The Babai is a Slavic folkloric figure used by parents as an educational threat. Children who get up at night are kidnapped by this mysterious creature, parents tell them, hoping their little ones will stay in bed. Russian director Artem Aisagaliev adopts the grim undertone of this fairy tale to illustrate the fear and trauma inextricably linked to aging.
His claustrophobic feature film is about young brothers Mark and Gesha, who live with their father. The tense close-ups depict scenes from a childhood characterised by discipline and humiliation. Although the images and situations are extremely realistic, almost documentary in nature, Aisagaliev uses the boys’ lives allegorically: from the initial, pitch-black shots to the lights dying out at the end, this is a story about the cycle of a life marked by trauma.