The ties of a Jewish family in the Russian town of Nalchik in 1998 are in danger of being torn apart when son David and his fiancée Lea are kidnapped after a night on the town. In this directing debut, Kantemir Balagov, who followed a film course set up by Alexander Sokurov, does not investigate the mechanisms of the kidnapping, but the emotional toll that the family pays, alongside a considerable ransom.
With footage shot in close 4:3 frames, Balagov mainly points his camera at the daughter, Ilana, a rebellious tomboy who is trying to fight her way out of the traditional family structure. While her parents cling to the Jewish community for help, she seeks solace with her Kabardian boyfriend. Ilana surreptitiously navigates between these conflicting ethnic groups. In this way, Balagov provides an intimate and personal picture of the Russia of his childhood, when the mood in the country was shaped by the Chechen wars.
As part of Critics’ Choice, the screening of Fri 26 Jan, 17:00 will be preceded by a video essay by David Verduere.