at it than he is) and enjoys a rough-and-tumble relationship with boyfriend Zalim (Nazir Zhukov), who’s not Jewish.
With the cramped lives and constricting conditions continually emphasized by the boxy 4:3 aspect ratio of Artem Emelyanov’s hand-held cinematography, the story goes from bad to worse when Ilana’s beloved brother David (Veniamin Katz) — there’s a weirdly pronounced sexual vibe between the two — and his new fiancee are kidnapped, with a high ransom demanded, which the family can’t begin to cover. This brings the local Jewish community together up to a point, but more coin will be needed, and soon.